Embassy response to Hills Road/Huntingdon Road Cycling Scheme

The plains for changes to Hills Road and Huntingdon Road represent a promising step-change in the way cycling is designed for on main roads in Cambridge. The principle of separating cycle traffic from motor traffic on this kind of road is exactly the right approach.

However, we are concerned that the scheme will be let down by inadequate treatments at junctions, a lack of continuity and coherence, and a number of other important details being wrongly implemented.

From the video, the treatments with side roads do not look to be acceptable. We would recommend tighter geometry, and greater continuity, with the cycle tracks continuing at a raised level, alongside an unbroken footway that extends across the junction mouth. This would give both pedestrians and people cycling a greater sense of priority, and would also slow drivers as they turn up and over the cycle track and footway, across what is clearly a cycling and walking space. This should be the case whether the raised cycle lanes (effectively a cycle track) or the cycle track with greater segregation are employed. At the busier side roads the cycle track could be set back from the junction for safety, so that movements on and off the road, and across the cycle track, can be completed in two separate stages.

The bus stop islands are the right principle. They remove conflict between buses and cycling movements, ensuring that buses are not held up by cycle traffic, and also that people cycling do not have to negotiate out around stopped buses, which is unpleasant and dangerous. However the details need to be right. In particular we think the bus shelters should be on the islands, to minimise conflict across the cycle track when buses arrive. The islands should also be large enough to accommodate the numbers of people waiting for buses, without them spilling over into the cycle track. We would also suggest the use of informal zebra markings to give an impression of pedestrian priority across the track at the bus stops.

As for the form the cycle provision should take, kerb separation is preferable to a simple raised cycle lane. This need not require any more physical space. A kerb upstand with a sloping 45 degree kerb on the cycle track side would provide protection from the carriageway while allowing people to cycle right on the outer edge of the cycle track, increasing its effective width. The same shallow sloping kerb could be used to divide the cycle track from the footway, providing adequate physical separation, yet remaining forgiving. The width of the cycle tracks is also crucial. For much of the visualisation, there seems to be wasted carriageway space in the form of hatching markings. This could be used more profitably to create wider cycle tracks and footways, and larger bus stop waiting islands, and better crossing points for cycling, which don’t require perpendicular movements off the cycle track, as suggested by the video.

There are other problems, principally that barriers to cycling remain on this route. Most notably the Lawrence Weaver junction is unattractive. There must be a commitment to improve this junction, using signal separation of turning movements to ensure both objective and subjective safety. Equally we feel that the usefulness of the Huntingdon Road cycle track is very limited while it only runs in one direction. High-quality provision is needed in both directions for this to form a useful route

These are promising plans, but they need to be implemented properly, and need substantial further work for these roads to be truly inviting for cycling, for all.


Where this approach has been adopted in Manchester, there are very frequent problems with motorists stopping and parking in the cycle lane.  Once a cyclist is forced to leave the raised cycle lane due to obstructions it is often awkward to re-join the cycle lane (via a low angled kerb in this case); it can be hard to get a good angle back up the kerb onto the cycle lane without first swinging out further into the motor traffic.

The text comments in the video acknowledge this as a potential issue, and clearly describe this driver behaviour as illegal, but in Manchester the police have no interest since "parking is now a council issue" and the council do nothing about it.

I don't know who is responsible for parking issues in Cambridgeshire, but given the lack of enforcement in Manchester I would much prefer to see drivers physically prevented from entering the cycle lane in the first place.

Hence, I would agree with this response that kerb separation is preferable, as well as with the other comments in the response.

If there is a demand for parking then kerbs of whatever design (whether they are full height, half height, 45 degree jobs or whatever) present no obstacle whatsoever to motor vehicles - take a look at just about any residential street outside London and yoy will see cars cluttering up the pavement.  They do present a serious hazard to cyclists who will need to cross the kerb to get round the parked cars. To prevent cars parking you either need a stricter enforcement regime than Eric Pickles is willing to countenance - or something considerably more substantial than a kerb.

Pete Owens and I do not always agree, but I do agree with him about the kerb problem. A kerb is not enough on its own to repel drivers who want to park. It would be rare in the Netherlands to find so little separating a cycle-path from a road. However, that's far from the only problem.
What's proposed in Cambridge is actually more of the same old and I find it disappointing to see campaigners actually supporting this at all. I refer mostly to the Huntingdon Road proposals:
In this case there's a proposal for one side of the road only – the downhill side. It's too narrow so it'll be difficult for a faster cyclist to pass a slower cyclist safely. Cycle-paths need to be wider on downhill stretches to make cyclists passing each other adequately safe.
In the Netherlands we'd normally expect a unidirectional cycle-path to be 2.5 m wide with a 1.5 m gap between the cycle-path and the road and another gap between the other side of the cycle-path and pedestrians, lamp posts etc. That’s for a flat area, not taking into account the extra width needed to cater for speeds going downhill. This proposal is for a 2.1 metre wide cycle-path at best which has either a 0.6 m space between itself and the road and which is edged by a hard kerb or no gap at all. Both the kerb or the option of no gap at all effectively shrink the cycle-path as it's not safe to venture close to the edge of the path.
What's more, the plan is for this already narrow cycle facility to be even narrower and even more dangerous at bus-stops. Here it will shrink to a totally inadequate 1.5 m, and this is to be done deliberately in order to slow cyclists down. If this were a cycling facility designed to actually facilitate cycling then it would try to make cycling faster and more convenient, not to make cycling slower.
It's also interesting to look at the stretch of the road which is to be treated. It starts after the notorious Girton Road junction (scene of more than one cyclist injury), keeps cyclists glued to the kerb as they approach the entrance and exit of the petrol station, provides no assistance around the sometimes busy Thornton Road and Whitehouse Lane. The new facility then expects cyclists to launch themselves from the gutter to a position in-between lanes of motorised traffic at Lawrence Weaver Road (this is a new hazard due to a housing development built since we left the city) before trapping the cyclist in the gutter again and providing no assistance at all at Oxford Road – a rat-run into which drivers tend to make very fast left turns across cyclists.
There is also no attempt at all to improve the conditions around the large junction with Histon Road, which is a few metres further on, another location at which cyclists are supposed to take a lane which is between lanes of motorized traffic.
This proposal also offers people absolutely no help at all to make safer journeys in the opposite direction, where they need it more because in that direction they're struggling back up the hill.
I suspect that Mark has not cycled along that road, or has done so only a few times. However, I have cycled there on many occasions. I've done it slowly with children, I've done it quickly (i.e. sometimes above the speed limit) on my own. Left turning cars are a real nuisance at some of these junctions. I found this particularly to be the case at Oxford Road. I certainly would not want to be trapped in the gutter there by such a badly designed cycle "facility" as would be the case if cycling in the facility proposed. This is somewhere that you have to “take the lane” in order to be safe. This proposal traps cyclists in exactly the wrong place at junctions while providing minimum help on the relatively safe places in-between the junctions. There’s nothing to celebrate or to welcome about that.
This proposal is not remotely of the quality that is required to get the entire population cycling and it is not remotely good enough to make cycling safe. What’s more, this wholly inadequate proposal covers just one side of less than one mile of road. It's not deserving of the amount of attention which it has achieved nor of the praise which it has attracted from cycling campaigners. I'm very disappointed to see such a small step of such low quality being described as a "step change" by the CEoGB.