GCP’s Barton Greenway plans are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, say Camcycle and Green councillor
Residents have reacted with alarm to work beginning on a new cycle path “superhighway” which they fear will put pedestrians and cyclists in conflict and damage the character of their neighbourhood.
The Barton Greenway is a Greater Cambridge Partnership project to build a 3m-wide red Tarmac path to enable people from villages outside Cambridge to travel into the city by bike or on foot.
But some people who live on Barton Road in Newnham - along which the new path will run - say they were unaware of the project until roadworks started and feel they were not properly consulted.
Cambridge’s cycling charity Camcycle is also unhappy with the design of the new greenway, which it says will put pedestrians in conflict with cyclists.
Paul Handy, who lives on Barton Road, organised a community meeting about the project, held at Newnham Social Club last Tuesday.
He said: “All of the focus up to this point has been around getting commuters from outside of Cambridge in on an agenda associated with cycling or less car use, which is not a bad thing. We are not against that. But there has been little or no consideration for the impact on local residents of these plans, which we are up in arms about. As far as local residents are concerned, we are an inconvenience. And that’s just not appropriate.
“The mature green planting on Barton Road up against the boundaries of houses in some cases has been there for 90 years and it is going to be ripped up.
“There is also inadequate provision for pedestrians in the proposals and the majority usage at the moment of Barton Road is actually pedestrians, it’s not cyclists.
“The pathway is far too narrow. It’s shoved in against the boundaries of the houses. You can’t even get two prams past each other. There’s a real issue with introducing a culture whereby cyclists have the right of way over everything else. We already have an issue with cyclists behaving incorrectly and not in line with the Highway Code. If you introduce a greenway where everything has to stop for a cyclist, unfortunately, pedestrians are just going to get hurt.”
He added that he has been unable to see final plans for the greenway or get answers about when the works will take place, although they are rumoured to begin in August.
“Nobody seems capable of telling us where we are, what’s been agreed, what hasn’t been agreed, how they’re managing it, how they’re controlling it. Everybody is ‘Oh, we’re not there yet. We’re gonna have to get back to you.’ Well, quite frankly. It’s appalling.
“I’m also concerned that all this work is being delegated to an unelected body - the GCP - that appears to have extraordinary powers to undertake works which are materially impacting our city.”
City councillor Jean Glasberg (Green, Newnham) is supporting residents and raised concerns about the scheme being fast tracked when work began on the Barton Road junction without warning.
She said: “At the meeting on February 16, the GCP approved the Barton Greenway, and part of this - the Barton Road junction - was fast-tracked three weeks later by the county council for implementation in April.
”Presentations of the plans for the Barton Greenway were held in Barton and Grantchester, but not in Newnham, and so Newnham residents do not feel they have been properly consulted. Concerns have been raised by many residents about aspects of the work that is now taking place at the junction of Barton Road and Grantchester Street, especially the impact on pedestrians as the northern section of the route, from the city boundary along Barton Road, has a footpath that is only 1.5m wide.
“This is a key pedestrian route at all times of the day, but it is particularly busy during the morning school run with people going in different directions to the many schools and nurseries in the area.
“At the moment there is a shared cycleway and footpath which works well and people cycle slowly and carefuly there. But if you build this wide cycling superhighway then cyclists will, rightly, expect to be able to cycle down it fast and that will put pedestrians at risk.”
She added that work on the junction had placed a crossing between Hardwick Street and Derby Street, which is not where people want to cross. She called the crossing “ill-thought out and dangerous due to lack of adjacent pavement and crossing of cycle track”.
“The workmen have actually put a temporary crossing where everyone does normally cross - if they can see this why have the highway planners put the crossing elsewhere?”.
She called on the GCP joint assembly to pause the greenway plans until there has been “a good consultation with local people” and that pedestrians are placed at the top of the road hierarchy in the plans.
Josh Grantham, from Camcycle, said the charity sent a consultation response to the GCP raising concerns that pedestrians were not being prioritised by the scheme.
Camcycle has suggested the GCP should speak with Gonville & Caius College about purchasing a strip of land from its sports field adjacent to the road to allow the footpath to be widened.
Josh said: “We share the same view as Cllr Glasberg that what’s coming forward won’t work for pedestrians or cyclists because it fails to really recognise the road hierarchy or understand what people want to do in that area.
“At the entrance to Lammas Land there’s a footway and the cycle track being proposed. The cycle track is on the desire line of where pedestrians want to walk. So it is going to create a tension hotspot between pedestrians and cyclists. People will 100 per cent walk on the new cycle path. It is not high quality infrastructure that matches what people want to do. It’s just going to create conflict.”
He added that Camcycle disagreed with the design for the Barton Road greenway because “a lot of improvements come at the expense of people walking, whereas the greenways project should be both improving both walking and cycling”.
Camcycle suggests that instead of an extra wide cycle path that forces pedestrians onto a narrow 1.5m footpath and requires green verges to be ripped out, one lane of the cycle path provision should be built on the road.
“It would improve the provision for people walking and cycling,but effectively what’s been consulted on doesn’t do any of that,” he said.
Camcycle submitted detailed suggestions for improvements for the greenway plans but, according to Josh, these have been ignored.
A GCP spokesperson said: “The greenways are a new network of active travel routes being developed by the GCP to link surrounding towns and villages to Cambridge to make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle to work, school and to meet friends. The 12 routes were approved by our executive board in 2020 and have been through three rounds of extensive public consultation and engagement.
“Improvements to Barton Road – including the widening of the cycle path and reconfiguration of junctions with wider verges – was supported by 82 per cent of respondents to a public consultation in 2018. We also heard the thoughts of the public on the Barton Greenway in autumn last year as part of a rolling programme of public engagement to enable people to help shape the look and feel of each route.
“Work on the Barton Greenway is due to begin later this summer. We continue to work with stakeholders and the county council to ensure we deliver better active travel links to encourage more people to walk and cycle around Greater Cambridge.”