Sunday 17 January 2016

Plans for Arbury Road part 2

Yeah, okay, there are some nerds like me who see this stuff online and respond. But the folk running the shops on Arbury Court don't know about it. The neighbour didn't know anything about it. Friends and colleagues close buy don't know anything about it. Seriously, no one knows anything about it other than local politics or transport nerds - we're deeply into 'Beware of the Leopard' territory with this.

So I feel like I've got to say a few things more about the proposed scheme for Arbury Road. 

Lets start with the South end of Arbury Road - no, not the South end of the scheme, I'm talking about the entire South side of the road from Arbury Court down to Milton Road. We're offered nothing - there are no improvements for cyclists or pedestrians. None. Nothing. Nada. So from the outset this scheme fails. City Deal money is allegedly meant to get us better infrastructure to facilitate rapid economic growth of the Cambridge cluster - a cycle facility that fails to connect the main roads together isn't that. At all. So my bottom line is that if we're not getting good facilities along the length of Arbury Road then I reject this scheme in its entirety - we're past the point of begging for scraps, our local authorities must take cycling seriously enough such that our entire journey is safe.

So, here, we need to see a good facility for cycling along the length of Arbury Road - and yes, that means sacrificing on street parking outside a few houses such that thousands of people can have a safer road. Roads aren't for storing cars on, they're for safe transit, and my safety is not less important than your parking space. Kids going to School from the South end of Arbury Road deserve to get there alive just like the kids from the other end. 

Moving up to where the scheme actually starts (ignoring, for the moment, the gross reality that this scheme is already a failure for not connecting the length of Arbury Road) the on-road cycling facility starts out being quite good - and you know what? If we can, within budget, get a good on-road facility on the entire length of Arbury Road thats great. If we can't, there's ample opportunity to give us something probably better and almost certainly cheaper along this length of the road. The suggested lanes need to be at least 2.5m width, not the 1.8-2.1m suggested. Not wide enough, not good enough. 

Regarding the junctions, we just can't close Mansel Way to cars. Sorry, but there it is - its the way to get to the supermarket and the other small shops on Arbury Court, and closing it would only mean sending more traffic up to Mere Way and back down to the shops a longer route. And Mere Way will, I think, play a vital role in the future of cycling in North Cambridge. By all means turn the signals off (that complex junction is genuinely brutal right now) and give clear priority for traffic on Arbury Road (including the cycle route!), but closing Mansel Way won't make Arbury Road quieter. Honestly, the single best thing we could do with that junction would be to get rid of the Mansel Way lights and reduce the traffic to 1 lane Northbound on Arbury Road.

I would also hope it goes without saying that we need the cycle lane to continue across the opening of Campkin Road - what the hell is the point of the proposed cycle route that disappears as soon as we most need it? Come on guys, do it right or don't do it at all.

The middle section? Well its okay, if the route can be wide enough without destroying probably the oldest hedges in the Ward - and if there is to be cutting of any of that hedgerow I want to know what replacement habitat will be created, and I want plans to do it properly in place and underway before we start changing the road layout. 

The last section is likewise okay if the lanes really are wide enough - which I doubt will happen. But removal of the mini-roundabouts is probably a good idea.

Take a step back and ask what Arbury Road will look like - it'll still be long, straight, and without traffic control measures such as traffic islands, the chicane and the mini-roundabouts how people will drive this? Fast, thats how. It is therefore vital that the cycle lanes are fully segregated and wide - anything less will just turn them into pointless bits of painted off tarmac in a faster road thats more hazardous to ride on. Speed up the road and the right place to ride is more central in the lanes where you're more visible - so unless we get cycle lanes at the wider end of the spectrum I can't support removal of the traffic calming measures.

Lastly, look at St Catharines Road to Kings Hedes Road... There's nothing for cycling and little of note for walking there. Changes suggested in the earlier proposal seem to have been forgotten entirely, and crap though they were they're better than nothing. Take the plans for that end of the road away and start again - this route would, I anticipate, be the main route to cycle to the City from Orchard Park, and if we want people to view that as a good way to commute then we can't have a brutal junction like that dissuade them right at the start of their journeys.

In short, this isn't a bad scheme in parts but its unimaginative and can be improved by (1) guaranteeing the quality of cycle facilities, (2) talking to the people who use the shops, library and facilities in Arbury Court about how they get there to assess the impact of closing Mansel Way which will, I suspect, need to stay open to cars, (3) getting the impact on our hedgerows assesed early on to determine what can be done to protect local biodiversity, (4) starting from scratch to design access for cyclists and pedestrians at the Kings Hedges Road junction. But all of this criticism ignores the elephant in the room - the scheme fails entirely if it doesn't make the whole of Arbury Road safe to cycle. 

I cannot support this scheme as it stands. It won't reduce car traffic congestion, it won't make the route safe to cycle except for peculiar journeys that start and finish on Arbury Road.

But I also can't support a scheme like this until the consultation reaches those affected - right now it isn't.


  1. It's worrying that this blog post is the best source of information about it and I only came here via a google search following a HisImp mailshot about the closure (which itself contained no link to any actual information!).

    1. If my blog posts are your best source of information then yeah, be afraid :)

    2. If my blog posts are your best source of information then yeah, be afraid :)

  2. 2 metre cycle lanes are of excellent width. Where, do you suppose, the additional metre for 2.5 metre cycle lanes would come from?

  3. I have lived on Arbury Road since 1987 (near to the Manor School (or North Cambridge Academy). I do not own a car so I cycle (and walk occasionally) everywhere. At home I work in a study which overlooks the road. I have never understood why people describe it as busy. It depends on with what you compare it with, I suppose, but to me it is not busy. I am not frightened by either the density or speed of the traffic (and I am 68). It would be nice if the cars parked on the odd-numbered side of the road weren't there, but as those houses don't have driveways, what else can they do? Some use their front gardens for car parking, but there is one stretch of the road where that is not possible because the pavement and gardens are several inches LOWER than the road.

  4. Few people even cycle down the length of Arbury road into town - Majority of cyclists will cut through other routes without traffic lights, mostly side streets etc. In my opinion simply fixing pot holes in all these smaller roads would be a far better use of public funds.

  5. Hello, I agree with your view that the scheme fails to address cycle and pedestrian safety by totally ignoring the southern end of Arbury Road. How did they come to the view that the northern end is used more than the south, or somehow deserves improvement more? In fact, objectively the condition of the roads and pavements the southern end is far worse...
    Data also exists that the southern end is busier with cyclists - by using the cycling application and website Strava. This measures the number of different people and the number of times each end of the road has been used (by users of this app). I have copied the data below (for the last 6 years of so). Ok so not everyone records on this app, but many people do, even their commutes - we can quite sensibly extrapolate the data to the many who don’t use it given the very large dataset.
    Travelling South into town:

    Northern end of the road:
    5,414 Attempts By 851 People

    Southern end of the road:
    8,148 Attempts By 1,415 People

    So according to the app, about twice as many people use the southern end.

    Going north the same applies too. Another way to look at all the data is to study the global heat map:
    Clearly the southern end is used more (redder)…