Monday 8 July 2019

Arbury Road - Camcycles inexplicable love affair with Greater Cambridge?

In the last couple of years Cambridge Cycling Campaign (often quaintly and trendily known by their twitter handle, Camcycle) have been, on the whole, better than they were. While there has been the occasional weird outburst, and their rabid enthusiasm for the underwhelming eponymous trail remains peculiar,  they have at least no longer got a convicted child assaulter on the committee, and I've talked to Robin (still their chair, I believe) about the support Martin gave for the crap facility on Gilbert Road,and he didn't get it either. There are some excellent, committed, positive people there who deserve our appreciation.

So what the heck is he going on about here? Why did he choose this pooch to screw?

All I can think is that he didn't really know Arbury Road, or how people rode in this part of town, before the new lane was constructed.

Ocado delivery driver dangerous to cyclist and pedestrians
The background - Arbury Road is the oldest named route in the City, connecting Chesterton to Arbury Camp, which has had some occupation since the neolithic era. And since Orchard Park was built there the site has culturally reverted to that state. It is, like many roads derived from old drove ways, long and mostly straight, the result being that many choose to drive far to fast on it. The modern road can be divided into two main sections. South of Campkin Road it is fast, narrow, with parked cars all the way down one side and occasionally blocking the pavement on the other side too, essentially limiting it to two very close streams of vehicles with no room for safely overtaking cyclists. Not that this stops them. And North of Campkin Road, it isn't much wider but there is (and has always been) a hedge down one side and little parking on road on the other.

City Deal (sorry, that name had become so toxic they renamed themselves Greater Cambridge) has existed in a constant state of existential crisis since it was founded, needing to find ways of shovelling cash into schemes as fast as possible. Hence it has wasted no time in throwing money into shovel ready schemes and the black hole of consultation. And it noticed that building a cycle lane on the North end of Arbury Road would be relatively uncontroversial. So they did.

And... Well, where it is, it isn't bad. If you came at this without knowing this party of the city at all you might think this was great. You would look at the kids riding on this new lane and think its a revelation. But thats incredibly naive.

One of the multiple off road routes parallel to the new lane
The reality in Kings Hedges is that the estate was built at the end of the 1960s in a tremendously forward thinking, progressive way. It was made difficult to drive through the estate but easy to walk or ride, with the result being that a lot of journeys within the estate are made on foot or by bicycle. Conversely no attention was paid to this in much of the rest of the city, meaning that places like Kings Hedges that are great to ride around in are terrible to ride of to anywhere else. The result? You see plenty of kids riding to school within the estate, people riding or walking to the local shops or park, but the rate for commuting by bike is lower than in other parts of the city. 

And true to form Greater Cambridge ignored this. They ignored the simple means by which the same scheme could have been delivered cheaper, faster, with less disruption, with less ecological damage and with a better end result. Because that didn't fit the bill of spending enough money to secure the next tranche of government funding. And what we now have is a highly visible route that accomplishes next to nothing for those who live in Kings Hedges or indeed anyone else. 

Bus stop filled around one minute from every 10
In itself, it isn't bad. In parts. I mean if you ignore the fact that the two bus stops are used by a service that is due every 10 minutes, meaning that for about 10% of the time during the day its actively dangerous. And that there is no physical separation so that delivery vehicles are, all through most week days, blocking either the pavement or the cycle lane. But it doesn't take you anywhere. The primary school already had good provision, and the new cycle lane stops before you get to the part of the road thats most dangerous.

I would say that Greater Cambridges decision to build this white elephant of a scheme that will not increase the total uptake of cycling in the City but may in fact only get people out of the estate and on to the main road is deeply cynical, and that is clearly demonstrated by the fact that where you actually need protection the cycle route disappears. In theory you might turn right, head through the older estate and ride to town there, but of course if you're heading to the Beehive Centre or any of the shopping or employment locations on Newmarket Road the scheme is valueless. The truly terrifying part of Arbury Road has been left entirely untouched by this - no one who was dissuaded by the traffic on the North end of Arbury Road will be persuaded to brave the much worse traffic on the Southern half.

Cycle lane ends - at the worst possible place
Of course its possible that you might be heading North from Kings Hedges towards Orchard Park, or up on to the Guided Bus Route to go to the Science Park. Well, the latter is unlikely, as its the wrong direction and we've another more direct route (that could really do with an upgrade) if you work there. So you're presumably heading to the A14 bridge, going to Histon or Cottenham, or just up to the hotel on Orchard Park? Its an odd one but lets humour that idea. You ride up Arbury Road heading North and you see some good facilities - the new crossing, for example, is good... 

And then you end up at the end of Arbury Road, the junction with Kings Hedges Road. Where you're meant to do what, exactly? Well there's a shared use facility off to the Left there heading off up Kings Hedges Road. Its crap and gives way to the side roads without any sensible signage, of course. Or you can go straight across acres of hostile car dominated tarmac without any specific cycling provision at all. Its like someone vomited all the bad ideas they had on one junction, it has nothing to commend it. Or you could go right where there's a shared use route to cut the corner on to Kings Hedges Road which is, in that direction, lethally dangerous. I genuinely don't know what they have in mind that we should do here - are we just meant to disappear because there isn't a cycle route any more? Kings Hedges Road at this point has four hostile lanes for fast cars with motorists mentally preparing for or coming down from the 70mph high of the A14. They aren't looking for cyclists, few ever want to ride on or across it. 

End of Arbury Road. Well? Now what?
Robin old chap, you've done some good stuff with Camcycle. But if you think this scheme is good you've been suckered. Its a pointless scheme that won't get anyone new cycling, it'll just get some of the people who were already riding to ride on a slightly different route. It doesn't do enough to make whole journeys better, and by concentrating on the (relatively) good section of the road instead of the brutally hazardous end, this is merely a cynical way of digging holes to pour money into them. No one whose journey was bad has now got a good enough journey as a result of this cynical scheme. I lament that you've been taken in by this. You should know better.

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