Arbury Park

Arbury Park is a new housing development built across the border at the edge of Cambridge. They are being built on an area of what was disused land far too close to the A14 for anyone to want to live there and despite most of the houses being on the wrong side of the boundary of Cambridge City they are being marketed as being in Cambridge. Despite the name even that small part of Arbury Park isn't actually in Arbury. It's actually in Kings Hedges.

This is a high profit development. The majority of the houses being built are small terraced houses ("town houses") with very small gardens, in part due to government guidelines that 30-50 homes should be built on each hectare. They are packed in tightly and provided with inadequate storage, parking spaces etc. The power of marketing helps them to sell quickly despite rather optimistic pricing in comparison with larger established housing near by and the A14 being widened in the near future - not something that the marketing department will be telling anyone about.

Cambridge could do so much better than this. In fact, on one location in the city back in the 1970s they did do much better. Take a look at Kings Hedges, just the other side of Kings Hedges Road from Arbury Park to see a housing estate designed for people. Or, if you don't want to live on an estate you can buy non-estate houses with bigger garden and rather more spread out nearby for similar sums.

Or, reflect on what Arbury Park is to become:

This photo was taken at "The Quills" in nearby Girton to show what a mess of cars, wheelie bins and bikes they have there. The houses have not all been started yet, let alone finished, but sadly, some people who've bought there are already selling their homes.

Arbury Park road works

Some aspects of the development at Arbury Park initially appear to be positive. For instance, the 3 m wide paths, which are the same width as recommended as a minimum by London's design guidelines for such shared use paths are much wider than many of those we have elsewhere in Cambridge.

However, the overall effect of this development is very negative for cyclists. Some cyclists are known to have given up riding on this road, and levels of cycling overall in this area appear to be dropping as a result of the cycle hostile way in which development is being carried on.

Update 12th August 2006

I've made a point of crossing Cambridge Road using the new crossings twice in the last few days and timing how long it takes. This is a crossing from B to A on the sketched version of the crossing:
It took me 2 minutes and 37 seconds the first time and 2 minutes and 42 seconds a few days later. The first crossing (from D) took more than 1 minute to turn green. The remainder of the time was taken walking between crossings and waiting for the other three lights to change colour. Quite a few crossings in Cambridge regularly take over a minute to allow pedestrians and cyclists across the road, but this one is now the champion so far as delaying non drivers is concerned.

Photos taken 5th August 2006

The road works are now virtually complete, and the road has its final form. I went out early in the morning to see what conditions are now like when the road isn't busy.

Despite some suggestions that there would be a more straightforward crossing of Cambridge Road than using 4 separate crossings, all four are required. Even though the individual delays were not too long (at 8 on a Saturday morning with little traffic) and the lights do try to go green in a synchronous fashion, it still took a minimum of 40 seconds for me to cross the road and maximum of over a minute depending on light phases. For a single crossing (which this should be), these would be long times. I suspect that at busy times of the day these delays get longer. One of the islands has been reduced in size a little, but it is still not terribly convenient.

A maze of crossings. The view from the southern side of the Kings Hedges Road / Cambridge Road junction.

The islands don't provide a lot of room for cyclists and pedestrians heading in both directions to be able to pass one another.

A nice shiny new Cyclists Dismount sign has appeared at the Histon Roundabout.

Dangers of heading from West to East along Kings Hedges Road

I decided to try riding from Histon to the Science Park using the path as far as exists and then going onto the road. The distance along the road is about 1 mile in length. The path only takes one roughly as far as the St. Catherine's Square junction of Kings Hedges Road where there is this awkward double right turn onto a 2 stage crossing:

It looks as if the idea is that cyclists should use the crossing in order to ride along St. Catherine's Square, but that involves quite a detour. So, we'll carry on. Approaching the crossing on the road you find it looks like this:

1st dangerous narrow gap opposite St. Catherine's Square.

Second dangerous narrow gap, this time combined with a slip road to the left.

Third dangerous narrow gap.

Fourth danger on the lead up to Arbury Road. Cyclists going straight on must be in either the second or third lane from the left. Those who wish to make a right turn at the next junction must be in the fourth lane at this junction. Note the sign on the post at the left side of the photo showing that this is actually a signed cycle route. It's part of a route to a secondary school.

See it before the widening here.

Fifth danger. Two lanes go into one at this narrow gap the other side of Arbury Road. So, expect drivers to race to be ahead of each other.

Another view showing the way the lanes merge together, with little room for cyclists when two cars are trying to occupy the same lane.

Sixth danger. Another island in the middle of the road.

Seventh danger. Another narrow gap just short of Buchan Street.

Eighth danger, another narrow gap just the other side of Buchan Street.

Ninth danger. This requires cyclists to pass a long slip road while looking out for vehicles trying also to negotiate the narrow gap with the bus in it.

Another view showing how narrow this is. A car can't safely pass a cyclist here, but it's wide enough that they might do so anyway.

Tenth danger the other side of the same junction. Another island.

11th danger. Where there aren't islands there is paint. Drivers could give more room here, but most won't cross the white lines.

12th danger. Another slip road combined with narrow gap.

13th danger. At the other side of this junction is another island which will keep cars trying to pass bikes close to those bikes.

14th danger. Another island.

Having seen so many narrow gaps within a mile, you may like to read a very good article about the dangers of pinch points.

It's much the same story in the opposite direction:

See also the Kings Hedges Road for Cyclists group. There are now videos showing how close cars come due to those pinchpoints.

Cyclists who might have been tempted by the St. Catherine's Square option would find themselves here. There is no way onto the shared use path opposite from this point.

Photos taken 27th June 2006

Heading from South to North on Cambridge Road...

This is the point where the old inadequate one way 1.1 m wide cycle lane ends and the new even more inadequate 1.5 m two way shared use path starts.

The short cut to the other path is blocked off, as was predicted before. Note how the narrow path is placed absolutely as close to the road as it could be, when there is room to the left of it and there could have been a gap.

This is where the path takes a sharp 90 degree bend and gives way to... virtually nothing. This is just a stupid way of designing such a junction. Better practice can be seen elsewhere, such as here in the Netherlands where a path already somewhat distant from the road smoothly moves further away so that a straight crossing can be made.

These barriers run alongside the path from here to the roundabout. The taller barriers part way along are opposite the junction of Cambridge Road with King's Hedges Road.  The barriers ensure that any cars which leave the road will run along the path causing the maximum possible number of injuries to cyclists and pedestrians on the path.

The sensible thing to have done with the barriers would be to follow the practice used in the Netherlands of putting the barriers between the road and path.

View of one of the new central reservations. Three crossings have to be used to get across this road. The dropped kerb on the extreme left of the photo is the position of the first crossing. The second runs from the dropped kerb roughly central in the photo to the second island which is under construction further to the right. Then the third crossing allows our intrepid pedestrians and cyclists to finally get to the other side of the road.

Of course, they may decide to drive instead, in which case there is just one traffic light to wait for and no smelly islands in the middle of the road to stand on.

The dropped kerb at the right in this shot is the same one as in the left on the shot above. This shows the way of crossing to continue walking or cycling on Cambridge Road into Cambridge. Again, you have to cross to the near island, then a second island, then eventually you get to cross to the other side of the road. Again if you are on the road you have just one light to wait for.

View in the opposite direction. These islands are large.

Photos taken 18th June 2006

I rode from Arbury Road to the Histon Junction and back, looking at the works as I went:

This is the new path on the east side of Arbury Road looking south. Note that it gets only as far as the entrance to St Laurence's School. Then there is a right angle bend for cyclists, even though there is nowhere for them to go if they cross the road, and a narrow footpath which isn't accessible in a convenient way due to the crossing controller box being in the way.

Surely it would have been best to have moved the controller. Otherwise, why not take the path behind the controller ? This shared use path really shouldn't stop at this point because at the other end of the front of St. Laurence's a path starts which could take cyclists all the way to the shops at Arbury Court or to Kings Hedges Primary School.

This shows Kings Hedges Road at the top, Arbury Road running top left to bottom right, the Meadows estate to the left of Arbury Road at the top, St. Laurence's School to the right of Arbury Road, St. Albans Road half way down on the left.

I modified this part of the plan to show existing shared use paths in green and ones which are required to make them link up with the new development's paths in red. You can see that the developers are putting in some of the required links, but not all. Without the paths providing a continuous and pleasant path to some place, it is difficult to see what they are for. The new development will largely be cut off from the rest of the city by the newly redesigned King's Hedges Road, as none of the proposed cycle or pedestrian exits require fewer than three toucan crossings to be used to cross the road, and there will not be enough of these crossings, particularly to the eastern end of the site.

They are also not building all of the paths originally shown on the plan in blue. The path running left to right at the top left corner of the plan is not being built until the guided bus is built.

Looking in the opposite direction, north along Arbury Road we see this forest of posts. There is no dropped kerb to allow cyclists on the path to access the Meadows estate, to the left from this photo. There also isn't anywhere for cyclists on the road to be able to join this path should they want to. Also note the metalwork in the path. It appears that a decision has been taken to put all the metalwork in the shared use path rather than on the road. This is dangerous because such metalwork, especially when wet, presents a much greater danger to those on two wheels than those on four. This is heightened when radii are smaller as they are on a path like this which takes the inside of the bend. Note that there is very little room for tarmac on top of the loose mixture. This surface may start off flat, but it soon will no longer be flat.

Given that this path doesn't allow access to or from the road, it need not have been built so close to it. To the right on this photo, especially a few metres further on, there is a considerable area of unused land which would have been pleasant for cyclists who could be further from the traffic for a while.

View in the opposite direction from the Arbury Road / Kings Hedges Road junction. Note the number of pieces of metalwork in the path. Whatever line you take around this corner you will inevitably run over at least one of these, which may well be slippery in the wet.

This is shot from the Arbury Road / Kings Hedges Road junction looking west. One piece of reasonably good news. The cycle lane is taking up a part of the very wide lane here. However, this isn't really good enough. Why not a mandatory cycle lane ? Given the enormous width, why not a cycle lane wider than the minimum of 1.5 m ? Also, it doesn't go very far...

After a few metres, the cycle lane merges into a bus lane. This shows how wide the cycle lane could have been for its entire length. For a bus lane shared with cyclists this is none too wide. Buses and taxis will have to stay behind cyclists due to not being able to overtake safely. Or, quite possibly they will force their way past putting cyclists into danger.

At the end of Kings Hedges Road, it appears that right turning cyclists are expected to ride between the blue signs with motorists. Because this road is now twice as wide and with a larger radius than before, those motorists are likely to be travelling faster. Due to cyclists having to go further to the right to avoid the island being built, the motor vehicles are also likely to pass closer.

All plans I've seen appear to expect cyclists to dismount at this point and use four toucan crossings to cross the road. This is taken from August 2004 plans, produced after criticism from the Safety Audit of January 2004, but apparently not taking that criticism into account.

If you turn left at the end of Kings Hedges Road in order to use the temporary crossing you find yourself heading for this nasty tight gap between cones.

And then this damaged ramp. Don't try to ride on the left half of it, as you'll surely come off your bike.

Look to the left, south along the west side of Cambridge Road and you see this. Note the Z cross section posts which will hold a safety barrier designed to stop motorists who leave the road from finding themselves in the ditch. This was criticised by the safety audit of January 2004 because putting the barrier on this side of the path means that motorists will instead of landing in the ditch be diverted along the path wiping out pedestrians and cyclists as they go.

This is not a minor issue. 200 pedestrians a year are killed on the pavement by drivers who have left the road. This compares with 0 per year killed on average by cyclists.

Much the same to the North, more "safety" barriers which put pedestrians and cyclists in more danger.

A little further north, more barriers. In this shot at the top right you can also see the barriers which cause the same danger on the other side of the road.

A temporary narrowing, but typical disregard for what pedestrians and cyclists actually need. It's also another opportunity to see just how thin this path is. It is nice and smooth now, but won't be for long.

For a little while it seemed like someone had seen sense and decided to put at least one of the traffic light posts to the side of the path and cantilever over the path to the correct position. However, someone else clearly decided that as this wasn't to the same standard of path obstruction as the rest of the works, it'd better be replaced. So, the traffic lights moved from one post to the other in the last few days.

Photo taken 12th June 2006

Yet again life has been made more dangerous for cyclists on the path or on the road along Kings Hedges Road. These obstructions are on a new path on the southern side of the road only between Buchan Street and Arbury Road.

Photo taken 8th May 2006

The islands cause cyclists on the road to be in danger due to cars passing too closely. This was criticised in the safety audit of the plans for this development carried out in January 2004. Also, the posts in the path narrow the already dangerous 1.5 m bidirectional shared use path, and are also too low, causing extra danger for anyone cycling on the path.

Photos taken 17th April 2006

These show the start of a bit of path on the west side of Cambridge Road south of the Kings Hedges Road junction. This path is just 1.5 m wide, which is hopelessly inadequate for a bidirectional shared use path. London's guidelines say that such a path should be 3 m wide as a minimum.

Note how this does not include the cut through to the left here to meet up with the well used NIAB track:

Also, carry on a little while and you find yourself at a dropped kerb at a peculiar angle trying to cross a side road. The on road cycle lane which used to exist (albeit a totally inadequate 1.1 m one) didn't require cyclists to give way to the side road. The path the other side of this junction is 3 m wide:

Google Maps image showing the old mandatory cycle lane (with parked car) and the cut through which is being lost marked by a yellow arrow. The detour for cyclists and pedestrians wanting to use the NIAB path is to go north to the junction and back again.

The image is also available here. You can scroll around and see other parts of the site before development:

Photo taken 11th March 2006

Despite there being masses of room to put the lamp posts on either side of the shared use path, they are instead being put on the path itself. This is a view east along Kings Hedges Road from the Cambridge Road / Kings Hedges Road junction.

More information

Cambridge Cycling Campaign newsletter has included articles about the problems caused by the development:

First article
Letter in reply from South Cambs District Council
Second Article
Third Article
For more pictures, see Des Philips excellent web page.

See also the Kings Hedges Road for Cyclists group. There are now videos showing how close cars come due to those pinchpoints.

Also, I have a number of earlier photos of the works being built and some highlights of other duff cycling provision in Cambridge.

Read The Truth about Cambridge which I wrote after four years living in the Netherlands and reflecting on how Cambridge had not changed at all when we visited the city.

My main web site.
Dutch Bike Bits - a shop specialising in tried and tested bicycle parts.

We organize cycling infrastructure study tours for people who have an interest in how the Netherlands achieved its world leading level of cycling.