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17 years in the making: Cambridge north-south cycle path could finally become reality

Path dreamed up in 1998 but it's only now £7.5m City Deal money could become available...

A new £7.5m cycle path linking north and south Cambridge via the east of the city look likely to be built thanks to new City Deal funding - which comes 17 years after the idea of the path was first mooted.

The path, known as the Chisholm Trail, was planned out by Jim Chisholm in 1998 to link Addenbrooke’s Hospital in the south withe the science parks in the north, wending its way via the railway station.

It was dreamed up by Mr Chisholm, who noted the rough land alongside the railway tracks and wondered whether it could be used to build cycle tracks.

Most of the investment would go towards funding a new cycle bridge over the River Cam.

Mr Chisholm told the Cambridge News: “You’re not just doing it for people who cycle – you’re doing it because it’s the easiest way of reducing congestion across Cambridge.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day and although it’s proving to be a lot more expensive and difficult than I first thought, everything is more expensive when you look at it in detail.”

The council delayed its decision on funding the £4m bridge last year for more consultation.

Robin Heydon, chairman of Cambridge Cycling Campaign, said: “It is unfortunately the only big thing for cycling in the City Deal, but it should be a fantastic way to cross the city.

“It should allow you to go from the science park area to the city centre or the biomedical campus much quicker than if you drove.

“And the biggest winners near the existing railway station will apparently be the taxi drivers, who will no longer have to get frustrated behind people cycling near the station, as they will be on the new trail.

He also told road.cc: “Ideally, I'd like to see commitment to fund segregated cycle routes on all "A" and "B" roads in Cambridge, and major cycle infrastructure to all the main market towns and major development sites surrounding Cambridge.

“For example, where is the safe direct cycle route to Cambourne? Where is the safe direct cycle route to Ely?”

Cllr Kilian Bourke, a long-time advocate of the scheme, said: "This initial investment won't fund a direct segregated link along the entire route, but it will get the ball rolling and, crucially, create a new bridge across the Cam.

"While the next five years are about putting some of the basic elements of the scheme in place, I want to urge politicians of all parties to be ambitious for the longer term.

"Ultimately I think the aim should be for the trail take the form of a 'linear park', along which pedestrians can walk, as well as cyclists, with trees, benches, and public art along the route. A real community asset.

"If in five years time a flagship project like this is beginning to evolve, with ambition comparable to the High Line in Manhattan or schemes in Copenhagen, it will help us to secure the following five years of City Deal funding from central government."

Last week we reported how the first stage of the City Deal could bring two new cycle routes to areas south of Cambridge. A report produced by the Deal’s partners describes the lack of a cycling network linking Saffron Walden and Haverhill as a ‘missed opportunity’ and also recommends improvements along the A10 corridor between Cambridge and Royston.

Consultants SQW and Cambridge Econometrics have assessed the relevant economic merits of a number of transport projects ahead of a meeting of the City Deal executive board on January 28. At the meeting, the board will decide which schemes will be delivered in the first five years.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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