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Biggest shake-up of Cambridge road network for 40 years

The biggest overhaul of Cambridge’s roads for decades is being proposed to create a major shift away from car use and ban through trips “on many parts of the network”.

Transport bosses are exploring the dramatic shift away from car use to “improve public transport and active travel” and “reduce traffic and vehicle emissions”.

Traffic in Arbury Road. Picture: Arbury Road East Residents' Association (54979258)
Traffic in Arbury Road. Picture: Arbury Road East Residents' Association (54979258)

A road network hierarchy review could lead to pedestrians given priority in further parts of the city centre, with motorised access limited to certain times of the day and “to essential need”. Vehicle movements would instead be restricted to the city’s main distributor roads.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s joint assembly considered the initial ideas on developing a review of the city’s road network on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council at a meeting yesterday (Thursday, February 17).

The current road classification has been in place since the 1980s and a review offers the chance to shake up how people move around the city.

It forms part of the GCP’s City Access plans, which also includes improvements to the bus service as well as the introduction of road charging.

The new hierarchy would also need to be reflected in the new Local Transport and Connectivity Plan from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority which is due to go out to public consultation later in the spring after work was delayed.

A report to yesterday’s meeting produced by the GCP’s director of transport Peter Blake says: “The GCP’s public transport and city access strategy sits at the heart of the City Deal, aiming to address some of the major pressures on the local economy by reducing congestion and pollution, and by providing people with better, healthier and more sustainable options for their journeys.

“Developing a new road network hierarchy for Cambridge presents an opportunity to make better use of our road space to increase the number of journeys made by public and active transport.

“Alongside wider city access work streams, it seeks to improve bus journey times and reliability, facilitate more frequent services and create a better, safer environment for people walking, cycling and using other active travel modes.”

The operational principles of a new draft network would see priority access given across the network for walking and cycling along with “extensive network permeability” for bus services, which include school and community transport.

All car trips would have the same level of network accessibility whether by private car or taxi with none given access through network modal filtering points.

Peter Blake GCP Transport Director. Picture: Keith Heppell
Peter Blake GCP Transport Director. Picture: Keith Heppell

Commercial vehicles and coaches would be routed to maximise the use of distributor roads and minimise the use of other streets in the network.

There would be exceptions for vehicles used by blue badge holders “on a site-by-site basis on application”. As well streets that would ban vehicles at certain times of the day could also be used by blue badge holders on application.

The GCP’s Citizens Assembly previously identified the need to improve public transport, prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, and was strongly in favour of road closures.

Cambridge City Council’s Making Space for People vision document advocates making central Cambridge more ‘people focused’ by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles to facilitate an increased area of pedestrian priority and create the right conditions for reimagining streets and spaces.

The report also references work being undertaken elsewhere in the UK, including the traffic cells initiative being developed by Birmingham City Council which seeks to prioritise active travel and public transport access in its city centre.

It also points to the London Borough of Waltham Forest who are at the forefront of developing low traffic neighbourhoods, and Ljubljana in Slovenia where motor vehicles access is only allowed under permit conditions during a few hours early in the day

Under draft proposals, which are set to form part of a public consultation in the summer if approved but could be subject to change, the principal distributor network would be made up of the main arterial roads and the designated ring road within the city (A1134/A1303).

Where space permits, these roads provide some level of segregation of pedal cyclists and buses from general motorised traffic by the provision of bus and/or cycle lanes.

“Any designated on-street parking should provide for cyclists, local servicing and blue badge requirements as a priority with any general car parking restricted to layby or off-carriageway spaces and limited to short duration stays,” the report says.

These roads would generally be subject to a speed limit of 30 mph or 20mph where the road width or layout would warrant a lower limit.

There would then be a network of ‘area access streets’ and ‘local access streets’ which provide the next level of network movement facilitating access to, from and within areas of the city.


Through vehicle movements would be banned on these roads other than on public transport and active travel modes. These roads would “generally be subject to a speed limit of 20 mph” says the report.

The draft map published in the report to yesterday’s meeting shows that on these ‘area access streets’ which include could roads such as Hills Road, East Road, Coldhams Lane, Victoria Avenue, Arbury Road and King’s Hedges Road, there would be cycle lanes where possible and crossing for pedestrians at all major junctions.

This would also be the case for ‘local access streets’ which could include roads such as Carlton Way, Bridge Street, Jesus Lane, Emmanuel Road, Sidgwick Avenue and West Road.

Parking on these streets would be limited to spaces for cycles, ‘local servicing’ and blue badge holders as a priority with any general car parking limited to short duration stays.

“Parking for local residents should only be considered where no alternative locations exist in neighbouring streets,” the report says.

The final set of roads designated in the draft road network map are ‘civic streets’ within the city centre, which could include Regent Street, Sidney Street, St Andrew’s Street, St John’s Street, Trinity Street, King’s Parade and Hobsons Street, and where motor vehicle access is limited to essential residential and servicing needs and those with limited mobility, often managed by time of day.

“These routes would not normally form part of the public transport network although managed access for scheduled services may be permitted to provide links with the wider network of local bus services,” the report adds.

A review could also lead to big changes for taxi services as the work would look at what level of access “would be appropriate”.

Currently taxis are able to drive in all bus lanes and bus gates in the city as well as in some access restricted streets like St Andrew’s Street – a practice dating back to the 1990s according to the report.

Coldhams Lane bridge which is part of the suggested traffic controls. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54979276)
Coldhams Lane bridge which is part of the suggested traffic controls. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54979276)

A review would also examine whether the bus interchange, which is currently concentrated in St Andrews Street/Emmanuel Street/Drummer, is still appropriate given that pre-pandemic demand exceeded capacity and there is no scope for increasing stop capacity.

“Potentially, displacing bus and taxi movements away from some sensitive streets and a focus on consolidating deliveries offers an opportunity to expand the extent of pedestrian and cycling priority streets where motor vehicle access would be restricted by time of day and limited to essential needs,” the report reveals.

The review would identify the key principles for the network and define the street categories, ahead of the development of a new road hierarchy plan.

A public consultation would take place this summer should the GCP executive board agree at its meeting in March. Further work will also need to take place on the impact of any potential changes on other roads in the network.

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