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What’s the traffic like in Cambridge? How sensors show changing car and cycle use



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By Edward Leigh

Traffic patterns look significantly different from a year ago.

Daily car trips in Cambridge are still mostly below January levels: Perne Road, East Road, Hills Road and Cherry Hinton Road are 12-13 per cent lower; Milton Road, 10 per cent; and Coldhams Lane, 8 per cent. Station Road is down 31 per cent and Tenison Road 49 per cent, mostly explained by fewer station pick-ups/drop-offs. However, traffic on Newmarket Road is up during the week. Evening peak flows are, in most cases, higher than last year on Tuesdays and Fridays. And on all days, it appears people return home earlier.

Car traffic is down 60 per cent at the Parkside end of Mill Road, and 45 per cent at the east end, owing to reduced station traffic and the closure of the bridge to general motor traffic. That looks to have caused a noticeable uptick in traffic on Station Road, Hills Road and Cherry Hinton Road.

The Grand Arcade and Grafton car parks are a little more heavily used than this time last year. Park Street is not quite so busy, and there’s no data from Queen Anne Terrace. The big change though is that Park & Rides are seeing roughly a third the usage of this time last year. Some of that reduction will be drivers parking at public or employer car parks in the city instead.

Cycle traffic is much lower everywhere: 35 per cent down on Hills Road and 23-24 per cent on Milton Road, Cherry Hinton Road and East Road. It’s 41 per cent down at the Parkside end of Mill Road, but almost unchanged at the eastern end, and 7-9 per cent higher on Coldhams Lane and Vinery Road. Pedestrian and cycle traffic over the cycle/footbridge by Cambridge station are both down 36-37 per cent.

Hourly Hills Road traffic data from Cambridge sensors. Graph: Smarter Cambridge Transport (42745863)
Hourly Hills Road traffic data from Cambridge sensors. Graph: Smarter Cambridge Transport (42745863)

If the reduction in cycle trips indicates how many people are still working from home or not working at all (furloughed or laid off), then the smaller reduction in motor traffic is probably owing to people shifting from bus and train to car (other theories also available.)

If the still-upward trend in car traffic continues, evening peaks are likely to become increasingly congested. That will lead to worsening air quality and unreliable bus services.

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