Why prospective elected mayors should pause after the Cambridge roadblocks fiasco

It appears that Labour/ Conservative proposals to fine drivers using key roads in and out of Cambridge in peak hours may be for the scrap heap, or at least the City Deal chair, Labour councillor Lewis Herbert, has declared them ‘unviable’.

It’s excellent that the huge volume of objections appears to have forced the Cambridge area’s City Deal Board into a rethink. But such a plan shouldn’t have seen the light of day in the first place, especially without proper exploration of other ways to achieve the very necessary aim of reducing traffic congestion in Cambridge.

The decision two years ago to introduce parking charges at the Cambridge Park & Ride sites resulted in half-empty car parks and a drop of 15% in bus passenger numbers. That clearly needs to be reversed. And we need an open and wide-ranging conversation including all who live or work in Cambridge, or visit the city for whatever purpose, about how to make travelling into the city more sustainable.

But the whole fiasco is also an object lesson in what happens under remote boards like City Deal, consisting of representatives selected by councils to make decisions at an extra remove from the public. And it’s an alarm bell about how decisions on all sorts of matters will be taken by the new ‘powerful Mayor’ of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough and his ‘combined authority’, which will be foisted on us by the Government and by Conservative and Labour councillors from May next year.

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.

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.