A lifeline for blue badge holders on Mill Road bridge?
Experimental traffic regulation orders - ETROs are widely used in the county’s recently announced temporary cycle and pedestrian schemes including the one that has barred cars from crossing Mill Road bridge - have considerable flexibility. They can be adapted quickly where problems occur - even before the first six-month review of the new experimental travel arrangements takes place. This may prove useful to those who have sensitivities about not being able to drive the full length of Mill Road.
Where there are safety concerns then changes can be agreed within seven days and extra modifications made within another seven days, according to Matthew Danish, a trustee of Cambridge Cycling Campaign, who told the Cambridge Independent: “The law allows for experimental traffic regulation orders to be modified at any time within that six-month consultation period.”
This might mean that blue badge holders could get clearance to cross Mill Road bridge even before the end of the first six-month period for the new travel arrangements.
This week has seen an increased appreciation of the scale of the measures, with around 90 new modifications being implemented or due to be implemented.
One of the first to be put in place is on Mill Road, a usually busy shopping street close to the city centre. In a Cambridge Independent poll which asked how the new pedestrian schemes would affect shopping habits 50 per cent said they would visit Mill Road less often, 36 per cent said they would visit more often and 14 per cent said it would not affect their visits.
One point of comparison has been last year’s closure of Mill Road bridge to enable rail service improvements, but Councillor Linda Jones of Petersfield ward says that the circumstances of last summer’s closure of Mill Road bridge while rail improvement work went on was not an accurate reflection of how this year’s scheme would work.
“Gas works on the pavements caused major disruption,” she said, “and the fire at the electrical store shut down even more of the road. To attract people back to Mill Road this summer we need to make it feel safe to walk and cycle. A lot of older people have also said that the pavements have deteriorated badly, with broken paving stones and potholes not repaired, so that, with social distancing, queuing for shopping and the traffic - it all makes people nervous.”
This week both Camcycle and Extinction Rebellion called for blue badge holders to be able to cross Mill Road bridge. Cambridgeshire County Council recommends that the blue badge holders and their representatives and carers (where relevant) need to apply via the feedback mechanism for the ETROs, and that would be considered in six months, when the first period of the 18-month experimental project ends and adjustments can be made.
Speaking to the Cambridge Independent, a county council spokesperson said: “Looking into the detail of the technicalities isn’t something we’d want to do at this stage, what we’ll do is wait for the feedback to come in and then work from there.
“It’s an experimental road traffic situation. If we get the feedback through that will be considered. We’d have to see if organisations including Mill Road Traders and Camcycle provide the feedback, so it’s not something we can speculate on at this time.”
There is another component to the blue badge story which presents a technical challenge for the automatic number plate recognition system.
“Blue badges belong to individuals, regardless of whether they are a car drivers or not,” says blue badge holder Suzanne Morris. “They can be used by friends and relatives when giving the blue badge holder a lift etc. So they aren’t tied to a car, but an individual, so not sure how easy access would be given, or if a barrier would be needed, like a car park entrance, but that would drive bus drivers mad. Surely there is an answer with all the technology there is about?!
“I guess it all depends on where the ‘buses-only’ section would start. Blue badges are access to facilities and parking-related, as far as I know, not a green light to drive through town in less time than everyone else.”