Monday, 29 July 2013

Cambridge Junctions - designed BY Motons, FOR Motons.

I got to wondering about road space at junctions in Cambridge today, and why it is that we're given so little of it. 

I was actually at the junction of Chesterton Lane and Magdalene Street. I was about third in the queue of cyclists, with another half dozen or so waiting, all crammed in to a narrow bike lane. The traffic to our right was of concern - some cars going straight on, a bus behind me with most of the cyclists waiting behind... I could count half a dozen motorised vehicles including a bus and a dumper truck.

So the cyclists outnumbered the other vehicles by two to one. All stuck in a cycle lane approximately 1.5m wide - with the other vehicles taking up a lane thats about 2.5m wide. So, crudely speaking, if everyone were lined up there would be 12.5cm per bike, and nearer 42cm per motorised vehicle. So the cars and vans are worth about three and a half times what the bikes are worth, just considering road space. This is pretty typical of bike commuting in the middle of Cambridge. Seriously.

But its worse than that - the bike lane is way over on the left, there is no advance stop line. And naturally while much of the traffic goes straight on to Northampton Street some will turn left. Crudely 1 in 5 of the vehicles waiting to turn left actually indicate to do so while queuing at the red light - so if you're cycling straight on its a lottery. And don't even think about turning right and heading up Castle Hill - there is no route to get there from the cycle lane. It can't reasonably be done; the space we've been allocated is inadequate for safe riding. 

Think we cyclists are hard done to? Try crossing there as a pedestrian.

Want to make Cambridge cleaner, safer, quieter, more friendly and basically better for all who use it? It ain't hard. You won't be seriously inconveniencing anyone in a car by prioritising safety and convenience of cyclists and motorists, their journey times are really governed by how many other cars are waiting at the next red light, and the one after that, and the one after that. Don't give them extra lanes at junctions, make those junctions safe enough for everyone else. And quit pretending that on-street space should be handed over, for free or nearly free, for parking. You bought a car and have nowhere to store it? Well you should have thought of that before you bought it, shouldn't you?

The bottom line? We're still prioritising the convenience of motorists over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. We're rationing safe road space to anyone who isn't protected by a metal cage - it turns out in Cambridge all the nice words spoken about cycling don't mean a damned thing and we're still not given safe facilities.


  1. If you want to see pedestrians well and truly shat on, Newmarket Road, especially East Road to the railway, is a horrible barrier.

    1. You're not wrong. But so much is wrong with Newmarket Road, its hard to pick what the worst of it is!

  2. That junction is on my commute. Actually, it's the worst part of my commute. Crucially, most of the buses are turning left rather than going straight on.

    That's why I always take the lane there. Even if I did fancy sitting on the left of a turning bus, Northampton St has several pinch points so if I stay left past the junction I risk being pushed off the road by motorists who don't know, or don't care, to pass cyclists within the Highway Code.

    Actually, I think I had a car beep at me today because I was in the lane on Northampton street, even though I was going the same speed as the car in front of me, which in turn was much less than my maximum speed.

    The approach on Chesterton Lane is also terrible for cars deliberately hugging the left to stop cyclists passing, even though there's plenty of space on the road and they gain nothing by it. Not illegal, but usually spiteful. They're often not even turning.

    Worst jams you ever have there? Motorists backing up from Magdalene street and completely blocking junction. Oh, and the X5 blocking Northampton St at its stop. Own worst enemies.

    1. When I come that way I'm turning left, so its not quite so bad for me. If you're going straight on though I think you're right to take the lane - ain't really any better option.

      Not even a particularly hard road to re-design - lets have decent cycle lanes in the approach to it (I accept Magdalene Street is genuinely narrow - the others aren't) and a cyclists light phase before the bus gets going. And extend the cycle lane (which doesn't need to be MUCH wider) way further up the hill on Chesterton Lane.