It’s hard to miss the growing number of cargo bikes in Cambridge, being used to ferry everything from children to shopping to deliveries around. They use a lot less energy than cars do, and take up a lot less space, and I think they are a really valuable alternative means of transport.
Like many car owners, I’d like to use my car a lot less, but the thought of cycling a long distance with a week’s shopping, especially when it’s got heavy things like cat food or bulky things like toilet roll, is a bit of a deterrent.
Which is one reason why I was excited to see that there’s a new generation of electric cargo bikes, offering those of us who like to cycle but could do with a little help the perfect alternative to a car.
Yesterday we heard about the tragic death of a cyclist on the guided busway after a collision with a bus. This is under investigation now, and we must not draw conclusions about the circumstances of the incident, but my thoughts are with their family and friends.
It was less than three months ago that I was walking down the Trumpington section of the guided busway with four members of the highways safety and cycling team to discuss options for improving the safety of this route for pedestrians and cyclists. I had also met with one of the bus operators the previous day.
My main request was to have the speed on the buses reduced on the section from Clay Farm to where it joined the road near the station, from 53mph to 20 or 30 mph. I had calculated that this would only increase the journey time for this section by about 3 minutes. It was agreed that some visibility issues could be improved, along with highlighting the raised kerb of the track and the provision of warning signs, but the option for reducing the speed of the vehicles was not within their powers.
Some of the issues were explained to me. The guided bus tracks were on private land, speed limits could not be enforced and, most crucially, it was not a road so the police had no jurisdiction, but it was not a railway either, so the Health and Safety Executive had no jurisdiction either – there seems to be no single body accountable for safety on the busway.
After yesterday’s awful accident I think we find a way to make progress here, before something else happens. It has highlighted again how vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists can be to large vehicles that travel at speed close to the pathway. I use this route often and sometimes get frightened by the fast, heavy vehicles.
As well as safety measures like road markings, surely is it time for an accountable safety body to be put in place. What other vehicle transport system does not have this?
Last week I spoke out at the South Area Committee, the group which brings together councillors from the south of the city, about the need to make the guided busway safer. It’s an issue that was often raised by local residents and something I feel strongly about as a cyclist whose family use the path regularly.
The issue was highlighted by Josh Thomas in his report for the Cambridge Independent, published yesterday – and then this morning we heard the dreadful news that a pedestrian had been hit by the wing mirror of a passing bus. Fortunately it seems that the person involved was not seriously hurt, but it highlights the dangers of having fast-moving buses in close proximity to pedestrians and cyclists.
I will be exploring the best way to ensure that we’re all safe on the busway, whether through a fence or other measures.
Every year the fine people at the Cambridge Cycling Campaign send out a survey to all of the candidates for local elections asking for our views on a range of cycling-related issues. This year’s survey will be published on April 24 but I thought I’d share my thoughts – and some photographs I took recently while cycling around the southern part of Trumpington.
As a candidate for local government, I have spent a lot of time considering ways to make Trumpington better. As an architect, I think about the built environment, and the way that physical changes can make people’s lives better; as a regular and frequent cyclist, I have noticed a number of things around the ward that I think need to be reconsidered. As I engaged with the Cambridge Cycle Campaign about transit choice in Trumpington, I realised I had a lot of strong opinions about the state of infrastructure across our community that I wanted to explore in greater detail. This blog post is an outgrowth of that process.
I have lived in Cambridgeshire for over thirty years and have always cycled – when I’ve lived in the City it’s been my main way of getting around. All of my family members cycle regularly and our garage is filled with bikes. I’m obviously concerned about road safety for my children, and myself as I grow older.
When I consider transit provision, my priority is to protect the most vulnerable road users, and improve their experience first – this includes pedestrians, but also the elderly, people with limited mobility, and anyone else who struggles to get around. The ward has seen major transit improvements in the last few years with the introduction of the guided Busway and new, wide pavements and cycle lanes along Addenbrookes Road, and in the award-winning design of some of the new housing estates. There is also good cycling provision from Bateman Street south to Alpha Terrace, and wide pavements along the High St.
That said, there is a dramatic drop-off in quality from Alpha Terrace to the M11 junction. There are two areas about which I feel particularly strong: first, the junction that governs access to Waitrose, particularly the right-turn lane facing south; and second, Hobson Avenue junction across the guided Busway. The right-hand turn lane into Waitrose is only long enough for about six cars to queue, creating backups that stretch north – sometimes literally for miles.
The result is a dangerous junction for cars and especially for cyclists (there is no pedestrian crossing, which is a separate issue), as well as traffic congestion along the length of Trumpington Road. Hobson Avenue, where a road crosses the guided Busway, is a dangerous intersection that requires a two-pronged approach: it needs changes to the signalisation and road users need to be educated about the dangers inherent in the junction. I would seek to restore priority to the Busway users. At present, not only is there a long wait for the signal to change, it is too short for anyone but an able-bodied adult to cross in time, which is also something that could be improved.
There are also many areas of Trumpington that need to be re-considered. The new junction of Addenbrookes Road and Shelford Road is disappointing because only three of the four roads are signalized – so pedestrians need to cross three roads to get across the street. There are other small changes – such as paving unpaved cycle tracks around the ward, and creating safe routes to primary schools – that could have a major impact on providing transport choice.
As a resident of the Novo estate pointed out, many of the roads in new estates in Trumpington have not been adopted, and as a result see high traffic speeds and are becoming rat runs. There are also pedestrian/cycle tracks that, though heavily used, have fallen into disrepair, with inadequate drainage making them impassible after rain. Improving them – preferably without closing them, as that entails substantial disruption to regular users – would make a big difference to people who are car-free or experience limited mobility.
Ideally, the whole of Trumpington should be assessed for vulnerability, so that we can build resilience into the design of the city. The examples above are things that residents have brought to my attention or that I have noticed in my travels around the ward.
In addition to physical improvements, there are a few things I would like to see that would support better transit opportunities for all Trumpington residents. I would love to see bike racks added to Busway vehicles, preferably of the sort shown below (from Stuttgart, 2013. The more common fold-down racks only fit two cycles at a time). Adding an additional bus stop north of the turn-off to Addenbrookes would mean many more buses serving the Trumpington community. Making vulnerable road users a consideration in travel management plans (included in planning applications) would force developers and contractors to account for the impact of construction on pedestrians and cyclists, and mitigate situations where, for example, cycle lanes are obstructed by construction vehicles.
Trumpington has six state schools and seven private schools, and so cycling to and from school is a real prospective growth area in Trumpington. My first priority is the stretch of road south of Alpha Terrace, for families with children at Trumpington Meadows Primary School. Many of the children who attend the school need to cross Hauxton Road and they deserve a safe and pleasant route to school. Traffic in the Newtown area, where there are five schools, is particularly bad during school term time at rush hour. At other times of day and year, it is a relatively pleasant cycling environment.
If elected, I would seek to work with private schools to make school drop-off a safer and more seamless experience for everyone. We should work with the schools to create a better system – one that provides a more seamless experience for pupils and parents, and also helps to minimise traffic congestion for residents. In Trumpington we have both an opportunity and an obligation to address school traffic, which has an impact on everyone’s quality of life.
As a regular and frequent cyclist, I know of many places in Trumpington that could be improved for standard and non-standard cyclists alike. Each deserves individual consideration, but I would love for the ward to receive a comprehensive assessment of cycling strengths and weaknesses. In the meantime, I have learned so much from residents of Trumpington as I have been campaigning, and I have enjoyed getting a more in-depth and granular understanding of the issues that affect residents every day.
As the campaign for the City Council Elections on May 3rd gets into full swing, our team has been out again in Trumpington, knocking on doors to find out more about the issues that matter to people. We’ve heard about traffic congestion, concerns that there are too few local shops, and of course concerns about local transport. We’ll be out every weekend – and some weekdays – between now and the election.
When I’m out canvassing with other members of the Trumpington Labour team I often hear complaints about traffic congestion in Trumpington, and we are determined to do something to reduce tailbacks and improve circulation – getting cars moving is good for air quality, good for residents and good for Cambridge.
One source of the queues on Trumpington High Street is cars trying to turn right into Waitrose, and the lack of a pedestrian crossing also makes it dangerous for those on foot.
We are considering proposals for action here, including better enforcement, turning restrictions and clearer road markings – but we’d like to hear from you.
No solution is easy, but together can come up with a plan. Please get in touch with your views, whether you’re trying to walk to school or work, need to drive in or out of Cambridge, or just want to ensure that the Trumpington air is breathable!
Over the last two weeks the road surface on Long Road, near where I live, has been resurfaced. The work needed to be done, and it’s made the road a lot nicer to cycle and drive on.
However in our regular canvassing sessions this weekend we talked to a number of local residents who had several disturbed nights because of the noise of machinery, including angle grinders.
It’s always difficult to balance the interests of different groups, and it’s clear that doing the bulk of the roadworks overnight when there’s little traffic makes sense. However as an architect I know how to design a schedule to minimise disruption to everyone involved – and I wonder if a more thoughtful plan for the noisy works might have been put in place.
If elected, one of the things I will bring to my role as a County Councillor is an awareness of such issues, based on thirty years as a practising architect.
As it was a sunny Sunday afternoon our canvassing today was lots of fun – and very good exercise, according to my Fitbit.
One of the issues raised was the poor drainage on the roads beside bus stops on Trumpington Road – something I could see when I went to have a look later. As an architect I design drainage, and I’m going to look into this one.
I live off Long Road, and my family and I cycle everywhere, so I’m pleased to see that the road will be improved for cyclists. I believe that this is also good for car users, as it makes things safer for everyone.
It’s been wonderful to have support from local Labour Party members on these canvassing sessions – if you’d like to join me, drop me an email and I’ll let you know where and when to meet.