Monday 3 November 2014

Arbury and Kings Hedges 'Improvements'

Thanks to Hester who shared a link that we're maybe getting some 'improvements for cycling and walking up in North Cambridge. Lets take a look at what is proposed.

Here's where they're talking about (this from Cambridgeshire County Councils website)

Its the orange bits under discussion, and this includes the awful junctions of Arbury Road and St. Albans Road and Mere Way, alongside the baffling Kings Hedges Road junction and a little loop around the 'Rec. If you look at said loop, you'll see that one of the orange lines is (almost) a straight ccontinuation of Mere Way, continuing the line of the old Roman Road, possibly the oldest extant route in the City.

The first thing you'll notice, before even looking at the details, is that it doesn't join up - the remainder of Arbury Road (both heading South East from Mere Way, and between the junctions) is to remain dreadful. And I mean dreadful - its plagued with antisocial parking, fast motorists accelerating in anticipation of or escape from the A14, and it being relatively long and straight they'll take outrageous liberties overtaking cyclists with inches to spare. Will improvements solely at the junctions make Arbury Road more appealing to cycle on? Will they hell - from the outset this proposal does nothing to make cycling more appealing in the area.

Lets go from the North end downwards. At Kings Hedges Road we're promised tarmac over the dirt track that cuts the corner to Kings Hedges Road - and for some unknown reason it'll be a shared use facility, linking to a shared use light to cross Arbury Road which then goes back on to the shared use path on the other side. You'll note that there is plenty of space on either side of this junction to widen the path and create segregated cyclist and pedestrian facilities, but 'shared use' is such ingrained dogma at the County that they've not even given us this as an option. So here, at the first hurdle, this fails - for no adequately explained reason this is yet another facility that just is not good enough.

If we head South we get to the next bit - some changes to traffic calming on Arbury Road (link to PDF file here). Colour me unimpressed - shared use facilities alongside a narrowed road? So if we choose to ride a more continuous route along the narrowed road we'll get honked at and bullied by angry motorists who want us out of their way on the narrow section and on to paths covered with pedestrians going to and from the school? So I'm meant to use a shared use section for a small part of a journey down a road, despite now having to give way to pedestrians and motorists as I enter and leave the facility? No way! Not now, not ever - this is a bad idea. By all means narrow the road, but give us dedicated cycling infrastructure in its place. We're narrowing the road and restricting the layby without doing anything positive, at all, for cycling. And by making it shared use we're making it considerably more hostile for pedestrians.

If we move down to St. Albans Road we've got three proposed solutions (link to PDF file) to replace the mini-roundabout. The first is a simple t-junction, that maintains the wide, car-centric sweeping curves of the junction that will encourage drivers wanting to turn left onto St. Albans Road to left hook northbound cyclists. Pedestrians wanting to cross St. Albans where it is narrower will still have to walk way down the road before getting to a safe point to cross. The other two options - both of which turn the main direction of traffic from Arbury Road on to St. Albans Road, will likewise mean cycling North or South bound we'll have to deal with crossing a stream of traffic to continue a journey either from St. Albans to Arbury Road or just to continue on Arbury Road. There is no provision, of any sort, for cycling in this part of the plan - all three proposals just make this differently hostile. This isn't about managing the route for cycling and walking, its about managing the increased flow of car traffic on Arbury Road and needs to be rejected entirely until a better plan is put forward or paid for directly from funding for roads, rather than funding from developers. It doesn't benefit the people living here, it benefits those passing through.

Fun and games continue as we keep heading towards Cambridge on Arbury Road (yet another PDF download, sorry). And its more of the same - if I want to keep cycling up Arbury Road towards Kings Hedges Road I've got to cross a stream of traffic. If I want to turn right from Mere Way on to Arbury Road I've got exactly the same problem with cars not giving way from the left at the proposed junction as I do at the old roundabout - and I see no reason that won't be compounded by cars turning off from Arbury Road from my right to continue down Arbury Road.

There's nothing for cyclists here. Oh, thats right, its a raised junction. So we'll be looking at a surface that cracks and becomes uneven with the weight of heavy vehicles. Brilliant.

There is nothing for cyclists in any of these plans. Nothing. Nada. Zip diddly squat. Its money being spent on 'sprucing up' the roads to control motorist flow without giving the slightest throught of any sort to cyclists and pedestrians - we've got a moved crossing, and thats it. 

But what about that cycle route round the rec ground? Well, here they propose using this developer money for routine maintenance. I kid you not. Look, here's what they say: 

We are proposing to widen and resurface the paths on King’s Hedges Recreation Ground (including the Pulley play area) to improve access to St Laurence’s and other cycle routes in the area. The paths are both local and strategic cycle routes but they are currently narrow and in poor condition.

Or, in other words, they're going to resurface the paths that are hard to get to anyway, which ought to form part of an excellent strategic North/South route through Cambridge but which do not. They're taking developer money and using it on very long overdue maintenance rather than on anything new. They'll maybe be a bit wider, although in truth they're lined by grass rather than roads so they're not really giving us more space for cycling at all. 

This is a pathetic waste of money when there are simple ways of improving the lot of cyclists and pedestrians in Kings Hedges which are being completely ignored. Bluntly, this is a moronic set of proposals from an organisation bereft of imagination or ideas, a council machinery that misses few chances to display how much it hates cyclists through inadequate or downright dangerous infrastructure. It achieves little or nothing for active transport in the North of Cambridge, and very likely gives us yet another mish mash of bad shared use for aggressive motons to try to bully us on to. Saddest of all, there really isn't any reason why some very simple things can't be done to make the area much better for active transport. I'll go in to that in my next post...

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