‘Arbury Road closure in Cambridge would be social injustice’ say residents
Residents say closing Arbury Road in Cambridge to traffic would be a “social injustice” and “ruin the livelihoods of the shops and businesses trying to recover” from lockdowns.
Shutting the carriageway to motor vehicles, just north of the junction with Leys Road, is one of a number of temporary measures being proposed to aid the city’s green recovery following the pandemic.
The debate follows the furore over the closure on Mill Road bridge, which has now reopened to traffic pending a further study.
Other current proposals include reducing the number of lanes for cars at Mitcham’s Corner and Trumpington Street, closing Coldhams Lane to traffic crossing the railway line, with access to the industrial estate from the east only or, alternatively, speed-calming measures in Brampton Road and Cromwell Road.
There are also proposals for a modal filter in Chapel Street like those in place around the west of Cambridge on Storey’s Way and Nightingale Avenue.
At Mitcham’s Corner, the plans include reducing the number of lanes for cars and adding more space for cycles as well as “physical segregation with temporary water-filled barriers”.
In Arbury Road, residents argue that closing the main road would do little to support the green agenda and would instead force motorists to increase the length of their journeys.
They say this would create a “high traffic neighbourhood” just outside the newly-formed “low traffic neighbourhood”.
Linny Purr, of Arbury Road, told the Cambridge Independent: “The harm in Arbury Road will be damage to social solidarity by dividing the community and providing luxury for those privileged residents whose homes will increase in value, while the value of homes will decrease in the detour roads, and the already less affluent estates of Arbury and King’s Hedges, where there will be increased congestion, pollution and danger to local traders and the economy, to the elderly and disabled, and to traffic flow into Cambridge.
“Residential groups, businesses, services and the environment in the estates are to be collateral damage, expendable, when balanced against the ‘greater good’ of providing a virtually pollution-free area for better social distancing and cycling in a small part of Arbury Road and the uncertain future benefit of preventing commuting into Cambridge without having first tackled public transport infrastructure and capacity.”
The current consultation on the plans proposes no through access except for cycles to Arbury Road, from just after the turning for Leys Road when travelling from Milton Road. A ‘no through road’ sign would be sited on Arbury Road just after Campkin Road towards Milton Road.
Linny also raised serious concerns about the impact on Havenfield, a development of 68 retirement flats, whose residents rely on transport.
She explained: “Residents are predominantly 70 to 90 years old with protected characteristics. They suffer more infirmity, disabilities, dementia, and terminal illnesses than the general population and a proportion are receiving end-of-life care. The road closure will cut off these residents from direct access to Milton Road and so to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the main railway station, crossing the river into the city centre and to Newmarket Road, the Beehive, and to their homes.
“It will force many, who cannot do more cycling and walking and have no alternative but to use cars, and their families, doctors, district nurses, carers to do up to an extra four miles on a round trip.”
For those using taxis, Linny says, this could cost an additional £5.20.
Cambridgeshire County Council has around £1.6m in active travel funding for projects across the county – and says it is keen to “prioritise changes where there is support across local communities”.
It says that schemes were put forward by local members, parish councils and stakeholders in response to a call out in 2020.
But Linny says the decision was based on “distorted information” from those with “vested interests”.
And Roman Kiszka, who also lives in Arbury Road, added: “This is a main road. Why would you cut it in half?”
Roman said he was “perturbed” that the council is pushing this through and believes it is doing a consultation because it has been told to by the government.
“They’re going through the motions as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “I’m just very suspicious that the consultation is a sham, so they can tick the box and say we did a consultation because we had a website or we said this.
“They’re playing games when they say there’s a consultation. There’s no leaflets or posters through peoples’ doors and nothing posted on any telegraph poles.”
He also pointed out that the consultation is being held during the summer when many people are away.
Roman, who is a cyclist, pointed out that there were other options to improve cycling in Arbury Road, including running cycle lanes down the full length of it.
Linny pointed to the designated cycleway from North Cambridge Academy School to Milton Road.
The county council says it has publicised the consultation via councillors, stakeholders, on the authority’s website as well as the ConsultCambs portal, via social media channels and through a press release to local media.
It says it is no longer considered best practice by the Consultation Institute to drop questionnaires door-to-door although paper copies are available on request. Virtual meetings can also be held with the team, but these cannot be in person due to Covid.
Linny says many residents living in Havenfield do not have access to the internet.
However, supporters pointed out the residents’ association had surveyed those on the eastern end of Arbury Road and its adjoining cul de sacs and found that deterring through traffic was the most popular response to improving the safety of pedestrian and cyclists, and for reducing pollution and congestion.
Colin McGerty, who was a city councillor until he stood down at the May elections, said: “As councillor, residents of Arbury Road that contacted me complained of being left out of these kind of improvements, that seemed focused on ‘the posh bit of town’. They were in favour of reducing traffic and air pollution near their homes.”
The county council is inviting the public to review the ideas and share their views through a short survey.
The consultation will run through to August 24. Feedback will help councillors prioritise which projects will be taken forward.
The county council’s executive director of place and economy, Steve Cox, said: “Last year, councillors and communities suggested a range of locations – including Arbury Road – where temporary changes could be made to encourage more cycling and walking.
“Our officers have looked at the proposals and drawn up some potential designs – now we’re asking for the public’s feedback to let us know what they would like to see put in place. No decisions have been taken and due to funding constraints we may not be able to pursue all of the potential ideas but we’re keen to prioritise changes where there is support across local communities.
“I’d encourage everyone to have their say via the survey by August 24 as it will help councillors decide what to do and where changes to benefit pedestrians and cyclists are most needed.”
Any projects which go ahead will be subject to further stakeholder engagement and public consultation either prior to installation as part of a Traffic Regulation Order or during any trial scheme, if implemented under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order.
Such debates could be played out across the city in September, when the Greater Cambridge Partnership delivers its city access strategy, which could lead to more road closures designed to relieve congestion, aid cycling and walking, and encourage public transport use.
Visit consultcambs.uk.engagementhq.com/cats to respond, ask questions and request paper versions of the survey via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 045 5212.
- Look out for further coverage of this proposal, and the other projects, in the Cambridge Independent, out from August 18.