A senior councillor in Cambridge claims that planned cycle lanes on the city’s Hills Road bridge could increase the risk of cyclists being involved in an accident, and has also criticised the city council for approving the scheme without apparently carrying out full consultation. The news comes as councillors also approved a 12-month trial of a 20mph speed limit in the city centre.
Cambridge City Council yesterday gave the go-ahead to a new £500,000 scheme designed to get more cyclists using the bridge as well as improving their safety.
But Councillor Alan Baker, a member of the city’s joint area traffic management committee, believes that it could place cyclists at greater risk.
The scheme, which has been approved following a trial previously reported upon by road.cc, comprises two metre-wide cycle lanes on the upward slopes of the bridge which are not a source of contention, and downward lanes which position bike riders in the middle of two lanes of motorised traffic.
“Cars will have to cross over the cycle lane on the downward slope,” Councillor Baker explained to Cambridge News.
"Speaking as someone who has been knocked off my bike on this bridge in similar circumstances, this concerns me. In the days before the cycle lane, I wanted to go straight ahead and was moving towards the centre of the road when I was knocked off,” he added.
Councillor Baker continued: "I think it's dangerous and it's not something older people or parents cycling with children will want to do."
The councillor also claims that the city council did not consult the traffic management committee prior to giving the final go-ahead to the scheme, saying: "We were able to comment on the trial scheme and our comments were favourable. This is totally different from the proposals that were originally put forward.”
He continued: "The cabinet has no members representing city wards and yet they've taken a decision on central Cambridge with no consultation with its main transport advisory committee."
Another member of the committee, Councillor Colin Rosenstiel, was reportedly "gobsmacked" when he learnt that the scheme had received approval with no consultation, saying: “Between the initial consultation and final plans, consultation has dried up. They have made significant changes to the plans without consulting anyone."
However, a spokesman for Cambridge Cycling Campaign welcomed the scheme. James Woodburn told Cambridge News: "We have experience of these plans in other parts of the city, such as the turning from Trumpington Road into Brooklands Avenue, and there have been no complaints.”
He added: "The cycle lane is also much wider on Hills Road bridge than Trumpington Road and cyclists will be travelling faster on a downward slope."
According to Mr Woodburn, the central cycle lane was necessary to avoid a hazardous pinch-point close to the Earl of Derby pub.
Meanwhile, the committee on which Councillors Baker and Rosenstiel sit has unanimously approved a 12-month trial of a 20mph speed limit in Cambridge city centre.
The £50,000 initiative follows a year-long trial and will include all roads within the university city’s inner ring road, which runs along Queen's Road, Fen Causeway, Lensfield Road, Gonville Place, East Road, Victoria Avenue and Chesterton Road.
In order to enforce the reduced limit, police have been equipped with new speed guns that are able to gauge the lower speeds, unlike older equipment.
Councillor Baker told Cambridge News: "By bringing down average speeds, we will bring down the seriousness of injuries and the number of accidents in the city,” adding, “there won't be heavy enforcement by police, but the 20mph limit will make people more aware of their speed."
The trial has been introduced following a two-month consultation period conducted by Cambridgeshire County Council during which no objections were raised, with seven letters received backing the plans. Bus operator Stagecoach was reported to have said that it supported the scheme, so long as adequate signage was put in place highlighting the new speed limit.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign backed the move, with Mr Woodburn saying: "Streets are not just for cars - they are for everyone. This lower speed limit will make our streets much more pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.”
He continued: "Other cities that have adopted this strategy have enjoyed significant cuts in accidents and serious injuries on their roads. However, I think the police should be enforcing it in the same way as they do 30mph zones."
Should the trial prove successful, the 20mph limit is likely to be adopted permanently, as has happened in other places such as Portsmouth.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.