Monday 28 November 2022

Mill Road. Why ought I even care?

Mill Road in Cambridge is shit, basically. Which is a shame, it could be fantastic. It used to be fantastic. But these days it is just shit.

As a destination it should be a vibrant, exciting, diverse place where people visit, shop, can spend time on the street, and enjoy the cultural and culinary influences of dozens of nationalities and ethnicities represented there. What it is instead is a car sick urban canyon, narrow, noisy, chokingly polluted, and too dangerous to walk or ride on. It's one of the cycling accidents hot-spots in this City. It's the street with most road traffic accidents in the whole county. Or in other words you might want to go shopping there for some fab Korean ingredients, and then sit out in front of a cafĂ© before popping in to the Chinese supermarket to get a big bottle of soy sauce and a sack of rice from Al-Amin, and maybe a dozen different ingredients in the deli and at the greengrocers. But the reality is very different. You ride your bike there looking for somewhere to lock up, but before you've got to the bridge four drivers have sounded their horns or revved their engines hard from behind, you've faced three dangerous overtakes and a guy driving straight at you has assumed you'll just fucking float over him or something. You get off and try to lock up but you can't because cars are illegally blocking the pavement stopping you getting to the bike locks. But you soldier on, eventually getting something from the first shop you go in to but after breathing diesel smog you're not in the mood for a coffee, let alone a cake, the thought of food with the pounding noise and aggression from drivers there makes you feel physically too sick to eat. You pop in to another shop, get the minimum absolutely need, and leave.

That's because, as stated, Mill Road as it is now is fucking horrible. 

And the kicker is, nobody drives between shops there. There's a car park at Parkside, another at Gwydir Street but nobody can possibly drive between the shops. The traffic that destroys Mill Road isn't bringing money to the local traders, it's taking money through Mill Road to the City Centre. Traffic on Mill Road exists at the expense of traders there. 

So why haven't we done something about it? We did. And it was magnificent, after a temporary closure while the bridge had maintenance work, and the world didn't suddenly end, we then had a modal filter on the same bridge and you could breathe there again, it was safer on the road, but the shops and cafe's had a bustle like they'd not had in years. And then a bunch of web toed fenland Tory councillors supported by a single Labour councillor who has a history of raining derision down on cyclists voted to reopen it. There had been a consultation, the modal filter was overwhelmingly positively received, and it was working, but car-centric ideologues supported by a sole Labour councillor overrode this. And the place went to shit again. 

So we had another consultation. And it was overwhelmingly pro-modal filter again.

And now we're having another fucking consultation. But this one is apparently the legal one. So why the fuck didn't they do this first time? 

But here's the killer. Mill Road Traders don't want this. They never have. Mill Road Traders Association oppose this, and always have. Because the safety and convenience of cyclists and pedestrians in not important to them in any way, relative to the angry discomfort of motorists driving straight through and not stopping to shop there. Apparently on the whole they favour motorists passing them over cyclists and pedestrians stopping to shop. I've no idea why, nor do I care, but I do know that I take that as a massive "Get fucked, cyclist" from the collected ranks of shopkeepers there. 

In strict confidence I've been given an extraordinarily short list of traders who don't dare speak up against this tidal wave of petrol headed wankiness, but who don't support this. And to be honest they can get fucked too, if you're not willing to speak up for the safety of your own customers then you don't deserve that custom.

Mill Road was one of the first places I went and explored way back in 1999 when I moved to Cambridge. It was always a fun and exciting place to find good ingredients, with engaging and entertaining people and places there. But over the years I've shopped there less and less as the place became ever more dangerous, until first the bridge maintenance and then the modal filter tamed that space and made it possible to go there again. But the opposition from traders to that essential measure to make the space safe is amounts to as statement that they reject making a space accessible and safe for people. I approve of the modal filter but even after that Mell Road can fuck itself for all I care. 

What do I need to make me shop there again? Reinstatement of the modal filter with unambiguous public support from traders. And those traders I'll big up, I'll recommend, and I will shop there. Other than that? Mill Road is dead. The motoring lobby and idiot councillors killed it.

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