Traffic in Cambridge

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Royal Cambridge Hotel Junction

This was to be converted in March-June 1997 back from two awkward and dangerous mini-roundabouts (particularly for cyclists) to traffic lights for 150,000. Traffic lights were tried some years ago (late 1980s?) but they caused such chaos that they were switched off after only a few weeks. They were also tried around 1972-1973.

Injury statstics quoted: 22 injuries since January 1993, 45 cyclist injuries in 5 years, 37 people (mainly cyclists) involved in accidents in last 3 years.

There have been plenty of letters to the CEN pointing out alternatives such as cycle routes avoiding the area. It's clear that the roundabouts are very dangerous for cyclists but no clear workable alternative has emerged. The new Conservative County administration has abandoned the scheme until at least late 1998 because of the objections, even though 50,000 has already been spent on consultation and design.
(CEN 3-Oct-1996 & 21-Oct, 13-Jun-1997, 29-Oct)

Park Street Car Park

As a consequence of the Bridge Street closure, some councillors suggested that the Park Street 440-space multistorey car park will not be needed once enough alternatives such as the Madingley Road Park-and-Ride are in operation (CEN 9-Mar-1996).

Admittedly the experimental Bridge Street closure reduced the car park's use for a while (by about a fifth - and the other car parks' use increased). Possibly a lack of signage via the new route was the problem: since better signs were installed around May/June 1997, use seemed to pick up. Quite how reducing parking adjacent to Cambridge's main shopping centre is going to boost the viability of shops...

A working group of councillors, businesses and residents was set up to review car parks in 1996 but nothing much seemed to come of that.

See also the spine relief road we might have had, as an example of alternative ideas.

John Gummer, then Secretary of State for the Environment, joined the debate by saying the City's car parks are the smelliest in Britain, that Park Street is one of the most dangerous in the country and that parking prices are too high in the City (CEN 3-Apr-96). He thought they should be handed over to private operators such as National Car Parks. However the City Council later received a form of apology from Department of the Environment, recognising the Council's efforts (CEN 11-May-96). Sir Anthony Grant, then MP for South-West Cambs, who lives in the Park Street area, also thought the car park should close. John Gummer had another go at the City Council in Nov-96, criticising its transport policy and the car parks again. Odd, since he was responsible for keeping transport policy under County Council control, instead of handing it over to a unitary City Council.

In 1998 Park Street Car Park had an overhaul and an improved ticketing system.

City Centre changes 1996-2001

Rush Hour

The "rush hour" is infamous: many visitors and residents adjust their journey times to avoid it. All major roads are clogged. (As most residential areas now have speed bumps and/or bollards blocking through traffic, they are largely unaffected.)

As much work in Cambridge is office-based, it is convenient for many to work outside the standard 9:00-17:30, such as 9:30 - 18:00. In the long run this just means the "rush hour" spreads out. It is now something like 7:15-9:15 and 16:00-18:00.

Lunchtime is now just as bad: roads are congested during the full envelope of standard lunchtime hours (12:00-14:30).

Some days there's no perceptable lull on the major roads between 14:30 and 16:00.

During school & Further Education college term-time there is a lot more traffic on the main roads between 18:00 and 21:00, presumably an indication of the popularity of community education, professional development evening courses and so on.

Weekend shopping means that the roads are often just as congested then (approx. 9:30-16:30 Saturday, 10:300-16:00 some Sundays).

See also Gridlock Holiday at Flames Magazine.


The Cambridge Evening News highlighted the congestion around the Science Park on 23-May-1996: queueing for up to 60 minutes to get in and out. The nearby A14 is dangerously full, which affects the plans for retail developments in the area. The Science Park has 73 companies and 3,800 workers (as of 1997). In June 1997 Trinity College decided to spend up to 1M improving the Science Park junction, adding a lane to Milton Road.

The A14 is overloaded with a mix of East Coast traffic, out-of-town shopping centre traffic (Bar Hill & Milton), commuter traffic and city centre traffic. Traffic levels on the new section west of Huntingdon have already reached the Government forecast for 2007.

The Department of Transport blocked the proposed nearby Sainsbury's development because of the congestion until Sainsbury's offered to add a lane (westbound Histon to Girton) to the A14 for around 5-8M Then the rival Chesterton developers offered 10M to upgrade - a new westwards lane between Milton to the M11.

The Northern Fringes Joint Working Party (County, City and South Cambs) recommended delaying any development until the widening.
(CEN 6-Jun-1996, 11-Dec-1996).

After a high-profile campaign by the CEN, with 10,000 signatures collected, the Government has agreed to review during 1999 the need for improvements.

East Road widening

The County Council has used opportunities via its Education Dept. to create a strip of land between Norfolk Street and Zion Baptist Church for much-needed road widening, as planned around 1972. In rush hours it is extremely dangerous for cyclists along this narrow stretch (the cycle lane ending at the Norfolk Street junction) and the many cars trying to turn into Dover or Broad Streets cause congestion and hence pollution, particularly serious outside the St. Matthew's Primary School playground.

The 1985 attempt to widen the road was abandoned when the Conservatives lost control of the County Council. In 1991 the County Council was trying again to proceed with this widening, to make the road safer for all and to reduce pollution. A strip of Anglia Polytechnic forecourt and banking down to St. Matthew's playground would have been used. The playground would have remained the same size as a reserved area of land near the top of Norfolk Street would have been added to it.

Instead the (then Labour-controlled) City Council planted some trees along the bank above the playground and then made protection orders on the trees.

The result: years of avoidable pollution, misery for drivers and danger for cyclists.