Thursday 3 December 2009

Hills Road Railway Bridge, Cambridge

UPDATE at bottom of post....

Hills Road is under considerable development as part of the renewal of the transport intrastructure in Cambridge, specifically the public transport hub at Cambridge railway station.

One aspect of this is to sort out the combination of vehicles going across Hills Road railway bridge. It is one of the busiest routes in Cambridge and is used by public and private transport, bicycles, and pedestrians in great numbers.

One of the issues is safety of cyclists. It has been a notoriously bad spot, with many cyclists opting to illegally use the footpaths on either side rather than stay on the road. The police have turned a blind eye to this mostly, as they are concerned about the safety of cyclists here. However, this does leave pedestrians badly off, especially with careless cyclists.

The amount of motor vehicle traffic on the bridge is also a big issue. It is one of only two routes out of Cambridge to the south. The bridge is butted at either end by junctions that require 2-lane access to keep traffic flowing.

A trial solution to these problems is running from September 2009 for a few months. The concept is to have the inside land dedicated to cyclists when travelling up the bridge, then mix the traffic at the apex into two lanes so that motor vehicles can flow through the junction at the end quickly.

Here is a cyclists-eye video travelling from the north (or from Central Cambridge out of town).

The space afforded ot the cyclists on their slower journey up the bridge is a blessing in comparison to the space offered before the bridge. It allows faster cyclists space to pass slower ones. And, car drivers, being stuck behind a slow cyclist is as infuriating as it is in a car! It gets the cyclists off the pavement. It allows motor vehicles to pass cyclists easily and safely. As a cyclist and a car driver, this really ticks the boxes.

The downslope allows traffic to mingle. If there is a lot of traffic it is usually slowing as the junction will be full of vehicles. This allows cyclists to mingle safely at slower speeds and doesn't hold up motor vehicles any more than they would be by the junction. If there is less traffic, there is lots of space for motor vehicles to get through the junction at higher speeds whilst not interfering with cyclists trying to take their choice of exits.

Here is a cyclists-eye video travelling from the south (or to Central Cambridge from out of town).

Again, the same benefits of being separated apply.

The approach is a little problematic though. I've no doubt that it's to clear up the road in front of the Sixth Form college near the junction.

My approach, as a faster cyclist (probably around 20mph here) is to merge with the motor traffic rather than stay on the cycle-path. You will see that I do this safely, by checking there are no nearby cars when doing this switch of lanes.

So, all in all, the bridge system is fantastic, but the approaches need some further consideration.


The bridge has changed considerably over the past year or two. Plans were rapidly implemented in 2010/2011. This is the new experience going south.

And here is going north.

Much larger lanes are a reflection of just how many people cycle across this bridge (around 5,000 a day, near bottom of this).

The down-side of the bridge still has motor traffic crossing the cyclelanes, which does led to conflict. What to do?
  • Make most of the lane raised (but still crossable, just not attractive)?
  • Or move lanes back to sides?
Not sure what can be done, but I'm sure examples from northern Europe may show the way!

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