Leaked report reveals majority verdict on closure of Mill Road bridge in Cambridge to private motor vehicles
A leaked draft report on the consultation about the future of Mill Road in Cambridge reveals that most people who responded want the bridge closed to cars again.
A final version of the report is set to be published on Monday (July 4) ahead of a Cambridgeshire County Council highways and transport committee meeting on July 12.
The Cambridge Independent has seen a draft of the paper, called Mill Road Spring 2022 Consultation: Summary Report of Consultation Findings.
When published next week, the council report is expected to say that most people would like Mill Road bridge closed to traffic, except for buses, bicycles and possibly taxis and Blue Badge drivers.
The paper was produced by Cambridgeshire Research Group, which is the brand name for Cambridgeshire County Council’s research function based within its Business Intelligence Service. The draft does not include recommendations to the county council.
Mill Road bridge was closed to private vehicles from June 2020 to early August 2021 as part of measures by Cambridgeshire County Council to help people walking and cycling to maintain social distancing following the outbreak of Covid-19.
This led to businesses saying they had been badly affected by the closure and fears were raised that people with disabilities were being forced to take longer routes on their journeys as a result of the closure.
But many others, especially cyclists and pedestrians, welcomed the quieter street and cleaner air.
The bridge closure caused deep divisions in the Mill Road community and protests were held demanding for it to be reopened to businesses as well as people with disabilities. The county council’s highways and transport committee voted, by a single casting vote in July 2021, to reopen the bridge to traffic and asked the Greater Cambridge Partnership in November 2021 to incorporate the scheme as part of the City Access programme and hold a consultation.
A draft version of the report on that consultation says that the majority of respondents supported:
- Restricting motor vehicles from crossing Mill Road bridge - 72 per cent
- Possible allowances for buses, taxis and drivers with disabilities and/ or mobility needs - 70 per cent
Cyclists were well-represented in the survey, with the majority of people who responded saying they travelled on Mill Road weekly or daily using a cycle (62 per cent). Most respondents indicated they travel on Mill Road from ‘2-3 times a week’ (57 per cent) or ‘daily’ (26 per cent) by ‘walking’.
While a majority of respondents said they travelled on Mill Road as a car driver either ‘occasionally’ (57 per cent) or ‘2-3 times a week’ (29 per cent), more than a third (35 per cent) of respondents indicated they ‘never’ drove on Mill Road and 45 per cent said they never travelled as a car passenger on the street.
The draft reveals that the most common areas of discussion in the survey responses were that:
- closing Mill Road to motorised traffic would benefit residents, businesses and cycling/pedestrian safety. However, exemptions were felt to be needed for those with disabilities, businesses, buses, and residents.
- motorised traffic parking on pavements and speeding were responsible for safety and congestion issues on Mill Road, with improved enforcement of rules required to curb this behaviour.
- improvements to the width and general maintenance of the paths were needed to provide space and safety increases for pedestrians, particularly those using mobility aids.
Most people who said they were in favour of closing the bridge to traffic again felt that the previous closure resulted in Mill Road being safer for cyclists and pedestrians, made it more of a “destination for shopping and leisure”, with reduced congestion and subsequent air or noise pollution.
The majority of these respondents felt that the closure should not apply to buses, emergency vehicles, and those with disabilities but that it should apply to taxis as these respondents’ felt taxis were responsible for a notable amount of speeding, pavement parking, and noise/air pollution.
On the other hand, concerns were raised by some respondents that closing Mill Road to motorised traffic would cause increased congestion on nearby streets and negatively impact on businesses and residents in the area. Alternative suggestions included making restrictions time-limited or making Mill Road a one-way street for motorised traffic.
Some respondents to the survey who discussed the bridge closure in their comments were concerned restrictions on motorised traffic would negatively impact on businesses, as they would lose “through traffic” advertising and business. These respondents indicated that previous bridge closures had lowered sales and shut down businesses.
Some of those opposed to the bridge closure felt that more city-wide improvements were needed to active travel and public transport accessibility, particularly for those travelling to/from outside Cambridge city, with city-wide restrictions on motorised traffic needed to negate the movement of congestion elsewhere
The draft report says that it “summarises the core 1,986 online and written responses to the consultation survey and the 70 additional written responses received”.
Of those who answered a question about their relationship to Mill Road, half indicated they ‘Live on a street directly off Mill Road’ (50 per cent). Meanwhile, under a third of respondents indicated they ‘visit Mill Road (for shopping, leisure, religious purposes, medical appointments, etc)’ (30 per cent).
More responses were from people who lived, worked or had a business on the Romsey side of the bridge (51 per cent) compared with under a third who said they were from the Petersfield side (Mill Road bridge to Parker’s Piece) (32 per cent).
County council officers are expected to use the results of the survey to inform a recommendation to councillors about future plans for Mill Road.