City Centre Traffic Restrictions

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City Centre anti-traffic measures

New permanent traffic restrictions came into force at the start of 1977, a culmination of several years' experimentation. General motor traffic was no longer allowed inwards on St Andrews Street, Trumpington Street/King's Parade and St John's Street. The triangular one-way system (St John's Street/Trinity Street/Market Hill/ Market Street/Sidney Street/Bridge Street) had begun a little earlier. This was fine in principle but was never properly enforced. There were occasional police checks in the late 70s and early 80s - typically for a few hours one day every few months.

It seems likely that if the effort subsequently put into the anti-cycle measures had been put into enforcing these restrictions, it would have achieved all that was needed and avoided the excessive current measures.

The only useful addition to these 1977 measures would have been to ban taxis passing through the triangular area (as has now happened), as they were frequently reckless.

City Centre anti-cycle measures

Cllr. Tony Carter (who paradoxically also championed the cycle bridge by the railway station) came up with the idea to (in effect) ban cycles from the core of Cambridge during peak times.

Cambridge deserved its world-wide ridicule for the 1992 ban - imposed upon the City by the non-resident shoppers' lobby within the County Council, led by Labour Transport spokeman, Dave Kelleway (Fulbourn, Teversham & Fen Ditton). Visiting shoppers are the only people who have gained by it. The only good feature is the ban on through taxis.

Brief description for the record:

The affected streets are perceived as more dangerous now, as there is a mismatch between pedestrians' expectations of zero traffic and the reality - many cyclists ignoring the ban and motor vehicles getting round it.

One way of improving matters (other then scrapping the ludicrous scheme) would be to make Trinity Street two-way but No Entry from Senate House Hill, allowing the trickle of legitimate traffic from those Colleges between Trinity Street and the river to come and go, avoiding the majority of the supposedly-pedestrian area.

Cambridge Retail and Commercial Association asked the County Council to extend the cycle ban to aid 1997 Christmas shopping: Wednesday evening (19-Nov., for the Christmas Lights switch-on) and six Sundays up to Christmas. The Council supposedly ran a consulation exercise and the rural councillors pushed it through: again rural shoppers came before City residents - the needs of people trying to go home from work on the Wednesday and residents trying to get to churches etc. on the Sundays.
(CEN 16-Sep-1997)

Bridge Street closure to vehicles

[Closure point] The Cambridge Traffic Joint Subcommittee decided to close Bridge Street experimentally for 18 months and it started on January 22 1997. However, after spending 150,000 on this, it seemed unlikely that the County Council would rip it all out after the 18 months, even though the new Conservative administration was less keen on the scheme. As anticipated the revamped Cambridge Environment and Transport Joint Committee decided in March 1998 to make it permanent.

The scheme uses a more advanced type of automatic barriers than the nearby Trinity Street etc. restrictions: they rise out of the ground but drop when approached by microwave transponders in taxis, buses and other permitted traffic. The barriers are just south of the Thompson's Lane junction. The Castle Street/Northampton Street junction traffic lights also use (or will use) sensors, to give priority to Park-and-Ride buses.

[Thompson's Lane]

There are also fixed barriers outside The Maypole to block the back-street through route. Residents of the Park Street area have to come and go via the narrow Thompson's Lane.

Thompson's Lane ->

Originally the closure was to start in September 1996. However by May there were second thoughts, due to protests from many interested parties and due to major sewerage works in the Autumn.

Many people were concerned about the increase in congestion on Jesus Lane, now the only way to and from Park Street car park. However in practice this hasn't happened: use of the car park has decreased whilst Park-and-Ride use has increased. Initially City Centre shops were reported as saying trade hadn't decreased but shops in the immediate area had lost trade. However in June 1997 shopkeepers started complaining about a sharp drop in trade - CRACA cited a drop of 5%.

The associated ban for most traffic on right turns from Chesterton Lane to Castle Hill has caused the residental streets such as Carlyle Road to become rat-runs and Victoria Road is much busier. The Cambridge Cycling Campaign's August 1998 Newsletter has an excellent article describing the County Council's lame response to the Victoria Road problems - as it's outside the tourist & shopper area [they care about] they're not giving this any priority.

Bridge Street and Magdalene Street are certainly quieter now, though for a while some car drivers tried to "tailgate" authorised vehicles through the barrier, only to be caught on camera and had to pay for any damage caused (up to 1,500). As of April 1997, engineers were having to repair the bollards on average once a day. Specialist psychologists at Imperial College were consulted over improving the warning signs.

In 2001 the whole Bridge Street and Magdalene Street area was revamped, with a new lethal (to cyclists) one-way-at-a-time restriction outside Magdalene College. The changes were the latest in the series of streetworks.

Emmanuel Road closure to vehicles

[New crossing & bollards] The Park Parade/Parkside - Parker Street - Emmanuel Road rat run was considered in detail during early 1999 as the second closure, with the County Council going through the usual nominal motions of "consultation". Works to install automatic bollards in Emmanuel Road and to make many associated junction changes, from St Andrews St. to Maids Causeway, started at the end of July and the restriction came into force on 25th August. On that day the works weren't complete and police were on duty enforcing the restrictions manually, diverting private traffic through narrow Kite streets.

Many people were worried about the knock-on effect on East Road, which has to absorb diverted traffic. Sensibly, parking on the narrow section (near the Zion Baptist Church) is now banned in rush hours.

Much of the locals' objection focussed on Maid's Causeway (plus the first part of Newmarket Road), fearing it would be come busy. This seemed odd as it's wide and was relatively quiet before, capable of absorbing more traffic. Traffic has increased somewhat, suggesting that other traffic has switched to Elizabeth Way from Victoria Avenue.

Two weeks after the scheme started, it was apparent that East Road was even busier - congested for longer (mainly due to the unnecessary constriction). Mill Road is on the whole quieter, suggesting that traffic had diverted to Coldham's Lane or Hills Road, but there are exceptions. In particular the into-town direction is frequently snarled up when traffic in East Road backs up.

Meanwhile many dozy motorists continue to ignore the big signs, trying to use Emmanuel Road and finding they have to turn off into the Kite. Are they unobservant or arrogantly assuming that signs don't apply to them? Either way it's scary that such people are on the road. Crafty ones have realised there's a rat-run via Fitzroy Street and Eden Street. (This can't easily be shut off as it's needed for commercial deliveries.)

As of Autumn 2001 plans are being made to make the restriction permanent, again with no effective consulation.

Silver Street closure to vehicles

As of November 2001 the Joint Area Traffic Committee made a start on planning this third major street closure, with Spring 2003 as the intended start of the scheme.

Progress is likely to be linked to the start of the second wave of Park&Ride sites, ones just outside Cambridge, to any new Regent Street restrictions and perhaps to the Grand Arcade development.

This time they are looking at options for less than a total ban on private vehicles.