Video – 20 MPH for Victoria Road in Cambridge Approved by North Area Committee Councillors

Saturday, May 10th, 2014. 2:26pm

At Cambridge’s North Area Committee on the 8th of May 2014 Councillors unanimously voted in favour of introducing a 20 MPH speed limit on Victoria Road in Cambridge.

The road has been excluded from the North Area 20 MPH zone because it is classified as an “A” road and so it would be against the County Council’s policy to give it a 20 MPH limit.

Following local councillors’ support the proposal will now go to Cambridge City Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee, then to the Executive Councillor responsible and then on to Cambridgeshire County Council. Should it still be supported by that point there will need to be a public inquiry due to an objection from Stagecoach being given a special status due to them being a major public transport provider.

My Thoughts, Views and Comments

Until just over a year ago I lived just off Victoria Road. I’ve lived just off Victoria Road, in houses on either side of it. I used to cycle or walk across it a couple of times a day and still regularly use the road.

It is not a surprise that those living on the road, and nearby, would like to see action to reduce the impact of traffic on the road; to reduce noise, vibration, and to make the road easier to cross.

Personally whenever practical I try to avoid cycling, or even walking, along especially the narrow sections of Victoria road, due to how narrow the road is, and the volume of traffic, often resulting in cycling feeling particularly unsafe. There are alternative cycle routes through the side streets, although they’re not ideal if you’re in a hurry and keen to make progress.

I want to see Cambridge’s roads made safer, especially for people walking and cycling, and those who would walk and cycle more if they felt safer on the roads.

Victoria Road and the area around it was transformed in the summer of 2011 when for a period of almost two months the road was closed for sewer repairs. While there was no apparent significant impact on surrounding traffic flows this was an unplanned “experiment” conducted at a quiet time of year. A repeat of that “experiment” for a few weeks in the autumn would be a good idea.

While I want to keep car access to all locations in the city; that doesn’t mean we have to keep routes such as Victoria Road attractive to through traffic. I think we should do more to encourage people driving across, or round, the city to use the M11 and A14; improvements to junctions and road widening already underway should increase the reliability of journey times and make alternative routes more attractive. Signage could also help.

My top priority for improving road safety in the area would be to tackle the crossing of Chesterton Road by the Jesus Lock bridge. I wouldn’t want to see more traffic diverted from Victoria Road to Chesterton Road. Both I, and Cllr Ian Manning have suggested Chesterton Road, along the river by Jesus Green, be included in the consultation process but this was rejected.

I have been told by Cllr Tim Ward the reason for the focus on Victoria Road was that residents of the road responded to the council’s North Cambridge 20 MPH zone consultation asking for the road to be considered. There are relatively few permanent residents on the stretch of Chesterton Road along the river though, which is presumably why it has been excluded. I think this shows up the problems with the Liberal Democrats’ approach to excessively localised consultation and giving too much weight to the views of those living right next to areas where changes are proposed and not giving enough consideration to the needs of the city as a whole.

If lowering the classification of the road from an “A” road would reduce the number of people, and especially heavy vehicles (which are restricted from using the road already), from being routed down the road by sat-navs then that would be worth doing.

I don’t think 20 MPH signage alone is going to have a significant impact on the street; it’s not where I would focus resources. I think introducing 20 MPH limits something councillors have discovered they’re able to do and it’s quite a straightforward way of doing something so it’s attractive to them.

More crossings; and giving more prominence to the crossings, with the aim of reducing traffic speeds and encouraging careful driving. I don’t want to see the road environment made more complex, distracting and confusing for drivers though, so perhaps this could be done with road colouring rather than formal zebras or traffic lights?

I thought that Cab Davidson made an interesting point during the meeting that as a cyclist he feels safer when 20 MPH limits are being obeyed as he’s less likley to get over taken by vehicles. I would like to see a trial of “no overtaking cyclists” in Cambridge, perhaps on Mill Road by putting cycleways towards the middle of the road; but I don’t think that approach would suit Victoria Road given the current level of cycle traffic and the availability of alternative routes.

One of the top things I’d like to see done in an effort to make the city’s roads safer is to have PCs rather than PCSOs patrolling the city, as PCs have the powers needed to tackle dangerous and careless driving and they also work into the evenings and at night.

I’m concerned that if the 20 MPH limits were enforced despite mass non-compliance this would give the police the ability to select those against whom they would take action; risking inappropriate grounds being used to choose who to target. I don’t support laws which make the behaviour of the relatively harmless majority illegal; I think that’s potentially corrosive to the functioning of policing and so think 20 MPH limits to be introduced not just with signs, but with other changes to reduce speeds too.

I’m concerned we’ll see people who’ve not done anything dangerous having their lives, and lives of those others who rely on them, significantly impacted if we see people amassing points and losing licenses for speeding in the new 20 MPH zones and limits.

Overall I would rather see our councillors being bolder and taking a more holistic view of the city rather than just doing what’s easy and apparently relatively uncontroversial.

I would like to see councillors decisions informed by statistics on injuries, traffic congestion, and rates of walking and cycling. I think there has been too much focus on just one metric – that of average speeds on the roads for which 20 MPH limits are being considered or have been introduced.

As for the long and involved process; I’d rather see one council for Greater Cambridge, so our elected representatives in the City can take decisions like this locally, in an open and transparent manner.

See also

2 comments/updates on “Video – 20 MPH for Victoria Road in Cambridge Approved by North Area Committee Councillors

  1. Hester

    “I don’t think 20 MPH signage alone is going to have a significant impact on the street; it’s not where I would focus resources. I think introducing 20 MPH limits something councillors have discovered they’re able to do and it’s quite a straightforward way of doing something so it’s attractive to them. ”

    I think there’s more to it than that. It’s cheap. A number of people have bemoaned the use of, I believe, £600K on this project, but that’s at the bottom end of the cost of remodelling a single large junction. Catholic Church junction cost £900K, and to my mind with dubious safety benefit. The money spent on this project would not go very far on any kind of infrastructure change, and would be very localised in effect, assuming the changes were good.

    Add to that, an increasing number of roads were being designated 20mph anyway at request. A lot of East Area is already covered in 20mph. Which means a TRO, at a cost of £1000 for every separate request, officer time to conduct consultation, then to submit the TRO. Then if it passes, putting in signs and road markings, getting contractors out for a one-off job. So a lot of money was being spent anyway, and with an additional undesireable consequence that there is a patchwork of speed limits. I don’t have the information to judge whether this actually is a long-term cost-saving exercise, in anticipation of more 20mph requests, but I can see the shape of the argument.

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