Particularly as I live on Milton Road in Cambridge I thought I should respond to a consultation from the Greater Cambridge City Deal on proposals to remodel the road. I’m publishing what I sent in here and will link to others’ submissions below.
I am writing to respond to the current consultation on the proposed remodelling of Milton Road in Cambridge.
- I support the Government’s policy of investing national resources in Cambridge in an effort to boost the local and national economy. I think it is excellent that the councillors voting on the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board decided to allocate £23m to Milton Road, a sum which is sufficient for a comprehensive remodelling and rejuvenation.
- Questions of: “Why expand Cambridge?” and “Why seek to grow the economy?” have been raised by those opposing any changes to Milton Road. Some have even suggested rejecting the investment. If we want to be able to buy things from the rest of the world, including technology which crucial for healthcare, and increasingly for our everyday lives we have to be able to pay our way, we need need to have something to offer. Cambridge’s knowledge based industries are key way we in the UK can pay our way in the world, help us attain the happy and healthy lives we aspire to.
- As well as providing purely economic benefits the educational and commercial activities in the Cambridge area are also furthering the endeavours of humanity across a wide spectrum of fields, including gaining a greater understanding of our planet and climate, understanding our place in the universe and furthering our understanding of medicine. Modern university education thrives not only from a close link between teaching and cutting edge research but also from commercial links. Activities which are carried out in Cambridge are worthwhile and worthy of being supported by the highest quality transport infrastructure.
- Improving transport infrastructure can make it practical to build more homes in locations which would not otherwise be viable, and can also effectively increase the supply of housing by making travel practical over a wider area. Cambridge has a serious housing problem with the Centre for Cities calculating the ratio of house prices to average earnings in the city reached 15.92 : 1 in 2015. This high cost of property underlies high rents in the city.
- High housing costs lead to people living in inappropriate housing can have a significant impact on people’s lives. Many of those who make Cambridge work as teachers, researchers, and health professionals are living in shared houses much longer than they might desire. Unaffordable housing reduces people’s opportunities to achieve what they aspire to and can impact the practicality of having a family.
The Remodelling of Milton Road
- I would like to see 2m wide continuous cycleways, with priority over side roads, segregated from motor traffic by trees and planting along the full length of Milton Road from the Science and Business Parks to Mitcham’s Corner where they should connect with a wider city network including the traffic free riverside paths. As evidenced by experience in the Netherlands making cycling safer and more pleasant encourages more people to do it. More people cycling means fewer using motor vehicles, reducing congestion on the roads.
- Cycleways can be used by electrically assisted bikes, including trikes. These vehicles are already regularly used on Milton Road and across Cambridge by those who might not otherwise cycle such as couriers (carrying parcels and take-away food) and those whose health might not allow them to use other bikes. Cycleways do serve a wide variety of people and businesses, and in Cambridge those from the very young to the very old cycle.
- So that the remodelling of the road is not constrained by the existing trees I would like the City Deal Board to ensure it is properly informed of the current state of the art technology for moving trees and the pros and cons of installing new larger and more established trees. I think there is an opportunity to improve the environment on the road for residents and those passing through with the treatment of trees in the scheme.
- My personal view is ornamental cherries have become closely linked with the road especially following repeated campaigns to save and maintain them. Milton Road is known for being bursting with the colour pink and the smell of cherry blossom. I think replacement planting should be predominantly cherry, as currently with a range of blossoming periods. The opportunity should be taken at junctions, and other areas where there is more space, to plant trees which will be expected to grow larger and last longer such as oaks, limes, planes and poplars.
- I urge elected representatives to keep a close eye on tree planting proposals and to ensure that good value for money is obtained. Recently in Cambridge many newly planted trees have failed including on Milton Road and in the surrounding streets.
- Trees should be planted in, or moved to, specially constructed tree pits so the risk of tree roots damaging the new road, cycleway and pavement surfaces is minimised and the opportunity for trees to thrive is maximised.
- I do not think cycleways “segregated” from motor-traffic by only a low curb provide the additional safety, and feeling of safety, required to encourage significantly more cycling which is why I am proposing segregation using trees and planting.
- The modelling data produced by the City Deal suggests there is no justification for an outbound bus-lane.
Specific Areas – Approach from the A14
- Efforts need to made to deter drivers from using Milton Road when the A14 and M11 would be a practical alternative. Improvements to the A14 will hopefully be improving the consistency of journey times. The City Deal board should work closely with Highways England to ensure drivers are provided with up to date information about the state of traffic and expected journey times eg. from Junction 33 of the A14 (Milton) to Junction 11 of the M11 for Addenbrooke’s and the biomedical campus, so people can make an informed decision on if to drive through the city, round the city, or get on a train.
- Opportunities to link the Milton Park and Ride, the Science Park, and the new railway station with off road routes for those walking, cycling should be investigated. They area may suit itself to new technologies such as the driverless pods in use at Heathrow; it should be advertised to developers of novel transport technologies as an area where there is an opportunity for trials.
- The City Deal Board should work with Highways England to ensure the extension of the A14 westbound slip is extended back to the Science Park, allowing traffic to more easily leave the Science Park, and Milton Road more generally in the evening peak.
- Opportunities to simplify the road layout on Milton Road by the Science and Business Parks should be taken; there are currently three exits for to the Innovation Park, Cowley Road and the Business Park. This could be reduced to one. A simpler road layout would I expect be safer given, as can be seen from any road accident map, more incidents generally occur at junctions than on straight roads.
- There needs to be a clear demarcation when traffic approaches the Science Park area from the A14 indicating that a busier area where there are likely to be cyclists and pedestrians present has been reached. This could be achieved via road environment changes including public art such as the large cycle present at the Newmarket Road Park and Ride. The commencement of the segregated cycleways and tree planting could also clearly mark the transition.
- The shared use cycle and pedestrian underpass from the business park under the new guided busway spur to the station is a safe option used by many cyclists, but it is not an attractive option for those leaving the Science Park and proceeding into the city as they would have to leave and re-join the road. The Milton Road continuous segregated cycleways should connect to the Science and Business parks.
King’s Hedges Road – Green End Road Junction
- Traffic light timing improvements are a major requirement here. Often outbound traffic is queued up here when the road is free flowing beyond. I note the impact of such simple and cheap improvements has not yet been included in the City Deal’s modelling, I expect when it is the case for an outbound bus lane will be further diminished.
- There is an awful shared use path connecting the underpass to Green End Road which brings a huge flow of cyclists into conflict with pedestrians. The remodelling must eliminate this.
- Narrower roadways which are quicker for cyclists and pedestrians to cross should form part of the newly redesigned junction.
- If a right turn from Milton Road into Green End Road is to be retained it ought have a filter arrow, it is currently dangerous as the queue to turn right from Milton Road into King’s Hedges Road obscures the view of oncoming traffic.
Milton Road – Arbury Road – Union Lane
- When considering proposals to prevent certain movements at this junction I want to urge the councillor members of the board with a vote to bear in mind that North Cambridge residents often have needs to travel within North Cambridge by motor vehicle and these trips within the local area must not be made too onerous and impractical eg. taking elderly people to a medical appointment or day centre.
- Especially at this junction, but in the project as a whole, I think care needs to be taken not to criminalise those who are taking sensible actions to keep themselves safe and to avoid collisions with others. Currently many cyclists quite understandably cross on the pedestrian phase when all traffic is stopped. This appears to be quite effective.
Arbury Road – Highworth Avenue
- Some campaigners appear to be under the misapprehension there is a shared use cycle-pedestrian path in-front of the shops. This is understandable as the signage in the area which has recently been installed incorrectly indicates there is.
- The signage was installed after local councillors set anti-social cycling as a local police priority after a couple of vocal and emotive individuals complained about cyclists using the pavement. My view is many of those deemed anti-social were in my view doing the right thing for themselves and wider society by trying to stay alive and uninjured.
- The board should ensure where it is, and is not, permissible to cycle in the area is instantly obvious to all including visitors from other countries who may never have ridden a bike before. Cambridge as a whole as a significant population who stay in the city for short periods and don’t stay long enough to visit the County Council offices and digest the intricacies of Traffic Regulation Orders. Even the well established local police sergeant has been confused by the current mishmash of where cycling is and isn’t permitted on and around Milton Road.
Milton Road – Highworth Avenue Roundabout
- Currently the roundabout is difficult to navigate as a pedestrian and cyclist. The option of closing Highworth Avenue gives to allow outbound cyclists on Milton Road an unimpeded trip is attractive; as are suggestions to narrow the roadways allowing bikes and pedestrians to cross traffic more quickly.
- The proposal for a separated / protection junction from Robin Heydon of the cycling campaign looks worthy of proper consideration. http://www.camcycle.org.uk/blog/2015/10/23/milton-road-elizabeth-way-junction-proposals/
- The main cause of significant unexpected congestion on Milton Road is problems on the A14 and M11. When such problems occur, even as far away as Duxford, traffic including heavy goods vehicles uses Milton Road. In order to maintain consistent journey times on Milton Road the use of the road by traffic trying to make progress on the trunk road network needs to be addressed. The police, County Council, Highways England need to rapidly and actively manage the traffic in response to incidents.
- The shared use contraflow on the pavement on Milton Road near Chesterton Hall Crescent should be retained to allow cyclists to legally access the crossing when travelling to or from Chesterton Hall Crescent.
- I am concerned additional traffic light controlled crossings on the road could introduce extra hazards in an already cluttered road-space.
- Currently there is a good mix of pay and display parking, and free time limited parking around Mitcham’s Corner which facilities the use of the local shops by car; I think this should be retained.
- The City Deal Board should consider lobbying central government to change the law on which vehicles are permitted to use cycle lanes, including consideration of Segways, “hoverboards” and similar personal transportation devices, as well as motorised wheelchairs. Inviting central government to trial new regulations permitting the use of such personal transport systems, on Milton Road, and in the Science Park, Business Park and Park and Ride area, and perhaps the city’s parks too could enhance Cambridge’s image as a centre of innovation and technology.
- I would like to see clarity on the future decision making process in relation to this scheme, in particular if the City Deal Board will take on responsibility for consultation and decisions relating to trees from the councils and if the traffic regulation process will be handled by the board rather than the County Council.
Comments on the Consultation
- I think the voting councillors on the City Deal Board should have considered the plans put forward by their consultants in detail before launching a consultation on them. The consultant’s plans have been a distraction to the consultation process. By not considering the plans which were put out to consultation councillors have left members of the public feeling the need to oppose them, making the tone of deliberations around this consultation much more negative than might otherwise have been the case.
- I urge the board to beware of their consultant’s lack of local knowledge; for example in suggesting Middleton Close is available for parking when as I understand it it is a private road.
- I urge care to be taken when deciding what, if any, weight to put on representations purporting to be from residents associations. I attended the Milton Road residents’ association’s inaugural meeting and signed up to their contact list, and receive mailings from them but I have not been consulted on any of the policy positions the “organisation” has taken.
- I note the North Area Committee meeting on the 4th of February 2016 gave special speaking rights to those purporting to be from residents’ associations with no checking of if the associations speakers claimed to represent even existed never mind had come to an agreed position; this impacted who was able to publicly put their views to councillors.
- I suggest formally including local councillors and the North Area Committee as consultees and those who will receive information at future stages of consultation on this project.
- Buses from St Ives and Northstowe should stop at the new railway station before proceeding down Milton Road into the city. The City Deal board should work closely with Network Rail and the train operating companies to make a transition from bus to train as smooth as possible, via smart co-ordinated ticketing (and/or use of contactless cards / phones), and ensure the station is well serviced with trains. Making using the train an attractive option to reach the central railway station and travel on to Addenbrooke’s and the Biomedical Campus could reduce the demand for travel down Milton Road.
Impacts from Further Afield
- The Greater Cambridge City Deal should promote the enterprise zones at Northstowe and Waterbeach and push for the installation of fibre to the home broadband connections as part of an effort to make these new settlements places people can live and work, only travelling to Cambridge when required. Companies basing themselves in the new settlements can benefit from close links to Cambridge without their staff having to commute daily.
- In order to deter people driving down Milton Road to access the other side of the city I agree with proposals to break the inner-ring road. I think the principle which ought be followed is illustrated by the journey required to go from the back of the Guildhall to the front; it’s possible but convoluted. The aim should be to get as much motor vehicle travel around the city via the A14 and M11 as practical. Improved signage encouraging use of the A14 and M11 could help too. Some of the city’s signage still refers to the A45 which has not existed locally since 1994.
Matters Particularly Impacting Residents on Milton Road
- Cambridge in general, and North-East Cambridge in particular appears to experience significant surface water flooding from heavy rain. Many properties on Milton Road experience water flowing off the road into them in heavy rain; when the road is remodelled this should be minimised with proper drainage and the use of permeable paving where practical, perhaps on pavements and cycleways.
- Before millions are spent on new road surfaces the state of the utilities underneath should be determined, and upgrades should be co-ordinated with the works. Many recent works on Milton Road appear to be connected with upgrading water connections to properties, if it makes sense to do this for those properties which have not yet had it done should be investigated. It may be it ought be an option advertised for property owners to get done at their own expense – but in a co-ordinated fashion.
- The remodelled road should be designed with consideration of delivery vehicles in mind given the degree to which internet shopping, including for groceries, is used by local residents.
- As far as possible the ability of drivers of motor vehicles to damage grass verges should be designed out.
- The ability of residents of Milton Road to easily come and go from their properties by motor vehicle needs consideration. Many comments on this point have been unwarranted concerns that segregated cycleways will involve unsurmountable curbs, these should of course be discounted. Changes to the traffic flow, which currently pulses with the traffic lights at King’s Hedges Road, and Arbury Road, might make egress from properties much more difficult. The positioning of trees should also be carried out mindful of the safety impacts of the positioning. Installing taller trees with higher crowns might help in this regard.
In addition to my own consultation response I would like to offer for consideration videos I have made of meetings at which the plans have been discussed including:
- Cambridge’s North Area Committee on the 4th of February 2016
- Milton Road Residents’ Association on the 21st of January 2016
- Cambridge’s North Area Committee on the 20th of January 2016
- Hurst Park Estate Residents’ Association on the 6th of January 2016
- Milton Road Residents’ Association on the 17th of December 2015
- Cambridge’s West Central Area Committee on the 3rd of December 2015
I would also like to see the views of my local councillors, as expressed in a leaflet published to be considered. The leaflet can currently be found at:
Linked to Cllr Kevin Price’s tweet at:
Richard Taylor, Milton Road, Cambridge.