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Arjuna calls Mill Road scheme ‘potential disaster zone for traffic and pedestrians alike’

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Arjuna Wholefoods delivery van on the pavement
Arjuna Wholefoods delivery van on the pavement

Arjuna Wholefoods has entered the discussion on the new traffic arrangements on Mill Road - by warning of “a potential disaster zone for traffic and pedestrians alike”.

Dave Jarvis, co-director at the well-established food and drinks retailer, says that the council’s implementation of ETROs – experimental traffic regulation orders - as part of a comprehensive package of changes to pedestrianise shopping vicinities across the city is proving problematic, with ‘traffic islands’ being installed. but no signage or traffic lights as yet.

“The placing of several ‘traffic islands’ along the road is making it a potential disaster zone for traffic and pedestrians alike,” says Mr Jarvis. “Traders’ vans can’t park on the road and are having to encroach further on to the pavements to avoid collisions, making it a potentially dangerous squeeze for pedestrians. The question also arises: what are the traffic islands for? If they are proposed to be places for people to sit and relax – such as the ones built last summer on the Romsey side of the bridge – it seems very odd: who would want to sit there with all the traffic flowing past?

“Sadly we’re not at all optimistic as they really haven’t thought this through. The scheme is expected to last 18 months. In environmental terms, in the interim, how will long detours via neighbouring streets benefit anyone? Surely this is just pushing the traffic onto neighbouring roads and creating more pollution?”

Mr Jarvis is also concerned that Mill Road is being used as a test for the ETRO strategy.

“Surely if improving the environment is the aim then addressing traffic in the city as a whole should be the target, not using Mill Road as a testbed. Why should Mill Road traders and residents be used as guinea pigs, their lives made more difficult for an experimental period of time?”

Mr Jarvis believes the scheme – which allows cars to travel up to the bridge but not over it – should be cancelled.

“So far there’s only bollards etc on the ground so it is not too late for the authorities to change their mind and offer a period of consultation instead of what could be a very costly 18 months to the public purse: what if at the end of the proposed period of time the answer is to dig up all they’ve put down? What a waste of time and money which could have been better spend looking for a long term solution as proposed by the community as a whole.”

Mill Road traffic islands are causing problems. Picture: Arjuna Wholefoods
Mill Road traffic islands are causing problems. Picture: Arjuna Wholefoods

The furore has seen opinion split on the merits and demerits of the changes.

One local resident contacted to the Cambridge Independent to say: “I am actually quite pleased that Mill Road bridge is closed to cars. I am a very nervous cyclist – I have a trike now – and it has been bliss to see the reduction in cars on the road. I think I will not be able to catch the number 2 bus from Perne Road in the near future as the bus is almost always going to be full, with a limit on numbers, from its start at the hospital. I feel the cycle bridge is totally out of the question. The cycle bridge – or as it should be called the Tony Carter Bridge – must be a trap for all airborne diseases known to mankind. I can’t remember it ever being cleaned!

“What is fascinating is that ‘we’ are still complaining about cars, vans and taxis parking on the pavements on Mill Road or slightly off the pavement. It still goes on!”

The ‘Tony Carter bridge’, also known as the railway cycle bridge, links Rustat Road to Devonshire Road and crosses the railway line at the northern end of Cambridge station. It was opened in 1989 and once held the Guinness World Record as the longest covered cycle bridge anywhere. Tony Carter was a Labour councillor at the time the bridge was opened in 1989.

Road signs and traffic lights have yet to be installed on Mill Road, causing confusion, including delivery vans parking on pavements
Road signs and traffic lights have yet to be installed on Mill Road, causing confusion, including delivery vans parking on pavements

Cycling campaign organisation Camcycle and Extinction Rebellion support the changes. Calling the situation a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”, Extinction Rebellion Cambridge says: “The plans include the closure of Mill Road Bridge to private motor vehicles, a step that many residents have requested for some time. Currently, it is impossible to socially distance while walking or cycling down the road, especially once on the bridge, yet doing so is crucial to containing the coronavirus pandemic.”

Mill Road Traders has been most vocal in protesting the development, saying: “We feel betrayed by them [the county council] – they have treated us like children by not consulting us about the bridge closure.”

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner has called the scheme “ill thought out”.

“The whole idea that this is somehow a green initiative is illusory,” concludes Mr Jarvis. “By denying a few car drivers access to Mill Road you are not preventing them coming into or out of Cambridge merely diverting them and in practice increasing pollution to neighbouring roads.”

The ETRO changes are experimental and can be adjusted at any point during the 18-month trial. Feedback can be offered to the council via policyandregulation@cambridgeshire.gov.uk.

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