Traffic Management Plans for Cambridge

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Cambs. County Council

The City and County Councils have long had various plans for traffic management, realising there is no single answer.

Since the late 1980s the City Council has used planning permission to reduce the provision of office parking spaces, by including restrictions as a condition for permission. It attempted to develop the Clay Farm estate, off Long Road, as a car-free housing estate but a Department of the Environment inspector ruled against it. It campaigned for this area to be taken out of the Green Belt, since it's almost completely surrounded by built-up area, is just ordinary farm land and is the one obvious area that's suitable for development.

The County Council launched a new strategy in 1996, including a TravelWise campaign. The City & County Councils then joined Streets Ahead, a network of local councils committed to reducing public dependence on cars. See also Council joins "Streets Ahead"; 31-Jan-96 at East Cambridgeshire Online News.

The Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 requires local councils to plan for traffic reduction. The 1998 Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act sets firm targets.

The then-Labour City Council commissioned consultants to come up with "radical" solutions, using money that was to be for the late-night bus service.

The 1999 Cambridgeshire Transport Plan, drawn up by the councils, restates all the usual worthy ideas, such as the ones below. The point is to try to get investment from the Government. An exhibition is touring though with very poor advertising. [On the first day, at the Grafton Centre on October 24 between 10am and 4pm, there was no sign anywhere of the mobile exhibition as of 11:15.]

Many people in Cambs. will find this a sick joke but then truth is stranger than fiction! In September 2001 the Council won the award of Transport Local Authority of the Year from the Centre for Transport Policy at Robert Gordon University. They were praised for "innovative and integrated transport solutions".
(CEN 19-Sep-2001 : Council wins transport award)

Road pricing

Some people took part in a County Council trial of metering units in their cars around 1995/96. The idea is to charge motorists for being stationary, to discourage road jams. Though what real choice they have is another matter! Further schemes are being tried across the country in 1998-2000.

Newcastle University's Transport research group produced the experimental road pricing system.

As a variant of this, there are suggestions for permits for peak-time use of roads. This has been tried successfully in Milan.
(CEN 9-Feb-1998)


The trouble with this as the general solution is that it ignores the psychology of family car ownership: for instance young people struggle with inadequate public transport and eventually are able to afford a car. This gives them yearned-for freedom and flexibility and they would hate to go back to public transport, no matter how "painless" it's made, as via Park-and-Ride. It's good for visitors from far away but for local people it can double journey times. It's important to have the scheme, since it will suit some people, but can never be a complete answer.

Crucially, it is beginning to be of use to office workers as well as shoppers, making it so much more worthwhile. This will be a major factor when workplace car park charging is introduced.

The Cambridge Evening News has frequent letters pointing out deficiencies with the sites, such as full car parks and empty buses. On the other hand, the sites have proved extremely popular, mainly with regional (as opposed to local) shoppers and with office workers, balancing the street closures.

The main problem has been with the appalling Stagecoach Cambus services. Workers need to feel confident the bus service is reliable and is still available in the evening. As the Emmanuel Road closure and Babraham Road Park-and-Ride began in Auguast 1999, the County Council was applying to the City Council for slightly longer Park-and-Ride hours as set by the City's planning permission.

A report Transport and Air Pollution in Cambridge was compiled by a Homerton College student for Anne Campbell MP (CEN 6-Dec-1995). It studied what might make school and work car users switch to public transport. It showed that people like the convenience and privacy of cars and for school users security was also important. There is scope for encouraging less car use, a more frequent bus service being the best.

Does Bus-Based Park and Ride Assist the Integration of Local Transport? - a fascinating study of P&R's effectiveness.

See also Rivalry with Peterborough.


Many people have pointed out that a southern P&R park ought to be large enough to relieve the pressure on parking at the nearby Addenbrooke's Hospital and the surrounding residential streets. It could also be the terminus for long-distance buses, relieving congestion in the City Centre around Drummer Street. It should also integrate with the proposed Long Road station. (E.g. a letter from Ted Gazeley in CEN 4-Apr-1996)

A circular Park-and-Ride bus route is under consideration as an attempt to relieve congestion in and around Addenbrookes' Hospital. The Science Park, Cambridge Regional College and Cambridge Business Park could be included. In August 1999 diagonal routes were established.
(CEN 11-Jun-1997)


This was suggested as an extension to the Park-and-Ride scheme - people pick up a bike at one of the car parks - but sounded like another version of the City Council's infamous Green Bike Scheme.

It's gone ahead in the form of rented cycled lockers at the Madingley Road & Newmarket Road Park-and-Ride site.
(CEN 24-Aug-1996)

Workplace parking charging

It seems certain that the City Council will be authorised to charge all City businesses for workplace car parking. The 1999 Budget explicitly exempted cycle parking. This is supposed to be a "stick" to various "carrots" such as Park-and-Ride. The money raised is supposed to be used to improve public transport. Oddly, current plans exempt shops' car parks though.

Closing roads

In the late 1990s this was usually suggested as being linked to pollution, though other concerns are now showing through. For instance before the Emmanuel Road changes, Parker Street was measured as being the third most polluted street in the country: it could have been closed whenever pollution levels got too high. Regulations forcing closure of heavily polluted streets have been available since 1996 as part of the Government's 10-year Air Quality Strategy.

Bridge Street was the first closure and Emmanuel Road the second. Silver Street seems certain to be the third closure, now that the Trumpington Park&Ride site is operational. The fourth may be Emmanuel Street (reserving the Drummer Street area for buses and taxis) or (more likely) Regent Street.

The programme of closures is closely linked to the Park&Ride strategy, on the carrot & stick principle. The third and fourth closures will probably be balanced by new Park&Ride sites some way outside Cambridge.

See also Pollution in Cambridge at ECOLN.

Running vehicle engines

The City Council has been thinking about possible use of a new power under consideration by the Government for on-the-spot fines for engines left running in central Cambridge. Trials are under way in various towns & cities.
(CEN 27-Sep-1997)

Bus lanes

In May 1996 one along Milton Road to Mitcham's Corner was constructed, one of the worst stretches during the rush hour. This was after a number of years of delay, mainly over protection for the mature trees lining the verges. As with most bus lanes, it's failed to deter motorists from using it - in this case mostly to park in it. If only there was some policing...

In early 1997 a 200,000+ bus lane was built into the City along the Girton end of Huntingdon Road for 1km, championed by Dave Kelleway. The scheme also includes traffic lights for cycle crossings and improving the dual-use pedestrian/cycleway. Engineers hope it'll save buses 12 minutes but so far 7 seems to be the realistic figure.
(CEN 3-Jul-1997).

In late 1997/early 1998 the section of Newmarket Road between the new Park-and-Ride site and Coldham's Lane was altered to have bus lanes.

A lane for Trumpington Road into Cambridge (or possibly both directions) is under consideration, linking with the proposed Park-and-Ride site.

In August 1999 a bus lane was constructed on Elizabeth Bridge in the out-of-town direction.

Taxis and private hire cars are now allowed to use bus lanes and there's pressure for motorbikes too. Cyclists always lose out in such compromises.

Buses with traffic light controls

The County Council employed a consultant to determine if buses could be fitted with signalling devices to change traffic lights green as they approach. The county council would pay for the sensors on traffic lights. The aim is to make park-and-ride more efficient. Such a system is working in Norwich, Swansea and Southampton (CEN 30-Apr-1996). The Bridge Street closure uses such technology.

Another idea for encouraging bus use is that bus stops could have electronic timetable displays, with schedules on the Internet. Norwich City announced in July 1997 that it was introducing railway-like display monitors, showing arrival and departure times, at a cost of 1M.


The LibDems proposed a network of tramways, to be paid for by developers as part of planning consent. Much development is expected over the next 20 years in response to Government planning guidelines, now no longer favouring out-of-town developments.
(CEN 1-Jan-97) Generally, ideas for trams, guided busways and monorails keep popping up but never seem to get anywhere, since a serious amount of Government money is always needed to make any scheme really integrate well.


People unable to use conventional public transport can book transport via 'phone. The scheme is based at the Zion Baptist Chapel in East Road. It's run by a team of volunteers, with backing from the City and County Councils, and the Cambridge & Huntingdon Health Commission. They started with a minibus, hoping to build up to four vehicles over three years. By September 1996 they needed a second bus and early 1998 a third.

Subsidised Late Taxis

Late-night subsidised taxis may be provided for young people leaving venues such as the Junction, possibly as part of the City Leisurecard scheme. The Council has been arguing about a late-night bus scheme for a long time - taxis should be a more flexible option. The proposal to develop a late-night bus scheme from The Junction was dropped by Labour City Councillors in March 1997.

Traffic calming

A lot of people seem to think there's far too much of this in Cambridge already. Sometimes it works - as in St Matthews Street - and sometimes the council gets it hopelessly wrong, as in Cherry Hinton.

The extensive Romsey scheme at first seemed to be somewhere in between, with fans and critics. However, compaints in the CEN mounted, the worst part being the excessive restrictions and excess lighting in St. Philip's Road. The supposed 20mph limit isn't policed. The complicated bollard arrangements (for instance, near The Empress pub) are extraordinary. Then cars were permitted to park partly on the pavement, to ease congestion, making life difficult for prams, the disabled and the elderly.

Critics rightly point to excesses such as the section of Hills Road between the Catholic Church and Station Road corner, with five traffic-light-controlled pedestrian crossings in about 600 metres. This is largely a traffic-calming exercise.

Storey's Way

The traffic calming scheme has provoked a long series of letters to the Cambridge Evening News.

Before it was built, on one side James Keen of Churchill College claimed (CEN 7-Mar-1996) the street is only busy in morning & evening rush hours, when traffic is crawling anyway due to queueing to exit to Madingley Road and Huntingdon Road. In such circumstances the only effects of calming are noise pollution from cars accelerating between humps and the slowing down of emergency services. He cites the experience of York, where speed controls had no effect on traffic flow. Then George Abbott (CEN 15-Mar, Storey's Way) refuted the central claim, saying the road is busy as a 70mph "rat run" throughout the day. Much of the traffic is to the Colleges, especially since Churchill's 100-bed Conference Centre opened. The City Council made it a condition for the planning permission that there be a traffic calming scheme. Churchill, Fitzwilliam and St John's Colleges gave 10,000 each for the scheme.

Shortly after the scheme started a set of barriers, supposedly designed to block lorries, had to be moved apart as residents' cars couldn't get through them.
(CEN 28-Jun-1996)

Arbury Road & Jesus Green Crossing

The Arbury Road traffic calming scheme (June/July 1996) had frequent width restrictions in the form of specially-built traffic islands. These aimed to slow vehicles down but weren't wholly effective, creating dangers for cyclists: fast-moving vehicles in the narrow road width. The residents reckoned it improved safety but caused parking problems (CEN 26-Nov). There's the same problem for cyclists with the new Jesus Green bridge/Chesterton Road pedestrian crossing (July 96).

See Chesterton Road Crossing in Newsletter 7 and Newsletter 8 in the Cambridge Cycling Campaign Newsletter.

As of June 1997 some or all of the Arbury area restrictions are now in the form of bumps ("sleeping policemen") covering only part of the road width - cyclists can proceed unimpeded. The Chesterton Road crossing now has a red cycle lane marked out, to make motorists more aware.