Greater Cambridge City Deal Congestion Consultation Response

Monday, October 10th, 2016. 6:12pm

Mill Road - Closed for the Winter Fair

Mill Road – Closed for the Winter Fair [Credit: Blakkandekka (licence)]

I have responded to the Greater Cambridge City Deal’s Consultation on Tackling Congestion following the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board’s endorsement of a policy of pursuing traffic reduction measures including:

  • peak congestion control points in the weekday morning and evening peak periods; and
  • on-street parking controls (including residents’ parking)
  • Key Points:

    • I stressed the costs, bureaucracy and reduction in freedom to use the road connected with the imposition of a residents’ parking zone. Such zones make it a hassle for visitors, including traders, to park, and in Cambridge eligibility rules for permits are often unfair, hard to determine before moving into a property and complex based on arbitrary lines drawn on maps, the planning history of a property, and dates properties were built. I want to see only minimal restrictions needed to tackle problems. I am concerned current councillors don’t given enough weight to the downsides of introducing residents’ parking zones. The roads are public assets and space on them needs to be allocated for the benefit of all, with no particular special rights given to those living in adjacent properties, unless the behaviour of another group, such as commuters, is such that it’s causing an intolerable nuisance.

      An example of a minimally impactive solution is having an hour in the middle of the afternoon when resident permit holders, or those with a pay and display ticket purchased that afternoon, can park – this prevents non-resident commuters parking all day, with minimal inconvenience on others. As enforcement is only needed within a one-hour period that can keep costs down too.

    • I think restricting access to certain roads, closing roads, and making city centre roads unattractive to through traffic has been an approach which has served Cambridge well. To-date access has been preserved, but made convoluted, or in a few small areas time restricted. I would like to see the current approach continued, and expanded. I think it’s a bizarre view to conclude we’ve got it just right at the moment and even as the city expands we shouldn’t change anything. I think it’s right to deter through traffic from using city centre roads.
    • I would like to see experiments on, for example, closing Mill Road to through traffic, or perhaps just incoming traffic, at certain times. (I’d also like to see other things tried such as cycle lanes in the middle of Mill Road and a no-overtaking cycles rule – perhaps just in peak hours from the railway bridge into the city). Currently the road is a linear accident hotspot, and it often doesn’t feel very safe to walk and cycle on and even in its current state its a very well used cycling and walking route.
    • Road restrictions and closures will need to be very well signed; the signage should be out on the M11 and A14 and on other routes into the city; and it should make clear what is being expected of drivers. Drivers should be given information which encourages, and enables, them to take less congested routes. Drivers don’t want to sit in traffic, drivers don’t choose to exacerbate congestion problems.
    • I would like to see the amount of personal data collected, and kept, as a result of the extension of state run ANPR cameras in the city minimised with strong protections against the misuse of such information.
    • I would like to see a focus on reducing deaths and injuries on Cambridge’s roads. If there are to be more buses on the roads then to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe we need infrastructure improvements.

    My submission

    Closing, or restricting, roads to most car traffic has proved successful in Cambridge at removing most traffic, other than buses and taxis, from parts of the city centre. Making routes convoluted and slow by private car is in my view an effective deterrent to driving on certain routes at certain times. Currently access to the city for those who need it has been preserved, though the routes needed to access some streets are convoluted, I suggest the principle of generally allowing access, but in a convoluted fashion to deter through traffic, be continued.

    The peak time congestion control point proposals for Cambridge are unusual and visitors to the city will not be expecting them. I suggest any closure points are very clearly signed, and drivers are alerted to them well in advance on the approaches to the city on main roads including the A14 and M11. I suggest the message to drivers is made really clear in such signage – which as I understand it is encouragement to enter the city in the segment they are trying to reach rather than to drive through the city centre; and in some cases to use the A14/M11 rather than drive through the city centre. I think the strongest message would be to present journey time information showing when it is quicker to reach major destinations by avoiding the city centre.

    I think currently information about the Silver Street restrictions are very poorly publicised and a much better job will need to be done if closures on routes with a more significant impact on people’s trips are introduced..

    To encourage people to drive into Cambridge via alternative routes rather than use the inner-ring road will require publicity of any additional restrictions/closures.

    There is not enough detail in any the proposals for the congestion control points to comment in detail – for example if the control points will restrict traffic in both directions is a vital point not made clear.

    I think that in some cases through traffic may be deterred just by changing the road environment; eg. making Victoria Avenue and other park side roads into “park roads” with coloured pavings and a different feel.

    I think closing Mill Road, perhaps at the railway bridge, to through traffic at peak times is certainly an experiment worth doing.

    The proposals include introducing ANPR cameras to more roads in central Cambridge. I would like to see steps taken to minimise the amount of information collected and retained on identifiable vehicles / people’s travel. I would like to see a high threshold set for sharing ANPR data with other bodies.

    While I realise it isn’t being proposed I would like to add that I would oppose any system where people could pay for an exemption to allow them to pass through road closure/restriction points, this would be unfair on those unable to afford the charge in my view. We all pay for the roads, they are a public asset and service we should all be able to use equitably.

    The modelling of impacts of peak time congestion control points were mentioned by board members prior to their decision to endorse the plans. The detailed modelling has not been released; I suggest making public the material which was presented to the board.

    The views the City Deal organisation has obtained from “traffic generators”, including schools, should be published.

    I would be interested in knowing if the impact on deliveries, and generally on the practicality of living, working and operating a business in Cambridge have been considered – there has been little sign of this to-date with the benefits focusing almost exclusively on the advantages to bus operators and those commuting by bus from outside the city. Bus commuters are an important group, and better bus connections to neighbouring towns has the potential to expand the supply of homes for those working in the city, but they are far from the only group whose interests should be considered.

    One of the key metrics I’d like to see the city deal assessing its performance against is the number of people killed and injured on the city’s roads. I think focusing on removing hazards (both actual and perceived) can encourage people to cycle, which in turn should reduce motor vehicle congestion. If additional buses are to be on the roads then ensuring the road system is safe for buses and cyclists to use together is essential.

    Residents’ parking zones reduce people’s freedom to use the road, they impose significant additional costs, time consuming bureaucracy, and restrictions on people’s lives so their use should be restricted to areas where they are absolutely necessary, where the benefits far outweigh the negative impacts.

    Any restrictions should be limited to the minimum necessary required to have the desired impact.

    Where changes can be predicted, such as those associated with the opening of the new station in North Cambridge, new parking restrictions should be in-place in advance, with plans in place to rapidly extend them if the need arises.

    See also

    Do link any other responses below.

7 comments/updates on “Greater Cambridge City Deal Congestion Consultation Response

  1. Richard Taylor Article author
    Disabled bay marking on a road

    Something that isn’t relevant to the City Deal proposals but relates to parking control:

    We should be very quick at assessing requests for dedicated parking spaces outside the homes of those who have become ill or disabled. We should deal with such requests and the paint and signs should be on the ground within a week. The provision of such marked spaces ensures that those in greatest need of a parking outside their homes are able to have a guaranteed space. We should also be quick to remove such spaces when they cease to be used.

    Currently the process takes at least several months. People can die, cease to be able to drive, or recover, within the timescales which currently apply.

    While other councils provide the service free of cost to the applicant there can be a charge in Cambridgeshire.

    Those who make applications early in the financial year get the bays provided free, those applying later may be told the budget has been spent and asked to pay a £1,700 fee to the council. This is ludicrous. We’re talking about a few minutes of time from the council’s white lining contractors and a standard sign being put up (usually simply fixed to an existing fence or piece of street furniture).

    The process of giving permission for these bays needs to be changed. I understand the need to regulate where such bays are appropriate – we should pro-actively determine where such bays would be acceptable, if requested and authorised, so consultation and deliberation on the impact on the highway isn’t needed after a request is made.

    The relevant Cambridgeshire County Council webpage is at:

  2. Amanda Taylor

    A disabled parking bay involves more than just white paint. Applications have to be checked, roads need to be visited, the space has to be surveyed, and the bay needs a Traffic Regulation Order to be advertised – otherwise it cannot be enforced. The main cost is the advert – sometimes up to £1,000 but by law, councils have to advertise TROs in the local paper. As is often the case, we are working with laws created in a different era.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      I have never suggested otherwise; this is a typical response from the establishment : when you propose a change they say you just don’t understand how things work!

      Amanda Taylor is a councillor at Cambridgeshire County Council who has the power to propose, and make the case for, changes such as those I’ve suggested.

  3. Amanda Taylor

    No Richard, it’s not the council that makes the rules; it is central government – above my pay grade! If I were making the rules, the first thing I would do is remove the outdated obligation to advertise in the local paper, since that is where most of the expense comes from.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    I too have said I would cut obsolete newspaper adverts:

    I disagree though that there is nothing councillors could do. Any councillor could put a motion to the council asking for officers to look into ideas such as those I’ve proposed. Why can’t we pre-emptively authorise these bays now?

    Where councillors think a law needs changing to let them fulfil their role then they can pass a resolution at the council lobbying MPs, and Ministers. I don’t think councillors should spend their time discussing national matters such as international relations but on a very local matter like this I think its right to tell central Government what’s needed.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Councillors in Cambridgeshire don’t have to go far to see alternative ways of working which could provide people with disabled bays quicker, and for less money. In neighbouring Peterborough bays are installed in about four weeks, although there bays are not offered where there are parking restrictions; perhaps Peterborough, like Leicestershire offer “advisory” disabled bays which don’t require a costly and time consuming traffic regulation order? (Leicestershire offer the enforceable type too for areas where there are existing parking restrictions).

      According to the published information all Cambridgeshire bays are put through the formal Traffic Regulation Order process. (In Cambridgeshire applications require the support of “a local County Council member” and the applicant’s parish council – as there are no parish council’s in the Cambridge that criteria can presumably never be met in the city).

      Why not paint an advisory bay on the road rapidly, and formalise it as soon as possible?

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