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"Accident waiting to happen": Cambridge University fellow urges students to follow Highway Code and end "tradition" of ignoring one-way system

Comments come just days after research into 22 years of data from 508 one-way streets found contraflow cycling does not increase crash or casualty rates

A University of Cambridge fellow has spoken out about students ignoring traffic rules in the city, saying the "tradition" of flouting the one-way system is an "accident waiting to happen".

Hughes Hall fellow Peter Britton told Cambridgeshire Live he had taken the matter up with the university's acting vice chancellor, Anthony Freeling, but was told it is not the university's job to "lecture students" about traffic rules.

Mr Britton — a fellow and honorary director of music at the Cambridge college since 2006 — suggested there is a "sort of tradition" of students ignoring the one-way system on and around Bridge Street "for time immemorial".

"I want to emphasise I'm not a vigilante, I can understand anyone on a bike would tend to think 'well, let's go as the crow flies'," he told the local news outlet.

"But now there are people on electric bikes and scooters and you get huge buses and delivery vans swinging into Bridge Street by Patisserie Valerie. That's why I think that on that corner it's an accident waiting to happen.

Cambridge one-way (Google Maps)

"There's this sort of tradition, I guess. Especially of colleges that are along those roads, whether it's Trinity or John's or Sidney Sussex, that for time immemorial they've gone both ways."

And while Mr Britton says he is "sympathetic" with the police who lack the "manpower" necessary he hopes university colleges might talk to students as "part of their duty of care".

"One simple suggestion is that the colleges, as part of their duty of care — which they're now much more conscious of — would very gently point out to students, especially new students, that they're expected to obey the Highway Code," the fellow continued.

"Just leave it at that and why it's necessary for public safety. It occurred to me to write to him [acting vice chancellor Anthony Freeling] and suggest that he could raise it at a meeting of all the heads of colleges, at least to make sure students are aware there is a one-way system.

"But he replied and said he could appreciate it but he didn't think it was their job to lecture students."

A university spokesperson said: "The University of Cambridge urges all members of its community to follow The Highway Code, and to cycle, ride and drive safely."

"Contraflow cycling does not increase cyclist crash or casualty rates"

Contraflow cycle lane (copyright Simon MacMichael)

Interestingly, the University of Cambridge fellow's comments come just days after road.cc first became aware of an academic paper from the University of Leeds which looked at 22 years of data from 508 one-way streets and found that "contraflow cycling does not increase cyclist crash or casualty rates".

The paper, titled 'Contraflows and cycling safety: Evidence from 22 years of data involving 508 one-way streets' to be published in January's volume of Accident, Analysis & Prevention also found that crash rates are "identical" whether the cyclist is travelling with flow or contraflow.

It recommended "all UK one-way streets should be evaluated to allow contraflow cycling" and concluded that "legislation mandating two-way cycling would improve cycling networks and routes".

The most recent comment about students ignoring one-way street signs is not the first cycling-related University of Cambridge row this autumn as a plan to introduce a £5 congestion charge on weekday car journeys into the city prompted predictable cries of town and gown conflict.

While downplayed by many, including the university who said many staff drive into the city, some from a local residents' group suggested the move would only benefit Cambridge's bike-riding students and staff.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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7 comments

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leelang229 | 1 year ago
1 like

"But he replied and said he could appreciate it but he didn't think it was their job to lecture students."

Really?  What do they do all day?

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mattw | 1 year ago
2 likes

Quite surprised to see that even an *acting* Oxbridge Vice Chancellor is such a milquetoast, and is soft-pedalling the duty of care he owes his students.

But then the place has always been full of highly intelligent very stupid people.

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OnYerBike | 1 year ago
2 likes

Whilst rules are rules, of all the road safety issues to have a bee in one's proverbial bonnet about, I'm not sure why Mr Britton has latched onto this one. It's not really an issue.

Large vehicles do come round there sometimes, but because the corner is quite tight they have to swing round wide and slow, which means there is normally plenty of time to avoid a collision. The area is also central enough that there are always plenty of pedestrians about too, sometimes in the road thanks to narrow pavements, so drivers do tend to be fairly cautious. Certainly if you look at sites like Crash Map, I would say there is no evidence that that corner (or the one way system around there in general) is a hotspot for collisions with cyclists - if anything the opposite, especially considering the number of cyclists on those roads.

There are also numerous other locations with legitimate cycle contraflows where the risk seems similar - for example the corner between King Street and Hobson Street, or between Wheeler Street and Corn Exchange Street. There are also some streets which are very narrow with tight corners, but two-way to all vehicles (e.g. Trinity Lane). 

And there are plenty of other spots around Cambridge where there seems to be far more cause for concern, such as some of the roundabouts, major road junctions and busy, narrow roads (e.g. Mill Road). But I guess it's easier to whinge about naughty students than campaign about issues that might actually make a difference (see e.g. https://www.camcycle.org.uk/blog/2021/10/no-more-lives-must-be-lost-we-n... and https://road.cc/content/news/233529-tributes-paid-%E2%80%9Cgiant-conserv... )

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I love my bike replied to OnYerBike | 1 year ago
0 likes

Maybe it would be good use of relativily little funds to sign the de facto contraflows, as per the paper, so reducing the claims that all bicyclists are law-breakers, and motorists etc would be warned.

"all UK one-way streets should be evaluated to allow contraflow cycling" and concluded that "legislation mandating two-way cycling would improve cycling networks and routes"

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to I love my bike | 1 year ago
2 likes
I love my bike wrote:

"all UK one-way streets should be evaluated to allow contraflow cycling" and concluded that "legislation mandating two-way cycling would improve cycling networks and routes"

This works really well in Paris.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
2 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:
I love my bike wrote:

"all UK one-way streets should be evaluated to allow contraflow cycling" and concluded that "legislation mandating two-way cycling would improve cycling networks and routes"

This works really well in Paris.

There's a few one-way roads in Bristol that have a bit of magic paint to allow contraflow cycling. That should happen by default unless there's a specific reason why it might be dangerous.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
0 likes

Like many good concepts from more transport-enlightened places, I'd agree but note that it might be a bit early for the UK without abundant caution.

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