West Cambridge Cycle Route – Proposed Response

The second round of consultation concerning improvements to the West Cambridge cycle route, which would close one end of West Road to cars, is under way. The consultation period has been extended but responses need to be received by 8th June.

I attended the public exhibition on Thursday 20th May at the Sports Pavilion on Wilberforce Road and had the chance to discuss the proposals at some length with Clare Rankin and a colleague of hers from Cambridgeshire County Council.

No one doubts the importance of improving cycle facilities in Cambridge, and the West Cambridge cycle route is already well used, with traffic from the West Cambridge campus running along a new, dedicated path as far as Adams Road, then using shared routes across Grange Road, Burrell’s Walk, over Queen’s Road, Garret Hostel Bridge and Garret Hostel Lane.

Most of this route is well laid out and easy to use, however the final stages from the bridge into the city centre and the short link between Adams Road and Burrell’s Walk are of some concern. There is also the question of whether cycle traffic to and from West Cambridge campus needs to link with the centre of Cambridge as at present or whether it needs to route to other areas of the city.

The proposed scheme involves building a new link from the end of Adams Road to Silver Street and the south of Cambridge via a much improved cycle way over Queen’s Green. Few people would dispute the potential value of this link, or even with other links to the north of the city in the future should these come up for discussion.

The area of concern for most people is the question of West Road and changes to the junction with Queen’s Road. West Road links Queen’s Road with Grange Road, serves two schools, West Road Concert Hall and the University Library. Because of the speed and traffic limiting measures in Grange Road, West Road is not used extensively as a through road.

The proposed changes to West Road involve improvements to the entrance to the University Library (raising the junction and moving the bus stop) and adding traffic lights at the junction with Queen’s Road.

West Road - Junction with Queen's Road

West Road - Junction with Queen's Road

However the proposal is also to close the junction to motor traffic heading East from West Road into Queen’s Road (buses and cycles are exempt). Motor vehicles will still be able to turn into West Road from Queen’s Road.

Overall I have a lot of sympathy with the proposals, however my concern is that “legitimate” road traffic going to facilities along West Road will now be obliged to exit West Road via Grange Road. The speed limiting devices along Grange Road, and in particular the pinch points that restrict width across Grange Road, are already considered excessive by many local users. Forcing even more traffic along Grange Road will simply lead to even great congestion along Grange Road and at the junctions with Barton Road and Madingley Road.

My proposal would be to review whether the volume of local traffic exiting West Road onto Queen’s Road justifies a blanket restriction on motor vehicle use (especially since the proposed traffic lights will provide a mechanism for regulating traffic flows out of this junction), and if such a restriction is introduced then to remove the intermediate pinch points and speed cushions along Grange Road so that the increased traffic volume of traffic leaving West Road can be absorbed.

If anyone has other suggestions or would like to comment on my analysis, please get in touch. I will be submitting a written response to the council and would appreciate any objective views before doing so.

Full details of the proposed changes to West Road and Silver Street can be seen online at www.cambridge.gov.uk/cycling.

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About Stephen Oliver

I am a management consultant/non-executive director and charity trustee based in Switzerland.
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