Since the 28th of July 2020 government policy on the design of cycle infrastructure is governed by 5 core principles. Networks and routes should be:
The massive investment involved in the iconic bridge which links Cambridge to Bar Hill offers a huge oportunity to change travel modes for those in Bar Hill who want to get to the city. The dedicated non motorised user (NMU) bridge across 10 lanes of some of the heaviest traffic in the country is a huge asset.
Travelling from Cambridge, on leaving the bridge the cyclist is propelled down a gracefully arcing ramp to arrive on the level at a busy roundabout: everything that goes in or comes out of Bar Hill has to use this junction and the NMU route follows a path around it. The cycle route is cut in 2 places and these present a serious risk if a rider fails to give way to motor traffic. The design is that of a low priority footway with dropped kerbs at the roadside but makes no concession to the 5 principles. You have to stop and wait for a gap in the traffic to cross safely or, if you fail to stop, risk collision with motor traffic which has no prior warning of the cycle route crossing their path: in the dark this is a death trap.
Local residents have real concerns over what happens if a cyclist fails to stop and it appears the ’emergency’ barriers put up on 29th January are a response to this.
The fear is that drivers will be approaching the roundabout at such speeds that cyclists on the crossings are at risk. Given that the design has made no effort to manage vehicle speeds this makes sense. However barriers at the bridge do not remove the hazard of the roundabout crossings. Cambridgeshire County Council and Highways England have taken action and missed the risks inherent in the crossing layouts. By using an outdated specification for a shared footway and failing to heed the 5 principles they have tried to band-aid a haemorrhage of risks.
Now that the route has been cast in tarmac the action to make it comply with the core principles is constrained. Taking LTN1/20 as a guide amelioration of risk is possible by proportionate control of traffic speeds at the approach to conflict points. Adding interruptions to car journeys is never popular and ideas of ‘good traffic flow’ are deep set in the minds of many but, by placing transport modes at equal priority, a balance of risks could be achieved.
A reduced speed limit for the approach zone would reduce the severity of risk. That Highways England have failed to appraise the risk of introducing a cycle route cutting acros a 60mph rated road suggests treating cyclists as an equal mode to cars hasn’t happened.
The lack of warning signs alerting motor traffic to the new status of the junction as a shared space underlines an attitude toward non motor traffic that is seen as a hazard to be, at best, contained by barriers or simply ignored: there are no signs warning drivers they are a risk factor, there is no reduction in speed limit and no attempt to engineer any protection for cyclists following a route across one of the most costly active travel infrastructure assets in the country.
Design guidance for a cycleway crossing a 40/ 60mph rated road such as Crafts Way requires signage, and speed reduction measures at the approaches.
The positioning of give way lines pays no heed to the risk of failing to stop at the cycleway:
The crossings, if the government guidelines were followed, could look like this:
By isolating the bridge with barriers the coherence of the route is broken. 6 months after opening the bridge has been barriered. When this scheme opened it already contravened the Dept for Transport design guide with unsafe junction configurations and has now resorted to barriers which are explicitly not to be used as they are are a disincentive to using the route and limit inclusive accessibility.
Not only does constricting access to the bridge fail to address the risks at the conflict points but, by making a decision based on the path of a fit and nimble standard bike rider and ignoring the ‘design vehicle’ which should ensure clearance for the safe use of trikes, handcycles, cargo, trailer and tandem bikes the route is no longer able to include as many active travel options as it could.
The NMU route from the magnificent bridge into Bar Hill is
Incoherent– it is cut in 3 places by barriers, crossings and abrupt changes.
Indirect-to get to Tesco you get to the end of the new cycleway, meet a fence and have to find a gap in the hedge to continue, all without any signs to show the way.
Unsafe– cycles crossing Crofts Way and the Willows without any speed controls or indication of mode priority would fail any safety audit.
Uncomfortable-having to dodge round the barriers and avoid opposing cycle and pedestrian traffic, having to stop and look for traffic over the shoulder at the crossings is awkward as well as risky.
Unattractive-all the obstructions add up to a confused mess and make taking the roundabout look like the swiftest way to get to and from the bridge.
The main issue here is not that the barriers shouldn’t be there (they shouldn’t) but, by taking no action to control motor traffic speeds at crossings there is a complete ignorance of the need to manage risk in the design of this busy junction. To place a cycleway across a roundabout approach with a 60mph rating without even a warning sign is negligent and should the worst occur Highways England should be held to account.
A campaign to get LTN 1/20 applied and the barriers removed is here: bit.do/SignA14Petition