Councillor Tim Moore (a resident of Queen Edith’s Way) writes:
The proposed solutions are inevitably compromises – there is no perfect solution possible.
What are the issues that the proposed “improvements” are intended to address?
- More walking and cycling. Car journeys into and around Cambridge will continue to increase. The City Plan has long endorsed a modal shift away from cars to walking and cycling (and public transport). Our road network, built for horses, is at maximum capacity – it can’t take more vehicles during the lengthening peak travel times. The consequences are slow journeys (congestion, wasted time) and pollution. A modal shift is one element of the strategy to manage the volume of traffic.
- Do nothing is not an option. We have seen the congestion grow rapidly – it will become far worse if solutions aren’t found. Job and population growth (amongst the highest in the UK) are projected to continue apace. This particularly affects Queen Edith’s Ward because of the Addenbrooke’s biomedical campus (jobs to increase from 7,000 to c 28,000, rising number of site visitors) and increasing school and college numbers.
- Improved safety for cyclists and pedestrians. We have a high collision rate between cyclists and vehicles, especially at junctions. Older and disabled people do not feel safe on mixed use pavements (there are too many cyclist-pedestrian collisions, especially affecting the older, slower or disabled pedestrians). The best solutions separate vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, and engineer junctions and crossings to facilitate safe walking and cycling.
- Management of vehicle numbers, pollution from vehicles and improved public transport are not within scope but are also vital for the city’s survival.
There are other important parameters in a balanced solution:
- Green and aesthetic environment. We value our green spaces and trees.
- Queen Edith’s Way is residential with small children and an elderly population. Good pavement surfaces encourage walking (maintain health and mobility). A cycle path wide enough to accommodate the increasing number of fit cyclists together with the slower, younger and older less stable bicycle and tricycle users.
The key constraints include:
- Financial — we have fought long and hard for sufficient funds so this should not be a significant issue
- Political – there is unanimity amongst councillors that we must do something. Not all residents are content with the existing proposals and the compromises that they make.
- Planning capacity – this is very limited in both the city and county. It is important not to blame the planners for the solutions offered given the constraints they are working under.
- Available highway width – the highway includes the public land from plot boundary through pavements, verges and road surface to plot boundary. Some people, including me, have hedges and flower beds on the public verge – it is personally annoying to lose these. I don’t believe residents would allow any use of their front gardens to extend the available width so this leads us to the inevitable compromises about the widths of road, pavements, cycle paths and verges.
Where do I stand?
- I don’t like all aspects of the compromises available, but I can’t see any other fair workable alternatives. If these are forthcoming I’d be happy to entertain them. There has been a lengthy consultation, but now the devils in the detail are emerging and being rightly discussed.
- We can’t make the road narrower – some are arguing for a wider road.
- The verges will be narrower than before unless we take width from the pavements, or cycle paths. We could remove the verge on one side but that will have costly implications for moving the service conduits running under the verges, be unfair and I suspect not acceptable. I don’t like this but can see no viable alternative.
- A narrower cycle path will reduce its value, use and safety for the mix of users. If a faster cyclist can’t overtake an older cyclist or a child they will move onto the road. Note the child or slower mover is on the inside away from the road.
- The pavement width can’t be narrowed either without reducing its value. Many people have hedges that need to be maintained so that they don’t encroach over the pavement or verge – it will remain their duty to keep their hedges under control (no change). This is particularly important for those with sight impairment.
Are these options safe? I believe they offer a substantial improvement in safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The additional road crossings and the re-engineered roundabouts (Fendon Road and Addenbrooke’s) make far safer walking and cycling routes along Queen Edith’s Way to the schools, colleges and hospital site. Add to this the reduced speed limit and any collision is likely to have less serious consequences. The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians.
Vehicles on the cycle path: these are not welcome, but are an occasional necessity. Is this safe? I believe so given that the road speed limit is 20mph, the cycle path is engineered to be clearly separate by colour and raised up, and the road bounded by double yellow lines. Vehicle drivers will be highly aware when they are “trespassing”. The conditions under which they will do so will be limited, usually an obstruction causing them to stop or slow right down, including a wider vehicle approaching in the opposite direction. Queen Edith’s Way is not a designated thoroughfare and I don’t believe we would wish it to be. The narrower road will help keep speed down and so reduce risks of collisions causing injury. For me this is an acceptable compromise given the constraints.
Loss of green verges and trees: I don’t like this as an outcome but something else must give if we retain them as they are. We are lucky that the street is lined by green gardens including hedges and trees and so will retain its open green feel under either option.
Will these options increase the number of walkers and cyclists? Yes I believe they will. The converse is that more road users will be tempted to don lycra, or at least jump onto their cycle.
Finally to the essential complementary solutions required for a sustainable healthy City:
- Active management of vehicle numbers – there are a variety of options for this – the City Deal solution will be a disaster since it will increase both pollution and travel time without tackling the poor public transport services within South Cambridgeshire or the City.
- Curb pollution from vehicles in the City: by curbing numbers entering (and so queuing), and reducing the proportion of diesel vehicles and increasing electric and hybrid. Poor travel time is the means by which the limited road network is being rationed – economically costly, inefficient and a significant source of pollution. Active management of vehicle volumes is the only way to optimise the use of our limited road capacity within the city.
- Improved public transport – where is the funding from this to come from? Most people use their cars because alternatives are not practical.
Cllr Tim Moore 12/8/2016