The A14 Non Motorised User (NMU) route was cut on January 29th 2021 as barriers were errected at the foot of the acess ramps to the magnificent new bridges at Bar Hill and Swavesey. They are installed as a result of a road saftey audit conducted by Cambridgeshire County Council as part of the handover from Highways England who were responsible for the design and building them. The barriers went up after the route had been open for some 6 months or so. The decision flies in the face of the current guidance (LTN1/20) from the DfT that barriers should not be used.
The new route out of Cambridge from Girton takes the rider alongside the new A14 toward Swavesey where an iconic span carries the cycleway over the vast new superhighway towards Boxworth. Both the Swavesey and Bar Hill bridges now require a dismount to use them if anything other than an unloaded bike is ridden. I ride with panniers to carry my gear and I couldn’t clear the barriers without clipping them. Getting a trike, tandem, trailerbike or even a bike with a child seat on the back is far from simple. This is something of a shock as for almost 5 miles the track is a comfortable width with a good surface but on reaching the bridge it’s reduced to a ‘get off and walk’ state without any signage in advance: one is forced to a stop.
The exit trajectory of the slalom manouvre pushes the bike close to the A1304 edge. Had the design guide been followed things would have been very different. LTN 1/20 requires sight lines whre cycleways join based on safe stopping ditsances. I have shown the ‘dynamic envelope’ at 0.8m to left and right of the bike as sepcified, to allow for the cyclists wobble at low speed. The overlap of the dynamic envelope with the track edge could mean a handle bar snag or worse,
How could this happen? Millions were spent on the design and construction of these beautiful spans only to have cheap gates slapped across them.
At the very front of the DFt Cycle Infrastructure Design Guide (LTN1/20) principle 16 states:
Access control measures, such as chicane barriers and dismount signs, should not be used. They reduce the usability of a route for everyone, and may exclude people riding non-standard cycles and cargo bikes. They reduce the capacity of a route as well as the directness and comfort. Schemes should not be designed in such a way that access controls, obstructions and barriers are even necessary; pedestrians and cyclists should be kept separate with clear, delineated routes.LTN 1/20 July 2020
From the begining of the project a high quatlity cycle route was to be a benefit of the scheme. In 2014, as part of the planning justification for the £1.5bn A14 improvement scheme the Highways Agency (now Highways England) an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT), after consultation with a wide range of stakeholders presented the plan for a non motorised user route from Girton to Fenstanton.
In the December 2014 the Highways Agency had much to say:
‘Environmental impact & mitigation, effects on pedestrian cyclist and equestrian travellers’:a new shared cycleway/footway between Fenstanton and Girton, which provides new, safer opportunities to travel by non-motorised means:
two purpose built bridges for pedestrians and cyclists at Swavesey and Bar Hill to provide links for local communities to key employment centres by non-motorised means;Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme A14 Environmental statement Non-technical summary December 2014
In support of the planning aplication for the scheme enviromental legacy benefits were listed:
Encouraging a modal shift with greater and safer choice of NMU routes.
Improved local connectivity and linkage; all PRoW routes truncated by present A14 reconnected by NMU facility.
Landmark structures contributing to sense of place and local distinctiveness.
Dedicated footways and cycleways at A14 crossings improving safety for NMUs.A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme TR010018 7.1 Case for the Scheme APFP Regulation 5(2)(q) Revision 0 December 2014
Designed by Knight Architects in 2015 their significance as icons for the region was not overlooked:
The overbridges at Swavesey and Bar Hill were special opportunities, representing both gateways towards Cambridge for the highway user but also key daily landmarks for the local communities….The subtle adjustment of a regular structural form is efficient and, perhaps more importantly, demonstrates how well-considered design can play a successful role in a large infrastructure scheme and provide seamless continuity between the places it connects.https://www.knightarchitects.co.uk/projects/a14-footbridges
Blocking the sweeping curved access destroys the ‘seamless continuity’ aspired to in the design, the barriers are a symbol of an attitude, an attitude of contempt for the cyclist. As acts of vandalism go it might not be the worst but blocking these bridges with no regard for the ambition for active travel or modal shifts for a healthier planet is hard to take, especially as the action was done without community involvement at any level- when these bridges are supposed to be emblems of community connection.