The recent closure of Mill Road for emergency repairs has prompted a debate about removing unwanted through traffic on a more permanent basis. Join the debate.
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See our readers’ comments. And add your own.
See also our post Closure of Mill Road Bridge for Railway Works.
Will the bridge remain open for pedestrians and cyclists? What linking bus services can be provided along the two sections of Mill Road? What will be the impact on Mill Road’s independent traders?
Read more and join the debate.
Throughout the closure we would like to see:
- Traffic counts on other routes to the city centre and Grafton Quarter
- Surveys of traders on the impact on their takings and on deliveries
- Surveys of pedestrians, cyclists, bus users and local residents using Mill Road on how their journeys have been affected
This will be essential data for planning a positive outcome for more permanent traffic reduction along Mill Road whilst minimising disruption to traders and residents.
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
Post your (pre-moderated) comments below.
Adjudged by The Times in March 2013 as 26th out of ‘The 30 coolest places to live in Britain’, over twenty-five thousand people live in the three Cambridge city wards – Coleridge, Petersfield and Romsey – which surround Mill Road.
Our community outnumbers the population of Wisbech, that of March, of Huntingdon, of Ely and of St Ives.
The Mill Road community of residents and traders are fiercely proud of their mile of independent shops, cafés and restaurants; we view Mill Road as our High Street, our Town Centre.
Do the various local governance bodies – Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council, Greater Cambridge Partnership, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority – treat our community of communities with the precedence and respect which it deserves?
Mill Road Population -v- Cambs towns (PDF 316KB)
What do you think? Do leave your comments.
Cambridge is renowned for quality architecture and open spaces. But are we seeing this on Mill Road’? Two recent planning applications — Mickey Flynn’s site in Petersﬁeld and The Labour Club in Romsey — both support the claim that buildings are being parachuted into the street scene without respect for the surrounding area.
Recently submitted plans for this site have failed to respect the City Council’s advice that new developments should ‘Maximise the unique characteristics of the site to create a sense of identity’ and ‘Make a positive contribution to the character of the surrounding
area’ (Design Guide. 2011). This site could and should be designed to enhance the surrounding area (perhaps opening onto a pavement café), but the plans only made a nod towards this option. The new proposed development rises above the pavement, while the building line comes forward towards Mill Road, reducing the existing welcome sense of space for pedestrians.
Development of this site is a one-off chance to enhance this area, bordered by one of Mill Road ’s distinctive historic buildings — the Bath House. The plans fail to recognise or add to the partial improvements made 15 years ago. These established a base-line by using high quality materials — recycled granite bollards; a special lamp column; Judas Tree; ground cover planting; and underground soakaway. The redevelopment of this former snooker hall should be the completion of this scheme — creating a ‘public square’ in Petersfield and bringing the ‘Cambridge’ quality into Mill Road. Revised plans awaited.
Romsey Labour Club
Over the bridge, plans have now sadly been approved by the City Council for the redevelopment of a piece of local social history — the Romsey Labour Club. Although ‘retaining’ the original facade, the old building will be dwarfed by a block of student flats. This mockery of the historic frontage reduces the important story that it tells about Romsey and is unsympathetic to the Conservation Area. The inappropriate use of materials shout at pedestrians, while the height will block out light from the surrounding streets.
Mill Road is at the centre of a Conservation area. No other arterial road in the city has this designation. The road’s history is central to the story of Cambridge. It is a ‘High Street’ in its own right. It serves the population of a small town in the surrounding catchment area, with the highest pedestrian footfall of any main road outside the city centre, but the City Council has no ‘Plan’ for Mill Road.
Developers exhaust planning officers and residents by first submitting applications that ignore planning guidance. They then return with plans that are marginally improved, and which are accepted. Too often plans lack aspiration and fail to reflect local knowledge. But what is built will be here for 100 years, and it is important that it is not ‘just good enough’, but ‘the best’. So, is it time to have a ‘Mill Road Plan’?
There was a time when the Cambridge News referred to Mill Road as ‘Street of Fear’, and the part of Mill Road ‘over the bridge’ was the most fearsome of all. Now though, things have changed with TravelSupermarket recently naming Romsey Town as the ‘14th coolest place in Britain’.
As a long-time Petersfield resident, it pains me to say that I am inclined to agree that parts of Romsey are cooler. I don’t think it’s because Romsey has better shops and bars – I wouldn’t like to bet who would win in a fight betweenUrban Larder and Garden Kitchen, or Fidelio vs Fabio – and we have some unbeatable gems on our side, Arjuna, Fantasia and of course thepeerless H Gee, to name but a few.
It’s all a question of layout. The Broadway area of Romsey has a village feel, something whichPetersfield doesn’t quite achieve. The widepavements on both sides of the road at TheBroadway are largely responsible for this.
So, is it time for Petersfield to up its game or be left behind? We’ve recently acquired a tailor, an upholsterer, an Italian trattoria and the eclectic Fantasia, but there are units empty before the bridge, whilst Romsey seems to have a far higher rate of occupancy. Why is this? Are the rents on the town side so much higher or is it just easier to keep a business going on the coolend of the street?
Mill Road News would love to hear from youwith your views on these questions.