Thursday 28 September 2023

Milton Road Still Looks Shit

We seem to have been circling the drain on Milton Road forever. And now we're plunging in to the sewer. Pavements being built there are too narrow to get down with a wheelchair, too narrow with a pram. That's flat out unacceptable. 

To set the scene. Milton Road is a major route in to Cambridge, connecting the centre of town to the A14 through the North of the City. Many of the houses on it are huge, the kind of suburban detached and semi-detached quasi-mansions making their geriatric owners paper-millionaires, having done nothing to earn this wealth other than not died. Traffic there is constant, and the folk commuting to the city sit on the guided bus as it slowly pootles across the countryside slower than a train was doing on the same route in the 19th century, and then they spend another hour or so slowly shuffling down a dripping abscess of a road, on a wet day perhaps watching snails ooze past them on the verge.

The road has always been made worse by having a shared use route (pedestrians and cyclists) that randomly stops and stats in places you need a PhD in urban design to understand, a hostile police force and angry motorists who will threaten you with their vehicles if you're not using it

The plan to improve it started out shit and only got marginally better, always held back by three things. One was the fact that no matter what suggestions came along to make it better the priority has always been to avoid making things bad for drivers - there's no real road space taken from private car users in the final design, roundabouts and junctions will remain potential death traps. Greater Cambridge and our Mayoral Authority have been, for most of their existence, car sick institutions wedded to the perpetual domination of drivers over all others, as is evidenced by the fact that it took them over a decade to come up with a transport plan (which failed, wholly because they caved in to drivers). This of course explains the second problem, that we haven't got a good model for how many people will be driving down Milton Road because there's still no public transport plan, and there never has been. Rather than devising a rapid transit system and making plans based on how many people will drive with that in place, reducing car reliance and then building for what's left, we've had to have a design that won't be a problem for an ever increasing number of drivers. And, lastly, the NIMBY paper millionaires who live there willing to chain themselves to the stunted, dying cherry trees sitting in parched earth full of the collected pollution of a century of failure. WE DEMAND TREES, they say, with no understanding of what species are possible or desirable in the space.

We need high quality cycle provision on Milton Road and there is space for it, and we need high quality space for pedestrians and there's space for that too. But because of the car lobby and NIMBY's we're getting a bland treescape and car dominance instead.

In the BBC article linked to at the top there, the key passage is this:

Mr Porter, the scheme's project manager, said: "We are aware that this section is too tight and we're going to rectify it."

The GCP plans to move the central curb back slightly to accommodate the changes.

Or in other words, they know it's a problem for pedestrians but they're going to move the 'central curb' back (the start of the cycle lane) to accommodate it. Heaven forbid a scheme be designed from the outset to reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians with motorists ceding even an inch of space to allow it.

Greater Cambridge learned nothing from their failed pavements on Histon Road. And they'll learn nothing from this either. The sooner the pathetic shower of a project that is Greater Cambridge is euthanised, the better off we'll all be. 

Milton Road is going to be worse to walk down, meaninglessly better to cycle on because we'll still have dangerous and badly thought out sections preventing anyone new from deciding to ride, and exactly the same as it always was for drivers. And there's the take home lesson - it's really all about the drivers and, from Greater Cambridges perspective, nobody else matters. At all. 

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