New road measures to benefit cyclists and pedestrians across Cambridgeshire approved
PUBLISHED: 10:40 16 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:01 16 September 2020
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A second phase of measures adapting the road space in favour of cyclists and pedestrians has been approved for Cambridgeshire.
Road layouts are being altered temporarily in response to the pandemic. The work is being funded by the government’s emergency active travel fund, to allow for greater social distancing and to encourage more walking and cycling.
The latest plans follow the introduction of a host of measures earlier in the summer, some of which have proved controversial.
Changes have been implemented using experimental traffic regulation orders, which allow the council to bypass the usual consultation process that precedes most highways projects.
The council said consultations on some of those schemes already implemented – including the Mill Road bus gate – will begin in November.
The list of proposed temporary changes this time around runs to £1.6 million in the county council area, including managing and maintenance, rising to £2.3 million including Peterborough.
The county council’s highways committee voted unanimously on Tuesday, September 15 in favour of pursuing the proposed programme, despite some councillors expressing reservations about specific schemes.
A certain amount of flexibility has been included in the process so that the current list of proposals can be altered or added to without returning to the committee for approval.
The power to make those decisions has been delegated to the executive director for highways and would be carried out in consultation with the chairman, vice chairman and opposition lead members of the committee.
Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Manning succeeded in amending the proposal so that now highways officers are instructed to “take into account the views of local members at county and district level and parish councils where appropriate before progressing with individual schemes”.
Changes include additional cycle parking, temporary cycle lanes, as well as modal filters, which can restrict some vehicles such as private cars from accessing roads or passing a certain point, often favouring public transport or limiting through traffic to prevent so-called rat-running.
Changes are proposed for every district of the county.
To facilitate a quicker delivery of the changes, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has already committed money for the projects, pre-empting government approval of funding for the schemes.
A council highways officer said the list of potential changes was drawn up in discussion with the district and city councils, as well as the Greater Cambridge Partnership.
The schemes were broadly welcomed by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.
Head of transport and infrastructure policy at the county council, Jeremy Smith, said that, as with the first round, because of the short time frame imposed by the government’s funding requirements, the council “cannot guarantee in all cases that proposals will be deliverable,” saying the team who would have undertaken “more detailed work” are also charged with working on the first phase.
He added the programme proposed “should be largely deliverable”.
The council’s report said proposals “that involve significant changes to existing layouts,” such as modal filters on Arbury Road and Coldhams Lane – which could potentially see a form of barrier to private cars included on some part of the roads, limiting their use as a through-route – “will need significant further work before delivery can be assured”.
Both proposals sparked controversy in the meeting, with residents and councillors arguing both for and against.
Councillor Dave Baigent argued against a modal filter on Coldhams Lane.
He said “there will be 17,000 vehicles a day displaced” causing “dangerous rat-running” on small residential streets.
“I do not think that the trial will be safe, I think that within hours there would be accidents on the backstreets of Romsey as people try and rat-run,” he said.
“They are doing that currently to avoid the Mill Road bridge closure, to add to that would be very dangerous.”
The Coldhams Lane Residents Association said it was in favour of a modal filter, and that it has carried out surveys which suggest residents in the area support that position.
Speaking for the residents’ association, David Trippett said Coldhams Lane currently suffers from an “utterly unmanageable level of motor traffic” and is often used as a “shortcut,” saying the situation is “getting worse” after the Mill Road bridge closure.
Cambridge city councillor, Labour’s Gerri Bird, who is a wheelchair user, argued against some of the schemes, urging the council to give greater consideration to disabled road users.
She described some of the impacts on disabled people as “discrimination,” arguing they would lose disabled parking bays and changes would restrict access to parts of the city.
Cllr Manning said “disability is a very wide term, and there are a number of people who will potentially lose out,” saying that could include wheelchair users.
But he argued: “There are also an equally large number of people, people with mental health conditions, people with visual impairments, who will massively benefit from a reduction in traffic levels.”
He said: “It is a wide range and we shouldn’t be beholden to the idea that all people with disabilities lose out, because some will obviously gain from this.”
Highways officer Mr Smith said the delivery teams were working to a basic principle of not losing blue badge spaces. He said: “We don’t want to remove any disabled parking, and if we did have to remove, it would be a case of remove and replace somewhere equally accessible, and if that’s not possible you would need to review the basis on which the proposal is being made.”
Councillor Amanda Taylor said that the impact on others who may find it difficult to cycle – such as the elderly and pregnant women – also needs to be considered.
The debate was ultimately cut short, as nearly four hours into the meeting the chairman of the committee, Conservative councillor Ian Bates, said councillors had run out of time to discuss it any further.
Another proposal which could not be implemented earlier in the summer but included in this second phase is for an experimental closure on the Old Bridge between Huntingdon and Godmanchester. Highways officers will now look into the possibility of restricting private cars from crossing, while keeping the route open for cyclists, buses and taxis.
This proposal “is made possible by the imminent opening of the Pathfinder link as part of the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme which will provide alternative vehicular access between Godmanchester and Huntingdon”.
The council said the government’s conditions for providing funding requires the money is spent or fully committed in this financial year.
Cllr Manning told the committee: “I have a really serious concern about the capacity and the workload on our officers introduced by these schemes.”
He said the issue is “massively influenced by the government’s directive that we can’t bring in extra consultancy for this, it has to be delivered in house.
“We are having to do all of these schemes on top of the current schemes we are doing. That is not to blame anyone in particular, but it seems to me to expose that we were at a capacity limit anyway, and then we had a massive extra tranche of work put on top of that.”
A full list of the proposed changes can be found here: https://bit.ly/3mnxTKy.
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