Could new powers bring twist to Mill Road debate?
Powers to enable local authorities to better accommodate disabled drivers into traffic management schemes will be extended to Cambridgeshire in December – and campaigners believe that could have a bearing on the future for Mill Road bridge.
The Traffic Management Act was passed in 2004, but some of the elements of Part 6 which allow the civil enforcement of moving traffic offences were not enabled outside London.
The government has now confirmed that these powers will be extended to local authorities in England at the end of the year.
The news has been welcomed by cycling charity Camcycle which has campaigned for the full implementation of the act.
Under the new elements, local authorities will be able to exercise some powers that are currently the exclusive responsibility of the police.
It will also mean that measures designed to prioritise access for residents and those walking, cycling and travelling by bus can be tailored by councils with exemptions appropriate to each neighbourhood.
Councils will be able to use camera-based enforcement to keep bus and cycle lanes clear of parked cars and improve traffic flow at yellow-box junctions and at locations with banned turns. They will also have more flexibility when designing schemes to prioritise sustainable transport such as bus gates, school streets (which help children walk and cycle to school safely) and other temporary or permanent traffic filters.
Camcycle pointed out that in Downing Street before recent changes – including the installation of double yellow lines – delivery drivers often blocked the cycleway throughout the day, causing danger and delay to other users of the narrow street.
“The new powers could make it possible to ensure that space for cycling – including mandatory cycle lanes and advanced stop boxes – is kept free for riders of all ages and abilities,” the charity said.
It continued: “We also welcome the fact that Part 6 will give much-needed flexibility to councils and help them more successfully design traffic filters such as bus gates and school streets in collaboration with local communities.”
Cambridgeshire County Council’s highways and transport committee voted last month to reopen Mill Road to cars and other private vehicles, with a full review of future options to be undertaken.
It took a casting vote from the chair, Labour’s Cllr Gerri Bird, to make the decision: she said she had been particularly concerned about disabled access.
The decision followed months of wrangling and debate over the experimental traffic regulation order (ETRO) imposed in June 2020 to encourage social distancing during the pandemic. That ETRO meant only pedestrians, cyclists and buses were able to use the bridge.
The Camcycle statement added: “Although we strongly supported the Mill Road scheme, we were one of the groups calling for improvements to access for those with disabilities. We believe this will be much easier to implement from December onwards.
“In fact, the low-traffic neighbourhood in Dulwich Village, London (where authorities already have the appropriate enforcement powers) was adapted in April this year to improve access for blue badge holders. Similar exemptions could be applied to forthcoming schemes in Cambridgeshire including those proposed for Arbury Road, Coldhams Lane and Rustat Road, and a new design for Mill Road based on the latest consultation with the community.
“Evidence from London has also shown that enabling councils to enforce traffic offences has the benefit of a reduced workload for police. With cycle theft a major concern to many of our members and supporters, Camcycle welcomes the freeing up of police time for priorities other than local traffic management.
“We’ve waited 17 years for this part of the act to be enabled and welcome the benefits it will bring to road users across Cambridge.”
The announcement of the enablement of Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act was trailed in June 2021 at the Traffex transport event and confirmed in Gear Change: One Year On, the government’s latest report on cycling, which was published in July.
David Renard, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils have been calling for powers to make our roads safer and less congested for all road users. Powers to enforce against moving traffic offences, such as banned turns, weight-restricted roads and yellow box junctions will help to keep local roads moving and make our air cleaner.
“It is good news that councils are being given these new responsibilities and it is important that access to these powers is made as simple as possible.”