In advance of deliberations about the remodelling of Milton Road re-entering the public sphere after weeks behind closed doors I shared my views in a video:
It’s the 17th of October 2016. I’m here on Milton Road in North Cambridge.
Councillors on the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board have decided to spend twenty-three million pounds of national investment in Cambridge on remodelling this road.
I’m feeling quite positive about the prospects of a very good quality job being done. The board have removed many suggested blocked turns from the plans, limited the number of motor traffic lanes to three, two general motor traffic lanes and a bus lane at any point, and in a letter the board have promised an avenue of mature trees will form part of the plan.
There are risks, we’ve had both of the city’s MPs recently suggest pausing the City Deal process and renegotiating the deal with Government. That could see the money allocated to Milton Road consolidated with other money to fund a more ambitious transport project, such as light rail underground.
If that happens then on Milton Road we’re left going back to campaigning I’ve been doing for years, to get the existing trees replaced when they fail, and there will be little substantive change. Light rail will take a long time though and I think there is great attraction of the Milton Road project is it can be implemented pretty quickly once our councillors stop talking and decide on something.
For over a month now all deliberations on the remodelling of Milton Road have been taking place behind closed doors. Councillors have been meeting with selected invitees at private workshops. I’ve been lobbying, campaigning and reporting outside trying to bring more transparency to the process.
The workshops haven’t built on the many hundreds of consultation responses which have been made. I think this is astounding, and would like to see councillors ask officers to collate the consultation responses on the various areas of contention along the road so we, and future private workshops, can have a more informed discussion.
Another big problem with the workshops is attendees haven’t known who each other are, and the overall invitee list hasn’t been released; that’s despite calls from all our local councillors to have it released, and despite a Freedom of Information request which the City Deal are not breaking the law by not responding to.
Here [between Highworth Avenue and Ascham Road] is one of the prime areas of contention; this the one point on the road where there appears to be serious opposition to dedicated cycleway. The opposition comes from Milton Road primary school though it the detailed reasons haven’t emerged in public, and we don’t know if it is the view of one rogue representative to the private workshops or the considered view of the school following consultation with parents.
My view is a segregated cycleway here, as along the rest of the road, poses no risk to what those taking children to school want, which is the ability to cycle against the flow of traffic on this side of the road.
Our laws on pavement cycling are a mess in the UK, with ministers repeatedly urging that the laws not be applied to people who are being considerate and just keeping themselves safe, yet more powers are being given to PCSOs to issue fixed penalty tickets for cycling on the pavement. I think we need to be really clear where cycling is, and isn’t, permitted and think we could keep the shared use pavement area and have a segregated cycleway in this area.
It’s worth noting that Stagecoach chief Andy Campbell has said there’s no need for an inbound bus lane here; he said he’d like to see that area given over to trees and verges.
The school’s consultation response should be identified and published, and we should find out what work has gone into formulating both its positions and those of others presenting their views to the workshops behind closed doors.
This is another area of contention with discussion at the workshops about what could be done if the privately owned forecourts were brought into the scheme. If the landowners were willing I would love to see a public discussion, clearly we should compensate landowners for any public use of their land, that could be in money, and with a more practical arrangement of parking in this area.
There are calls for a smaller roundabout, but to retain a roundabout here at Elisabeth Way, and at Green End Road. Quite what a smaller roundabout means I’m not certain, but it might be reducing the width of the roads joining the roundabout, making them quicker and easier to cross by bike and on foot.
My view is roundabouts feel dangerous on a bike, and some roundabouts in the city are hotspots for accidents. Safety is my prime concern and I think well tuned traffic light control junctions are the best option.
The decision on if to close this junction of Union Lane is still under-way; there are pros and cons, with retaining easy, well signed, access to the emergency medical centre clearly a key consideration.
Lastly this pinch point at the Green End road junction is still not assured to be addressed and replaced with proper cycling infrastructure – which would benefit all users.
I am though encouraged to see the proposals still being to remodel the road all the way from the Science and Business parks down to Mitcham’s Corner – I think it’s vital to improve the whole stretch.
So overall I’m hopeful, and I’ve got my key suggestions for the next steps; collate the consultation responses and use them to inform discussions on the contentious areas, be more open about who is being invited to the private discussions, who they represent, and how they’ve come to their positions.
I’ve lobbied not to hold private discussions at all, and would have used the public North Area Committee, but my pro-transparency suggestions have been voted down by residents’ associations and councillors.
I’m really hopeful we will get the traffic flowing, buses moving, and safe, attractive, cycle lanes segregated from the traffic by an avenue of trees. This could become a world class example of how to remodel a street, and this street is one which deserves it, it is the key road down which people arrive in the city from Waterbeach, Northstowe Ely and beyond and it links the city centre with the universities to the city’s science and business parks.
A public meeting of the area’s local councillors and residents’ associations representatives is to be held on the 19th of October 2016 at 6pm in the County Council Chamber in Shire Hall.