Calling for a traffic survey on Hills Road

Today I attended Cambridgeshire County Council‘s Economy & Environment Committee, which was voting (for the second time this year) on segregated cycle lanes for Hills and Huntingdon Roads. The project had first been considered in May but deferred on safety grounds, including many raised by myself on behalf of local residents.

I called for a traffic survey to measure traffic speeds and behaviour before and after the scheme, as well as representing residents’ mixed views on the scheme.

Thank you for allowing me to speak.

I am speaking particularly about Hills Rd, as the stretch concerned runs through Queen Edith’s. It is the part between the notorious Hills Rd bridge and Long Road.

Local views are mixed. Although people want the cycling environment made safer, my residents have articulated the concerns you heard at your last meeting: floating bus stops and how pedestrians would manage

I know this aspect has been improved and I welcome the wider islands and the refashioning of the cycle lane near bus stops. I still have my doubts about whether this is the right place for such a scheme, given the heavy volumes of different road users (2400 getting on the bus)

But residents have other concerns which are very local: how it affects the roads:

Concern about what will happen when tradesmen visit, as not all properties have their own drives.
Rat-running: if cars get held up behind buses there is a risk they will become impatient and divert into streets off Hills Road. Four of these have schools, with children from 2 upwards, many of them walking or cycling to school.

I would like a traffic survey to be carried out before and after the scheme is input.

Hills Road cycle lanes layout: residents’ feedback prompts changes

hills roadIt is fair to say that views on the Hills Road cycle scheme are mixed, at least amongst local residents.

Council consultation results show Queen Edith’s residents split 50-50 between those who support the new segregated lanes and those who fear that the scheme will improve safety for cyclists at the expense of more vulnerable pedestrians.

Residents raised a number of concerns about safety, rat-running and access to properties. Councillors shared these concerns and asked County Council Highways officers to do further work to address safety issues. A number of changes have been made to the original proposals and the scheme will go back to councillors on 8th July.

Here is the report that they will receive. cycle lanes

  • There is now a clearer division between footway, bus stop and cycleway.
  • All the bus stop islands will be at least 2 metres wide and all waiting facilities will be on the island, so passengers won’t have to cross the cycleway as the bus arrives.
  • As the cycle lane approaches the bus stop it will veer left and narrow to 1.5 metres; there will then be a short ramp up to the level pedestrian crossing point, which will have tactile paving and be a different colour to the cycle lane. These differences are to alert cyclists of the need to be mindful of pedestrians.
  • The kerbs will now be sloped to allow cyclists to mount more easily should the need to leave the carriageway arise.
  • Although there will be double yellow lines, there will not be a loading ban to allow commercial vehicles to park briefly.
  • New gullies will be installed and a full CCTV drainage survey carried out to identify any necessary repairs.

There are concerns that if there are additional traffic hold-ups, motorists may evade them by using smaller streets off Hills Road – four of which have schools/ nursery schools. It is hard to predict the effect in advance, but I shall be asking for a traffic survey to be carried out before and after the scheme is input.

Are you ready for the Tour de France?

le-tour-riders2012In less than seven weeks, the Tour de France comes to Cambridge on Monday July 7th. All very exciting for those who follow competitive cycling – but even if you’re not a fan, have you thought about how you’ll get out about that day?

There are several road closures that day, including Hills Road and Trumpington Road, and many schools are closed for the day, including Morley Memorial, Netherhall, St Bede’s and Coleridge. Schools are announcing changes as I write, so I will update this page as I receive new information. (more…)

Floating bus stops, what do you think?

floatingbusstopHills Road is to benefit from over a million pounds of government funding for a new road layout that aims to improve conditions for pedestrians, bus users and cyclists. There is a plan for segregated cycle lanes in three of the main roads into the city: Hills Road, Trumpington Road and Huntingdon Road.

An innovative feature of the scheme will be ‘floating bus stops’, which have proved successful in Brighton and London. This will avoid the danger of cyclists overtaking buses at stops, but it will be important to make sure it is safe for bus passengers.

The County Council is running a consultation begins next week, with exhibitions and events at various local centres. There has already been one at St John’s Church and there are more at Addenbrooke’s (Friday March 14th, 11.00am-2pm) and the Perse School ( Wednesday March 26th, 6,30-8.30pm).

For full details, see http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/CMSWebsite/Apps/News/Details.aspx?ref=1330

The meeting will also include a presentation from the neighbourhood police and planning applications, including one for flats in Queen Edith’s Way – yes, more flats.

The meeting begins at 7pm, with an Open Forum, at which anyone can ask questions or make statements.

Cambridge Park and Ride parking charges: to be decided on Tuesday

P&RThe Tory Cabinet at Cambridgeshire County Council is to vote on parking charges for the Cambridge Park and Ride sites on Tuesday.

The rot set in last September, when the Tories proposed a £1 charge, but the vote on Tuesday will be on a schedule of parking charges, which starts at a £1 but goes up to an eye-watering £30 for a longer stay.

There have been nearly 200 objections, focussing on shifting the parking elsewhere and the threat to the Cambridge evening economy.

I objected, as I fear that even a £1 charge will displace parking to residential streets, which in this area are already blighted by commuter parking. There is an amendment for new parking restrictions in Babraham Road itself, which will stop parking on the highway and on the grass verge and this is welcome – but I do not think this will be enough. Once away from the Park and Ride site, a commuter might as well park elsewhere and catch an ordinary bus. My objection

Park & Ride was introduced to keep cars out of Cambridge city centre and the charging for parking, on top of the bus fare, is a regressive move. While the P&R sites need to make more money, we in my party do not believe this is a wise way of raising it, and would prefer the Council to look at other ways of raising revenue, eg retail or catering at the sites, or raising the bus operator’s departure charge.

The £10 charge will be a lot to pay for low paid shop workers if they work long shifts, and jeopardises the evening economy, as it will be costly to do any shopping or socialising in the city after a day’s work. It will have an additional sting at the Babraham Road Park & Ride site, which is closest to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in my ward: it could well catch people who have to stay at the hospital longer than they expect to, for medical reasons, even the newly bereaved. There is an amendment to the original charging schedule to make this 18 hours instead of 12. I hope this is accepted.

The decision on the charging structure is to be made by the County Council Cabinet on Tuesday. You can read the report and recommendations here: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/CMSWebsite/Apps/Committees/AgendaItem.aspx?agendaItemID=9419

Don’t play Bob the Builder with the Green Belt!

BobLast week, the Tory-led Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet voted to start putting together a business case for developing housing on Wort’s Causeway. The County owns 8.5 hectares of land to the south of Wort’s Causeway, known in the Local Plan consultation as GB2, GB1 being a slightly smaller parcel of land to the north.

I think this was premature. Both sites are still in the green belt, despite the fact that the City and District Councils’ Local Plans have proposed that they come out so they can be built on. As the Local Plan has not yet been decided, I think the County Council should wait before it starts playing Bob the Builder. To do otherwise is hugely disrespectful to the hundreds of people who have made representations about these sites. It is also speculative, making assumptions about the outcome of the Local Plan.

Although the County Council Cabinet takes major decisions, backbencher councillors are able to call in decisions and have them debated by overview and scrutiny committees. That is what I did, along with colleagues from Histon & Impington, East Chesterton and Fulbourn.

The paper was discussed at the Resources scrutiny committee this afternoon (download hereHousing call-in). Histon councillor Mike Mason and I addressed the committee and expressed our concerns regarding the prematurity of the decision, the principle of the County providing housing, and whether the business case development is properly provided for in the Council’s budget. I am pleased to say that the committee voted to refer the decision back to the Cabinet, who will now need to take a fresh look.

Watch this space.

Here is a transcript of what I said at the meeting today:

(more…)

Tory Park and Ride parking charges: back to the drawing board

P&ROn Tuesday, Cambridgeshire County Council‘s all-Conservative Cabinet approved bringing in parking charges at the five Park & Ride sites in Cambridge.

Yesterday, I was one of a group of opposition councillors (Liberal Democrats plus a few Labour) who called the decision in, to have it looked at by a committee comprising councillors from all parties represented on the Council.

Today the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny COmmittee disapproved the unpopular move. Before any charges are levied, there must be:

  • consultation / engagement with districts/city and users
  • a proper assessment of risks and other options
  • consideration of whether this is a “key decision” as it is a strategic change to start charging

We haven’t won the war yet, but this is a victory for people power and the principle of the public having a voice over their services.

Liberal Democrats oppose Tory ‘sweat tax’ at Cambridge Park & Ride sites

P&RWe are disturbed to see that the County Council’s Conservative Cabinet is due to consider a lightning strike on Park & Ride users, with the introduction of a parking charge. This would be on top of bus fares and is targetted at people  – such as commuters — who walk or cycle from the Park & Ride rather than take the bus. A sweat tax, if you like.

The Liberal Democrat group has called for the plan to be withdrawn, as there has been no consultation with the users of the service, the people living near the Park & Ride sites, with councillors in the city, or with the district or city councils – despite the statement in their paper that these groups have been consulted.

While it is right that charges should be reviewed to ensure the Park & Ride sites are run efficiently, it is not right to change things with no consultation. In Queen Edith’s, I fear that if charges are brought in at Babraham Road, our local commuter parking problem will intensify.

The Tories’ case for the charges has been badly presented, with insufficient attention to the risk of parking displacement and of the effect on sustainable travel.pound coins

We have called upon the Tories to drop their plans until they have consulted users and people living near the Park & Ride sites, as well as councillors representing people in the Park and Ride site areas.

Hills Road resurfacing: you’ll need to consider your route

IMAG0002_COVER-1-1Hills Road is to be resurfaced this month, all the way between Cherry Hinton Road and Fendon Road. This is the result of a campaign by former county councillor Geoff Heathcock – a great result to conclude his time in office!

It is badly needed, as anyone who drives or cycles along Hills Road knows only too well.

The Council is carrying out the work in August, when Hills Road is quieter, or at least less busy than at other times of the year. Works are scheduled to commence approximately 12th August and finish around the 30th.

During this time there will be a one-way system allowing traffic to travel down Hills Road into the City from the Addenbrooke’s direction. All southbound traffic will be diverted along Cherry Hinton Road, Mowbray Road and Fendon Road.Potholes

The bus stops on Hills Road will not be served during 6a.m. and 3.30p.m. and and passengers will need to use the Addenbrooke’s bus interchange or stops on Queen Edith’s Way and Cherry Hinton Road. Please see Stagecoach’s website for full details.

Some cycle lanes are closed, though we assume the on-pavement ones will be as normal.

Please check for updates, as we know from experience that County Council plans can change!

What to do if bus timetables aren’t working

Real Time Passenger Information is the technical term for what you see on the illuminated displays at bus stops that tell you when the buses are on their way. They are handy if you’re trying to decide which bus to take, or whether it’s quicker to walk. I know that they are useful because when (occasionally) a display is out of order, people tell me! Here’s a short post on how to get them working again quickly.,

Last week, the display was broken at the stop on Hills Road opposite Marshall Road and outside Homerton College. First, it simply gave the times for the day before – then went completely blank. Although it had been reported to a bus driver, the County Council were unaware of the malfunction.  When I reported it on Friday last week, the traffic manager at the County Council, Mr Gerry Watkins, promised it would be working again in two days. I am pleased to report that Mr Watkins went one better and had it restored to working order in just one day – extremely impressive.The Council has a smart system of ‘interrogating’  the displays remotely every six hours to check for malfunctions, but this time, the remote check had not detected the fault. Mr Watkins said he was pleased people find the displays useful and commented,’There are still certain circumstances in which we have to rely on someone visually noticing a problem and informing us. It is our aim to respond and correct within two working days.’

SO: If this or any other timetable display is not working, ring the County Council traffic department on 0345 0450675 or email them from their website.

The County Council was consulting councillors on good locations for new timetable displays earlier in the year. Based on the feedback we received, George, Jean, Geoff and I recommended additional displays for the Citi 1 and Citi 2 routes and we hope to see some new ones soon.