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News that Cambridgeshire city’s Rhubarb Bridge faces chop and council plans to use crossings instead sparks safety fears

 

A campaign has been launched to save an iconic cycling and walking bridge in Peterborough after it emerged that the council plans to scrap it, sparking fears over the safety of people on foot and on bikes.

Almost 5,000 people have so far signed a petition to save the Rhubarb Bridge, which provides a safe passage across the junction of the A47 and A15 in the Cambridgeshire city.

The bridge was built in the 1970s and took its name from an earlier one over the railway lines that formerly occupied the site and where rhubarb grew on the embankments.

Under proposals unveiled last week by Peterborough City Council (PCC) plans to demolish the bridge and replace it with a set of Toucan crossings, with cabinet member Councillor Peter Hiller insisting the structure is at “the end of its life.”

He said £30 million would be needed to replace the bridge, compared to £5.5 million for the proposed works at the junction.

One of the people behind the petition which is calling for a replacement bridge to be built, Trevor McSparron, told road.cc: “PCC have quoted inflated costs and also have merged the costs to replace the bridge and build wider slip roads and widen other sections of the road.

“The bridge we believe will cost less than £5 million to demolish and replace when you look at other bridges built around the country.

“Copenhagen and many Dutch towns and cities would be proud of Rhubarb Bridge, it's just fantastic and has served Peterborough for a long time protecting its users from conflict with vehicles and reduced pollution,” he added.

“It was and still is decades ahead of its time when Peterborough was developed in the 70s and 80s and miles of safe segregated paths and bridges were built all over the city.”

The petition sets out four reasons its authors believe should lead to the current proposals being rejected. as follows:

Four separate crossings for pedestrians and cyclists to pass through the roundabout is unacceptable.

The design will create significant wait times for pedestrians and cyclists.

The design increases the likelihood of pedestrians and cyclists coming into conflict with vehicles.

By moving pedestrians and cyclists to ground level there is a considerable increase in exposure to pollution and poor air quality (especially for pupils who use this roundabout twice per day).

It calls on Peterborough City Council to:

Peterborough city council should:

Halt the current plans.

Instigate a full review into previous decision making - who made the decision that the city should not pursue a new bridge, and who accepted the quotes for a new bridge.

Approach other companies to get a second opinion on the cost of a replacement bridge (with detailed costings, not a guess).

Implement a fundraising strategy to acquire the necessary funding to install a new and improved pedestrian and cycle bridge.

Matthew Barber, head of partnerships (Midlands and East) at the charity Sustrans told the Peterborough Telegraph last week that he believed that the current proposals would lead to pedestrians and cyclists taking unnecessary risks to cross the road.

“Rhubarb Bridge is a gateway to the north of the city,” he said. “But going from Marks & Spencer in Brotherhoods to PC World on the other side will now involve four pedestrian crosses.

“If there are many delays then people, especially children, will try and find gaps in the traffic.

“It’s children I’m most concerned about,” he added. “If they are rushing to school and the waiting times are too long they will try and find the gaps.”

Now, three opposition councillors have signed a call-in notice to force the council to reconsider its proposals, according to the newspaper.

The call-in notice says: “The public is effectively being informed what has already been decided, rather than being consulted on it.

“This impression is made all the more obvious by the fact that Cllr Hiller signed the decision notice to award the contract and implement the scheme before the main public consultation drop in event had been held.

“So there is no possibility that views expressed by the public at this event have been taken into account in making the decision.

“There is no evidence of what other options were considered or any detail of their costings,” it adds.

The call-in will be now considered by a council scrutiny committee on Tuesday 29 August.

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.