I attended the Cambridge Traffic Management Area Joint Committee on the 26th of January 2009. While the County Council is the Highways Authority for Cambridge they delegate many highways decisions a joint committee made up of both City and County Councillors. County Councillor John Reynolds (Girton) is a member of the committee, as the lone Conservative he was to a degree acting as a representative of the ruling Conservative group on the County Council and was often a lone voice.
Luard Road – Sedley Taylor Road Traffic Calming Measures
This item was presented by John Isherwood, who in this context was described as the “Engineering Client Officer”. He is often described as Cambridge City Council’s Senior Engineer. The proposal is for:
- Priority “Give Way” – single lane entry to the roads with one way given priority.
- Speed Humps
- Extension of parking restrictions at junctions
The Cambridge Cycling Campaign had submitted a letter to members of the committee, all councillors appeared to have a copy and it formed the basis for much of the discussion on this item. Cllr Walker noted the cycling campaign had asked why speed humps as opposed to speed cushions were proposed. Mr Isherwood replied that this was due to the presence of parked cars on the streets. Mr Isherwod said that the sinusoidal speed humps specified had been selected specifically to reduce discomfort for cyclists, he said these were the best option when speed cushions were not appropriate.
Cllr Walker asked how the proposed humps met cycling demonstration town standards. County officer Richard Preston responded saying: “It is not a question of meeting standards, I’m not sure that standards exist”.
Cllr Walker then asked why a 20 mph limit could not be introduced on its own, without humps or cushions. This prompted what is a regular debate at various council meetings on the County policy of only allowing a 20 mph limit to be introduced when the mean average traffic speed in a street is already 20 mph. This meant it was only introduced when the traffic calming features on a street essentially self-enforce the speed limit. Councillor Baker proposed a 20 mph speed limit in addition to the speed cushions. County Council officers said this would still be against policy, because the speed had to be reduced to 20 mph first, the fact that the cushions were expected to reduce the speed was not sufficient. The officer pointed to Grange Road, where he said the introduced traffic calming measures have not been as effective has had been anticipated. It was agreed by officers that doing the 20 mph zone at the same time as the humps would be the cheaper option. Many councillors suggested that the County Council’s policy on introducing 20mph zones was on its way out, Mr Reynolds did not refute this suggestion.
Cllr Baker introduced this 20mph zone proposal at the meeting, no views of residents on this, or even views from the South Area Committee were available for councillors.
Cllr Rosenstiel made an impassioned contribution; saying: “why are we going ahead with this scheme if we’re not almost certain it is going to be effective, if there are serious doubts then we shouldn’t be spending this money”.
It was reported that the current average speed was 26 mph.
County officers warned the committee that if they resolved to introduce the 20mph zone and the other changes at the same time they would not be able to go-ahead with the scheme until it had been considered by the County Council’s executive committee.
Councillor Blencowe spoke against the 20mph zone, he thought the traffic calming measures alone would be sufficient. He asked what the additional point of the zone was if traffic speeds were going to be reduced anyway and was told that; “it was all about averages”, even if the average speed was dropped to 20mph there would still be some people traveling at over 30mph, this would make this an offence. There was no suggestion though that the police would actually enforce this if it was brought in.
The meeting voted in 7:1 in favour of the scheme going ahead with a 20 mph zone added to the proposals.
The Central Cambridge 20 mph Zone
A number of times during discussion of this item Liberal Democrat councillors, particularly Cllr Blair, said: “The whole of central Cambridge is a 20 mph zone”. Labour councillors and Mr Reynolds looked puzzled but unsure enough themselves to challenge this.
The central Cambridge 20 mph zone is badly signed, and by no means comprehensively covers any area recognisable as “the city centre”. There are no repeater signs within the area, which makes it unlikely any prosecution will ever succeed, the signs on the way into the zone are almost all included on larger signs containing a huge amount of information, and the signs are usually only on one side of the road. It is hardly surprising that we saw the following in a Cambridge News Article titled : Traders urge action over bus speeds
Andy Campbell, manager of Stagecoach, Cambridge, said: “I have asked the council for a detailed map of all 20 mph speed limits to give drivers.
This is analogous to the problem we have with cycling in the City Centre, the rules are not made clear by the signage and we have people asking for maps showing what is permitted and where, this shows that those responsible for the roads in the city centre are not working effectively.
The committee did not discuss signage of the 20 mph zone they were proposing at Luard Road – Sedley Taylor Road at all, perhaps as they didn’t think the County Council’s executive would actually let it go-ahead.