Discussion on Tuesday, 3 November 2015 of a topic of concern to the University: Phase 1 of the North West Cambridge development

Reporter announcement

Remarks by Prof David J C MacKay FRS, Regius Professor of Engineeringdjcm1@cam.ac.uk

Deputy Vice-Chancellor,
my remarks concern the governance and management of the design of transport infrastructure associated with Phase 1 of the North West Cambridge development.

I am deeply concerned that the designs of the Eddington Avenue / Huntingdon Road junction and the Bunker's Hill / Huntingdon Road / Girton Road are not safe for pedestrians and cyclists coming and going between the North West Cambridge Development and Girton Village, including both Girton Road and Thornton Road; moreover these designs are utterly inconsistent with the stated aspirations of the University, the City Council, and the District Council, to enhance the transport connections to neighbouring communities.
We note that the University’s Transport Strategy [1] aims to give cycling and walking high priority and states an aspiration for "high quality" solutions, including "safe and convenient crossings for pedestrians and cyclists".
We note that the University’s Community Strategy [2] repeatedly mentions the goal of linking to neighbouring communities through cycling and pedestrian routes.
We note that the City and District Councils' Policy [3, NW17, NW18] stipulates that pedestrian routes should be provided that are "direct, safe, and attractive", and that new and enhanced cycle links should be made, "including links to nearby villages".

The Eddington Avenue / Huntingdon Road junction design that is being built violates all these aspirations and commitments by singularly failing to include ANY crossings of Huntingdon Road that are direct, safe, and attractive for people travelling from and to Girton and other destinations in the north-west. The design has also introduced a dangerous pinch-point into the north-west-bound on-road cycle path on Huntingdon Road.
This failure of design to conform to vision and policy is of particularly serious concern because over 100 small children need to cross Huntingdon Road every school-day to go to the University of Cambridge Primary School, and 41 of those pupils live to the North, in Girton. Future demand from the North will only increase over the coming years: based on this year's intake, we expect that in two years' time the school will have roughly 105 pupils who live in Girton; the adjacent nursery will surely also attract cyclists and pedestrians from the North; and all the other amenities on the North West Cambridge site will be very attractive to Girton residents.

The plans for the Bunker's Hill cycle link at the Girton Road / Huntingdon Road intersection are also inconsistent with the University's strategy and the City and District Councils' policies. While the design is partly satisfactory (albeit not "high quality") for inbound and outbound cyclists and pedestrians heading from and to Girton College, and for confident outbound cyclists heading up Girton Road, it provides no satisfactory route for young inbound cyclists coming from Girton Road; nor does it provide a satisfactory route for inbound or outbound pedestrians along Girton Road, because there is no safe route to get between the end of the Girton Road footpath and Bunker's Hill. Girton Road and Huntingdon Road are both 3 lanes wide, and both are busy roads from 8am to 9am.

The hundreds of pages of work that have been published for the North West Cambridge Transport Assessment include detailed consideration of traffic concerns in locations at some distance from the development, including for example proposals for increasing traffic calming on Oxford Road and Windsor Road to reduce rat-running problems there; but as far as I can see, no attention has been paid at all to a rat-run much closer to the site, along Thornton Road. Rat-running during the morning rush-hour often makes the road impassible to cyclists; and this is the main cycle route for children and parents cycling to the University of Cambridge Primary School from the North.

I have the gravest concern about the possibility of a tragic accident. Numerous near misses have already occurred.

These pressing safety concerns, and proposed solutions, are explained in more detail with diagrams, five short videos, and a written document, all available from the website   http://www.inference.org.uk/mackay/presentations/html/EddingtonAve.html

This website also contains the full text of a public petition to the University of Cambridge, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, and Cambridgeshire County Council. The petition calls on the University urgently (1) to amend the design of the Eddington Avenue /Huntingdon Road junction by adding two new pedestrian and cycle crossings across Huntingdon Road, eliminating the cycle-lane pinch-point, and widening the southern footpath, and to implement these improvements with the utmost speed; (2) to amend the design of the Bunker's Hill junction so as to ensure that all categories of pedestrian and cyclist have a direct, safe and attractive route in both directions.

The petition has, between 24 October and 3 November, received 438 signatures, of which 142 are from Members of the Regent House, Graduates of the University, Members of the Faculties, or Persons in statu pupillari; and 26 are from other employees of the University.

We recognise that implementing these safety improvements will require additional expenditure, which is difficult in the current financial context; but lives are at risk. Accident statistics already show a cluster on Huntingdon Road, and three Universities members have been killed on Huntingdon Road in the last twenty years. The defective designs that are now being built, combined with the new demand for crossing Huntingdon Road, will surely lead to more injuries and deaths. I therefore ask the Council to authorise contingency spending to address these urgent safety issues.

[1] http://www.nwcambridge.co.uk/files/o1_8_3_non-technical_summary.pdf ; http://www.nwcambridge.co.uk/files/o1_8_2_appendices.pdf ; Policy NW14; http://www.nwcambridge.co.uk/files/o1_8_1_assessment_and_figures.pdf Sections 7.5.1, 7.6, 9.6.4.
[2] North West Cambridge Community Strategy (Feb 2013) File name 11_1114_OUT-SCHEDULE_06_-_COMMUNITY-1120456.pdf (not currently available on original website)
[3] https://www.cambridge.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/North%20West%20Cambridge%20Area%20Action%20Plan.pdf