Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hills Road and Huntingdon Road improvements

"Why is the council spending all this money on cycling! Cyclists shouldn’t be on the road anyway!"
I guess that's one type of response to these latest public consultations. Most likely from some of the non-cycling motorists in Cambridge. But if you are a cyclist and have a different opinion about these new cycling schemes, now would be good time to make your voice heard and speak out for cycling.

A new consultation has just started on two important cycle improvements on Hills Road and Huntingdon Road. These schemes are designed to improve road conditions for all road users by reducing the scope for conflicts. Cyclists get two major benefits on both roads: (1) cycle priority across the side roads and (2) floating bus stops.
We would like to encourage all cyclists to take a detailed look at the proposals and respond to the public consultation. You could also attend one of public events in March (12, 18 or 24) where you can view the plans in more detail and ask questions.

Full details of the Hills Road Consultation on the County Council website
Full details of the Huntingdon Road Consultation on the County Council website

Give the council your views! There is a Hills Road questionnaire and a separate Huntingdon Road questionnaire. The deadline for consultation responses is Monday 7th April.

Both these roads are already well used by cyclists and most days there is a great range of different cyclists travelling at different speeds. These are popular cycle routes and at first sight they are not a top priority for improvements. But they have been chosen to trial these Cycle City Ambition Funded schemes because they are well used commuting routes and also because both roads are wide enough to allow for good quality segregated cycle lanes without too many compromises.

Here's a detailed review by Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

I strongly support the use of segregated cycle lanes for these main roads where higher traffic speeds and volumes can make cyclists feel more vulnerable.
Segregation provides a stronger separation between cycles and motor vehicles and should give cyclists more protection than a on-road cycle lane where the painted white lines are ignored by many vehicles and are rarely enforced. But equally, in order to make segregation work for all cyclists the lanes need to be wide enough to allow cyclists to ride two-abreast or for faster cyclists to easily pass slower cyclists. And the cycle lanes need to have priority over side roads. The new schemes tick both of these boxes. One detailed element of the consultation is the choice between “hard” segregation (Option 1) and “soft” segregation (Option 2). I don’t have a strong opinion here. I would expect most confident cyclists to prefer soft segregation which creates a wider lane and allows you to move into and out of the lane if needed. The hard segregation imposes more constraint on the cyclists but it compensates by discouraging motor vehicles from illegally driving or parking in the cycle lanes thereby reducing these dangerous obstructions. On balance I think this detail is not critical: I think it is more important to start this trial and try it out. And for this reason, I think the Option 3 proposal with a mix of both types of segregation also has a lot of merit.

Whatever your preference, I would hope you will support both these schemes because of those two major benefits: cycle priority across the side roads and floating bus stops.

  • Cycle lane priority – without unwanted stop lines or give way signs – should make a big difference for cyclists. For me this feature alone makes it worthwhile. I think the “hard” vs “soft” segregation is a secondary detail compared to this primary benefit. This side road priority has a trade-off: it can only work with unidirectional cycle lanes so that cyclists always approach junctions from the “expected” direction. Some existing sections of bi-directional shared use cycle lane will therefore have to be removed to make these schemes work.
  • Floating bus stops are also a new idea for Cambridge. They are called “floating” because the bus stop is a small island placed between the road and the cycle lane. The cycle lane runs behind the bus stop allowing cyclists to safely pass a stationary bus. This bypass section of cycle lane narrows to single file and cyclists are expected to slow down to safely avoid any conflict with bus passengers crossing the cycle path.

I expect the consultation to get a large response from a range of users. If – like me – you support this scheme please do respond to the consultation (links above) and help to get plenty of cycle voices heard. If you want more details, and especially if you have some suggestions for detailed improvements to the proposed schemes then please get in touch with the right-to-ride team. Or contact the County Council team directly. Rupert Goodings