Liberal Democrat councillors in Cambridge have called on the city’s Labour-controlled council to take “urgent action” to replace an anti-terrorism barrier installed on King’s Parade, with college staff, cycling campaigners and local businesses also expressing concern on it, with one restaurant owner warning it will create a "kill zone" in the area just outside the barrier due to conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
The barrier, since last Tuesday operational between 9.30am and 7pm. Is being trialled for 18 months by Cambridge City Council in partnership with the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, ahead of the drawing up of permanent security measures, possibly recessed into the road surface.
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) January 16, 2020
Among problems highlighted in relation to the barrier are that the size of the gap for cyclists, when closed, is just 1.2 metres, which increases potential conflict with pedestrians, and its ability to cope safely with crowds during the peak tourist season.
According to the Cambridge Independent, Liberal Democrat councillors are pressing the council to take “urgent action to replace the metal barricade with a better option that does not endanger local cyclists, better addresses the security concerns in the area and which is more sympathetic to the important heritage site.”
Party spokesman Councillor Jamie Dalzell said: “It is deeply frustrating that none of the concerns we raised at several council meetings last year have been listened to and the Labour group have pressed ahead with this poorly planned project.
“Whilst we fully appreciate the need to respond to the concerns of our police services regarding the security of our city, the new barriers have raised safety concerns for everyday road users without adding any additional protection to the vulnerable site around the famous Corpus clock,” he continued.
“At the same time, with a year spent debating the issue, the Labour Council have also failed to find a solution that is more sympathetic to its surroundings.
“We take the stewardship of our historic city very seriously and we hope that the Labour party will now admit their mistake and support our plans to quickly replace these temporary barriers with a better long-term solution.”
Roxanne De Beaux, executive director of local cycling campaign group Camcycle, criticised the council’s lack of a comprehensive consultation process before installing the barrier, which she said had been presented as a “fait accompli.”
She also said that two-way directional arrows painted on the road surface wrongly implied that two cyclists could pass each other safely when the barrier was shut, and that the cobbled road surface at the opening presented a hazard in the rain.
“The gap is too narrow for two-way cycling and for the level of cycling traffic we have here it’s going to be confusing,” she explained.
“As well as that, pedestrians will spill off the pedestrian area when it’s busy, into the gap, creating safety concerns for cyclist and pedestrians. People will spill into the cycling lane.”
The barrier has been installed across the road from King’s College, just after the junction of King’s Parade with Bene’t Street, where the clock outside Corpus Christi College draws crowds of tourists.
Dr Keith Carne, the bursar at King’s, told the student newspaper Varsity that the college was “very concerned about the effect of the barrier,” which he believed “will cause difficulties for vehicles trying to turn adjacent to the Corpus Christi clock and to cyclists trying to negotiate a narrow route past the barrier.”
Meanwhile there are concerns that by trying to restrict access of vehicles to King’s Parade, any security risk is merely being transferred elsewhere.
Max Freeman, director of the Cambridge Chop House restaurant which is on the corner with St Bene’t Street and adjacent to the security barrier said: “in summer, when footfall goes through the roof on King’s Parade, I just think people will be knocked over. I’ll be surprised if there isn’t a fatality on that corner - either a car hitting a pedestrian or someone hitting a cyclist or a cyclist hitting someone.
“To say it’s for public safety is actually a misnomer because all it’s going to do is create a kill zone - because in front of the Corpus Clock and my restaurant, that area gets very congested anyway.”
Local cyclist Rad Wagon, a Bikeability instructor, pointed out on Twitter that existing measures to prevent motor vehicles accessing the other end of King's Parade were not as intrusive and worked perfectly well.
— Richard Taylor (@RTaylorUK) January 16, 2020
Meanwhile, a petition has been set up calling for the barrier to be reviewed and replaced.
This barrier is going to get a cyclist hurt, very badly. Please folk, sign this and share. https://t.co/FvLPNFxGGp
— Cab Davidson #Remain #Rejoin (@gnomeicide) January 17, 2020
Leader of Cambridge City Council insisted however that the safety of the public was paramount. “What we don’t want in Cambridge is a debate about whether the barrier is needed, because we cannot ignore safety advice,” he said.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.