The recent closure of Mill Road bridge for railway works has prompted a debate about removing unwanted through traffic on a more permanent basis. Join the debate.
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See our (historic) post Closure of Mill Road Bridge for Railway Works, for a flavour of some of the issues which arose.
Throughout and following the closure there were:
- Traffic counts on Mill Road and other routes to the city centre and Grafton Quarter
- Surveys of traders on the impact on their takings and on deliveries
- Discussions with pedestrians, cyclists, bus users and local residents using Mill Road on how their journeys have been affected
A thriving Mill Road: remove the through-traffic
From Martin Lucas-Smith
Mill Road should be a thriving place, with tens of thousands of residents around it, and a fantastic range of shops and community facilities. Yet traders are often struggling. Why is this?
What’s the one thing that almost everyone agrees is bad about Mill Road? The traffic. So isn’t it time something was actually done about it?
These two are strongly linked. Mill Road is currently a place that many people, myself included, either avoid completely, or visit and then leave as quickly as possible. It’s too unpleasant, polluted and noisy. All the trade from people who might actually stay for a while, or would be more likely to walk/cycle through if they didn’t have to battle the cars taking up all the space, is lost.
Mill Road has all the conditions for a popular, even trendy, location: central, cosmopolitan, offering something unique. Yet trading is still marginal. Get rid of the cars simply passing through, and the street can be opened up – to people actually visiting – and spending money and time there.
Some people think removing traffic would make trade suffer. Look at Bridge Street, and the bollards installed in 1997. Before the closure, there were 700 cars per hour passing through. Now, it is a thriving place, with the streetscaping in 2000 providing an even more pleasant environment. Who would return to all that traffic now?
Pretty much all the problems of Mill Road that people complain about can only be solved by getting rid of the through-traffic – it is both the cause and the solution:
- If you want Mill Road to be a place where people actually want to visit and stay a while, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want lovely new ‘parklets’, where people can hang out and enjoy a coffee outside shops/cafes, without breathing in polluted air, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want traders to have space for delivery bays, getting vans off the pavement, with access 24/7, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want buses to run on time, and be more regular, you have to get rid of the through-traffic
- If you want to walk and cycle safely, you have to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want to get rid of pavement parking, where people feel they shouldn’t block other passing cars, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want places to park your bike, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want new space for public art, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
- If you want wider pavements, you need to get rid of the through-traffic.
If you want to be able to drive in and out, to access your house or the car parks, you would still be able to still do this, at any time – we are not calling for pedestrianisation.
This would be achieved by a closure to private vehicles at the bridge. Buses, cycles, emergency vehicles, and (out of necessity) taxis would be allowed through. People can still drive to every part of Mill Road, just not through. Delivery drivers sometimes already exit the same way they came in, or via selected side roads. It’s workable.
We know that most of it is through-traffic, because in July, a sinkhole had appeared near the Co-op. But calm and tranquillity broke out. You could hear people talking across the street. It was at last safe to cycle. People could still drive in and out. Mill Road felt like a place again. Just for two days.
With parklets, and all kinds of other changes like those listed above, Mill Road could be thriving, far more pleasant and safer, permanently.
You can read our full set of ideas at: Mill Road – our vision for 2019 and beyond.
Martin Lucas-Smith, York Street, and Camcycle
Liz Irvin, Camcycle Volunteer, adds…
New! Experimental closure to through-traffic scheme currently on Mill Road … aka street repair. Will Cambridge grind to a halt, or will people cope, showing that a more permanent change would work? – CamCycle
A view from Romsey Labour‘s Making spaces for people consultation page…
Romsey Labour often discuss the possibility of how Mill Road can be made safer and this was raised again at the last meeting. At that time opinion was balanced in favour but this is a moving feast and it was decided to have it as an agenda item at the next ward meeting.
What follows is a view in favour
This action follows a very positive response to the unexpected blockage of Mill Road by a road collapse 27th-28th June – this has reopened the debate about if we could have a trial stoppage of through traffic. A trial closure at Mill Road Bridge monitored by CCTV could mean:
- all private vehicles would be stopped from crossing the bridge
- all of Mill Road would still be accessible
- deliveries could be 24/7 and this would help traders.
- it would be much safer space for pedestrians/cyclists (see the amount of collisions)
- massively reduce pollution
- buses could have a traffic free route and be on time
- Of course there remain people who are against this because it will interfere with their car journeys – there are also concerns about pushing traffic onto other roads. The traders have also indicated that they remain opposed.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign on the other hand are enthused and they have raised the potential of introducing ‘parklets’. Seen below these would be used to widen the pavement and allow shops to extend their frontages – to allow ‘pop up cafes’ for example. They believe that trade would be increased for traders if the road was closed to through traffic and with parklets there would be further gains.
These ‘parklets’ would be relatively cheap to construct and make so much difference to the narrow parts of pavement on Mill Road.
Nothing that has been suggested would remove access from any part of Mill Road. Deliveries could continue as before and because there was no through traffic the lorries would be unlikely to frustrate drivers, cyclist and pedestrians. This has got to be a way forward and people should contact their councillors to make their views known (for or against).
It may even be that the Greater Cambridge Partnership could be approached to fund this trial.
As a non-party-political community group, Mill Road Bridges would love to hear from councillors and/or activists of other parties about their vision for Mill Road. Come on Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats!
Making space for people on Mill Road – Smarter Cambridge Transport
The closure of Mill Road while a sinkhole was repaired prompted people to wonder whether the road could be closed permanently to through traffic. Some have called for a trial closure and Camcycle is putting forward a vision for a Mill Road with wider pavements, improved streetscape with parklets, and more cycle parking.
The café tables on the pavement around 196 Cocktail Bar hint at what a vibrant street culture we could have if Mill Road were more hospitable for people, and less so for motor vehicles. As alocal, I’d love to see this. It’s exactly the vision that our local community should be aspiring to.
But, wearing my Smarter Cambridge Transport hat, I have two concerns: the first is about the practical impact of a closure point on vehicles needing to access homes and businesses. Even if Mill Road were opened up in the early morning for shop deliveries, at other times, motor vehicles of all sizes (other than buses) would have to be directed around loops through residential streets either side of the closure point.
A bigger concern is the effect of treating this part of the city’s road network in isolation. Mill Road is special, particularly to those who live around it, but…
Read the full article: Making space for people on Mill Road – Smarter Cambridge Transport (PDF 777KB)
From Leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, Edward Leigh
At the start of July, Mill Road was closed to through traffic, as a sinkhole had appeared near the Co-op. Calm and tranquillity broke out. You could hear people talking across the street. It was at last safe to cycle. Mill Road felt like a place again. Just for two days.
We want to make this permanent. Mill Road has for too long been a conduit for traffic rather than a place for people – the result of cars cutting through it to get to/from the city centre.
Cambridge didn’t grind to a halt in July. Cherry Hinton Road did experience delays, but we believe this problem can be dealt with, as discussed below.
By taking out much of the through traffic, alternative travel becomes much more attractive. For instance, buses would keep to time, and services could be expanded to be much more regular.
However, it’s not enough just to stop through traffic. We’d like to see a whole range of changes. This change is not really an agenda for cycling: it’s about turning Mill Road back into a place again.
Traffic evaporation – what about surrounding roads?
It’s a common misconception that when streets are changed to stop through traffic all the traffic goes elsewhere. Not so – ‘traffic evaporation’ occurs. People change their behaviour, resulting in a lot of car journeys simply disappearing.
In the case of Mill Road, cycling would at last be safe, bus journeys become practical, and walking without breaking into a cough from the poor air becomes possible.
Of course, some traffic will be displaced, and it’s important that Cherry Hinton Road in particular has action taken on it. Cherry Hinton Road is wide enough for a proper cycleway in many places, again providing an alternative to driving, and ought to be a pleasant tree-lined boulevard. Combined with the proposed Workplace Parking Levy and/or a Toxicity Charge – both of which are needed in Cambridge – traffic in the surrounding area can be minimised.
Mill Road is a much narrower road and, unlike much of Cherry Hinton Road, is a high street, densely lined with shops and other facilities. Pedestrian and cycle traffic is much higher on Mill Road, and 18,000+ people live off Mill Road – a very densely-populated area.
Madeleine Loewe’s comment (see below, 19 February 2019) about the death of Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a 9 year-old girl from Hither Green is backed up by this report, by Nicola Davis, in The Guardian.
Revealed: asthma’s deadly toll on young people in the UK
European health report finds Britain has highest mortality rate of countries studied
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