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Cambridge’s £10.6m Histon Road scheme ‘is too narrow’

It was part of a £10.6million upgrade, designed to improve transport for all, but residents say buses are rarely using the dedicated bus lane on Histon Road in Cambridge.

Histon Road bus lanes not being used properly . Picture: Keith Heppell. (54024466)
Histon Road bus lanes not being used properly . Picture: Keith Heppell. (54024466)

They believe bus drivers are avoiding it because the new pavements are forcing pedestrians into the cycle lane, with cyclists then pushed out into the bus lane.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) scheme for Histon Road created a dedicated inbound bus lane, floating bus stops, widened existing cycle lanes and added new ones to encourage more people to walk, cycle or take the bus in a bid to cut congestion and improve air quality.

The GCP says the bus lane is designed to help keep journey times reliable during peak times and when there is significant congestion.

But Lilian Rundblad, of Histon Road Residents’ Association, told the Cambridge Independent: “The buses prefer to go in the main carriageway so they can get further away from the cyclists.

“All of our lanes are not up to standard –they’re too narrow. They are so narrow that they are forced into the cycle lane.”

Lilian explained that to introduce the bus lane, the pavements had to be reduced to 0.9 metres in some sections – which she said is “too narrow if you have a pram or a wheelchair” – and the cycle lane goes down to 1.25m. This is particularly a problem around the junction with Roseford Road.

The Department for Transport does not set out a minimum width for pavements, but disability groups say good practice is to provide pavements of two metres in order to allow two wheelchairs to pass side by side.

Where this is not possible, it should be 1.5m and only in exceptional circumstances should it be a minimum of one metre.

Cambridge cycling campaign Camcycle has been raising concerns about the narrow pavements in some sections of the Histon Road scheme for more than three years, but says these were dismissed.

At the key decision-making GCP executive board meeting on December 6, 2018, the group submitted the following public statement and question: “Along Histon Road, the southernmost 160 metres of the proposed bus lane pinches the footway down to an intolerable 1.4m near Roseford Road. This is obviously dangerous for pedestrians. It is also dangerous for people cycling because drivers must emerge from nearly-blind driveways into the cycle lane. Would you direct the officers to ensure that the footways and cycle lanes are of safe and ample width, in this case by replacing the problematic southernmost third of the proposed bus lane, in order to increase the overall benefits of the scheme and fix dangerous conditions for walking and cycling?”

Camcycle’s Matthew Danish said: “We received the following response from the GCP: ‘The aim is to provide 1.8m footways where possible and only deviate below this for very short lengths at pinch points.’

“The executive board then voted to proceed with the Histon Road scheme design, regardless of our objection, and the outcome is the narrow pavements that we see today.”

A spokesperson for Stagecoach East said: “Our drivers are very aware of cyclists in cycle lanes and on roads and receive regular training on cyclist awareness.

“We haven’t heard anything specifically about incidents involving cyclists on Histon Road, or about drivers avoiding using the cycle lane there.”

A GCP spokesperson said: “The Histon Road project is already providing significantly improved active travel and bus journeys for people every day – with the delivery of an innovative CYCLOPS junction, floating bus stops, 8,000 square metres of new cycle lanes, a new inbound bus lane and other safety upgrades.

“The inbound bus lane is designed to help buses keep to reliable journey times during peak hours when there is significant traffic congestion. If there is no congestion on the road then bus drivers can use either the bus lane or the main carriageway.

“The Histon Road scheme has been constructed to meet statutory design requirements. The scheme will undergo a final road safety audit to ensure these requirements have been met.”

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