The Greater Cambridge Partnership is consulting on the potential future of Mill Road, and wants to hear from residents, people who visit, work on, or use Mill Road, and people who own businesses on and near the road, as well as people who travel through the area.
This post explores a number of related issues.
For fuller details on this consultation, public meetings, in-person drop-ins and a Sunday (on-line) workshop, see our earlier blogpost – Mill Road Consultations (again).
What are the related issues?
- Wasn’t this issue settled in the summer of 2021?
- Will this consultation be an improvement?
- Shouldn’t Mill Road take a ‘fair share’ of through motor-traffic?
- But hasn’t Mill Road always been an ‘arterial route’?
- So, what makes Mill Road special, and different from other routes into the city?
- Will the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review solve the problem?
- Road safety – the Police and Crime Commissioner’s view. (And Mill Road’s safety.)
- Will the ‘Cambridge Eastern Access Project’ resolve matters for Mill Road?
- Why consult on Mill Road, alone?
- Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s view
- Add your own (polite) comments
Wasn’t this issue settled in the summer of 2021?
The earlier Experimental Traffic Regulation Order was brought in by Cambridgeshire County Council, at the behest of central government, with a degree of urgency, in response to health needs at that time. There was a consultation, during the experiment, whose outcome was unclear, owing to some people submitting multiple responses to the survey.
At the time a Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “…an open survey format was used. Unfortunately, this meant that the system was open to mischief-making – but duplicate entries and patterns can be spotted, as they were in this case.” New controversy over data on Mill Road bridge consultation in Cambridge By Gemma Gardner, Cambridge Independent, 27 October 2021.
At this point Cambridgeshire County Councillors on the Highways and Transport Committee voted to allow the road to reopen to general traffic, with the plan to ask for public views on the future of the road. In November 2021, the Highways and Transport Committee voted to ask the Greater Cambridge Partnership to carry out a further consultation on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council.
Will this consultation be an improvement?
The latest consultation, which closes at midday on Monday 21st March 2022, is an initial stage to assess views on the future of Mill Road.
The Mill Road Spring 2022 consultation uses the expertise of Bang the Table’s EngagementHQ Platform.
When and if the Greater Cambridge Partnership, in collaboration with Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee have firm proposals they are obliged to undertake a full (statutory) consultation, ahead of implementation of any permanent Traffic Regulation Order(s).
There are also related on-line ‘workshops’, run by Involve, UK’s leading public participation charity.
But you can’t please everyone…
An article – Mill Road traffic survey slammed by irate locals for being ‘too restrictive’ By Fareid Atta, Cambridge News, 25 February 2022 – highlights a number of arguments found on social media.
I feel [the survey] has been constructed to lead to an outcome they desire, and forcing you to vote for the status quo.
The questionnaire does not allow people to really affect the result by offering the “required” “yes”, “no” questions.Two comments cited in the Cambridge News article linked above.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership’s explanatory booklet (PDF) outlines measures that could be put in place on Mill Road.
One of the survey questions asks:
How far are you supportive or unsupportive of the following three options for Mill Road? Please refer to pages 6-8 of the brochure.Mill Road 2022 consultation
Theme 1: Do nothing
Theme 2: Improve the quality of place
Theme 3: Changes to traffic and access in the medium and longer term
Each ‘theme’ is outlined in full, and each can be answered on a scale of ‘Strongly support’ , through ‘Neither support nor oppose’, to ‘Strongly oppose’. What is “too restrictive” in that? See the slideshow below. Reading the detail will be clearer by viewing/downloading the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s explanatory booklet (PDF).
Moreover there are three open questions, each enabling an extended narrative response:
Do you have any other comments on the future of Mill Road?Mill Road 2022 consultation
Please comment if you feel any of the proposals would either positively or negatively affect or impact on any such person/s or group/s. [Relating to the potential impact on people of differing ethnic or religious groups, genders, people with disabilities, etc.]
Do you have any other comments about our proposals for Mill Road or how the road could function in the future?
Quite how these questions are “too restrictive” is difficult to understand.
But I still find the questions unhelpful; I want to state my own views
If you really don’t like the questions, and would prefer to email your thoughts on the future of Mill Road, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mill Road Consultation spring 2022” or something very similar. Put as many paragraphs into your email as you wish and state your personal view. Add either your full address or all of your postcode except the last two letters. Your views will be recorded.
Shouldn’t Mill Road take a ‘fair share’ of through motor-traffic?
This seems to be the view of Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District.
We need to take a holistic view of city access and thus cannot just include one road, or even one bridge on one road. It is not surprising many Mill Road residents were happy with the closure – less traffic, cleaner air, and a nicer environment to walk and cycle. However, once the city did open up and visitors, workers and goods could not easily access the city, then the folly of a single-street solution became clear and it was demonstrated how unequal this approach is.Mill Road can’t be viewed in isolation By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District, Sponsored feature, Cambridge Independent, 17 February 2022.
Sandison also writes:
Buses seem to be a popular solution and, to be fair, many workers would happily travel into Cambridge by bus if they were quick, available early and late at night, affordable, clean and green and the network was more comprehensive. This would make the city more attractive to workers and visitors who can be deterred by the current congestion issues. To really incentivise people to use buses we need them to be funded upfront so they have a positive alternative to their car.ibid
That seems fair enough but, beyond any up-front ‘seedcorn’ injection of public funds, better bus services will require revenue schemes beyond farebox receipts. However, Sandison is on record for opposing a congestion charge which could provide exactly such a revenue stream.
Workers in the retail hospitality and leisure industries are towards the lower end of the pay scale. They often cannot afford to live in our beautiful city. They spend too long each day commuting, usually by car, since their home is poorly served by an inefficient and unavailable, at the right times, public transport system.
I was thus taken aback to read of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans to introduce a congestion charge…Good COP or bad COP? It’s hard to tell By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District, Sponsored feature, Cambridge Independent, 18 November 2021.
Indeed Sandison is in favour of allowing commuters to park in our residential areas, adding to traffic congestion and obstructing the existing bus services.
Many … workers park on the public highway for free in the residential streets around the city…
Maintaining … on-street free parking and not having a congestion charge are essential if the city wishes to still be able to attract workers in this sector. I would ask those in favour of more residents’ parking schemes to consider this.You can’t park here mate! Considering the Cambridge parking and congestion challenge By Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District, Sponsored feature, Cambridge Independent, 20 January 2022.
Improved bus services and lower fares would help the least affluent residents and workers – those who cannot afford cars nor the petrol to fill their tanks, nor shiny new electric vehicles. But, how is it possible to improve public transport without reducing the volume of traffic passing through the city?
It is astonishing how (even in the midst of a climate crisis) there are those who imagine that poverty can be eased by further facilitating private motoring.
Why does the CEO of Cambridge Business Improvement District use advertorial, to comment on Mill Road, an area of the city which is outside their remit? Should they be permitted, as a body, rather than as individuals, to influence the current Mill Road consultation?
Unfettered access to the city centre by private vehicles might be in the interests of Cambridge Business Improvement District – though, arguably vastly improved public transport would be of better benefit – but could seriously disadvantage Mill Road as a shopping destination.
And there is no sign of Cambridge Cambridge Business Improvement District seeking to remove restrictions on vehicular access to St Andrew’s Street, Sidney Street, Bridge Street, Magdalene Street, St John’s Street, Trinity Street, King’s Parade and Market Street in the historic city centre, nor to Fitzroy Street and Burleigh Street in the Grafton Quarter.
Ian Sandison says that providing a better Mill Road in a single-street solution is unequal. In what way is this so? In a densely populated area with significant numbers of multi-occupancy homes, with many householders that use bikes and foot as their primary means of travel, in a city with relatively low ownership of cars, why shouldn’t priority be given to the Mill Road area to become the first low traffic neighbourhood?Paul Lythgoe, Mill Road 4 People
Moreover, the extent to which motor-traffic is displaced onto other roads when a road is restricted and the degree to which that motor-traffic ‘evaporates’ (ie vehicular journeys are no longer made) is a moot point. Fortunately there is Cambridge City Smart Sensor Traffic Count open data which monitors this.
Counterintuitively, the evidence is clear – the 2019 bridge closure for railway works and the 2020-21 bridge restrictions had no sustained impact on traffic levels on Coldham’s Lane and Cherry Hinton Road. Read more, here – traffic displacement: myth or reality?
But hasn’t Mill Road ‘always been an arterial route’?
No. Despite what is alleged on some social media, Mill Road has not ‘always been an arterial route’, neither is it designated as a primary or secondary distributor road. Look closely at this video of a present-day OpenStreetMap fading to an Ordnance Survey 1″ 7th series map. Check the east end of Mill Road before the construction of Barnwell Road.
The use of roads in shopping and residential areas is always evolving. In the 1960s, the A10, A45 and A604 ran through central Cambridge, with Regent Street, St Andrew’s Street, Sidney Street, Bridge Street, Magdalene Street, St John’s Street, Trinity Street, King’s Parade and Trumpington Street all designated as trunk roads.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership are currently reviewing Cambridge’s ‘Road Network Hierarchy’ under which Mill Road would be designated a ‘Local Access Street’. Should Mill Road wait?
So, what makes Mill Road special, and different from other routes into the city?
Mill Road is very much a destination for people seeking to source specialist foods and to sample cuisine from around the globe. It has a higher proportion of independent shops, cafés & restaurants than any other Cambridge street.
Travel beyond Reality Checkpoint on Parkers Piece and you might see that Mill Road is a fairly unique place in Cambridge. There is a vibrant street life from end to end with independent cafés, restaurants, and shops. The bridge restriction made the road a safer place to be for all. Active travel to destinations within Mill Road and as a through route to the city was encouraged. Mill Road 4 People have surveyed and talked to local residents and visitors. We know how it was changing people’s lives and helping them choose active modes of transport.Paul Lythgoe, Mill Road 4 People
Mill Road is also the proud home of the beautiful Cambridge Central Mosque, its advanced eco-design giving it a near-zero carbon footprint. It will soon be home (again) to a carved stone archway. Saved after it was removed from a former Hindu temple, it could be installed in the garden of Ditchburn Place, a sheltered housing community, and former maternity hospital, subject to planning approval. Read more here: Hindu temple arch looks set for Cambridge garden home By Alex Spencer, Cambridge Independent, 25 February 2022.
We have, indeed, previously asked is Mill Road – the high street of a small town within Cambridge city?
However, not only is Mill Road a high street it is also a residential street with over 200 front doors opening onto the street behind which there live over 1,000 residents.
Nearly all premises along Mill Road are residential in whole, or in part, with over a mile of front doors and front windows situated less than 5 metres from the carriageway. This distinguishes Mill Road from all other approaches to the city centre from whatever direction, particularly roads which were developed later, with wider footways, verges and, in many cases, long front gardens separating most residential accommodation from the carriageway.
This makes residents particularly vulnerable to illnesses caused by pollution and to road accidents. Stepping outside their homes can cause injury, as mounting pavements is deemed to be the acceptable norm by passing motorists and by some cyclists avoiding the heavy motor traffic.
We support active travel initiatives across the city but we say that we have been endlessly consulted and promised change – specifically in Mill Road which is always kicked down the road in favour of a ‘holistic’ approach – which may or may not be delivered.
It is absolutely time that something is done and done now to make Mill Road a safer and better place. It will be an exemplar for other initiatives across the city, and following the link through to the north of the city along the Chisholm Trail to Mill Road it will be easily and quickly accessible to so many more.Paul Lythgoe, Mill Road 4 People
What Lythgoe asserts about Mill Road waiting, and waiting is amply illustrated by this 1973 clipping from the Cambridge Evening News. Presumably, this being before 1974’s local government reorganisation into two-tier councils, the report will have been on the priorities of the Highways Committee of the Borough of Cambridge.
Perhaps Cambridge Town Owl, Antony Carpen, can confirm or correct this.
Mill Road welcomes destination traffic, by foot, cycle, bus and motor vehicle. Motor traffic needs to be facilitated by clear signage to existing parking facilities, and by more on-street (but off-pavement) short-term parking.
Will the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review solve the problem?
The two maps, below illustrate the basic idea. If they alternate too quickly, press the pause button.
This work forms a key component of the City Access work to achieve City Deal objectives of improving public transport and active travel opportunities, reducing traffic and vehicle emissions, and contributing to the net-zero agenda. A review of the road network hierarchy would be the subject of a public consultation in summer 2022.Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review
Report to Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly 17th February 2022
For those who’d like to read the full detail of the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s draft network hierarchy, the papers, from the Thursday 17th February 2022 Joint Assembly agenda pack, can be viewed/downloaded in full, here (pp 36-53).
For the rest of us, an excellent summary –Biggest shake-up of Cambridge road network for 40 years, by Gemma Gardner, Cambridge Independent, may be read here.
Will this affect Mill Road?
Certainly, however, there does not, as yet, appear to be a timescale on implementation.
Road safety – the Police and Crime Commissioner’s view.
Darryl Preston, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is concerned that the road hierarchy review is insufficiently focussed on road safety.
I would like to highlight an important issue for consideration when discussing proposals for your Cambridge Road Network Hierarchy Review on 17th February.
As you will be aware, road safety is a key theme in my Police and Crime Plan. As a former police officer, I personally dealt with far too many serious injuries and fatal incidents and saw for myself the devastation these avoidable incidents can have on loved ones.
For the 3 years pre-pandemic, there were an average 69 Killed or Seriously injured (KSI) casualties in Cambridge city every year – 62% of these were cyclists and a further 16% pedestrians, making nearly 4/5 of all KSI casualties in the city pedestrians or cyclists.
I am sure you are all committed, as I am, to supporting the county’s Vision Zero Strategy to eliminate road deaths. I would therefore urge you to consider making road safety a more explicit priority or objective within the core of the Review document. I appreciate that there is some reference to it already and a number of measures already included could be interpreted as contributing to safer roads. However, given that this is such a serious issue, I strongly believe that any strategy or policy documents relating to our roads should explicitly include ‘safer roads’ as a priority. With that comes an ability to deliver outcome metrics based on safety which in turn can look at contributory funding.
I urge you to take my recommendation forward and would welcome further discussion.Darryl Preston, Police and Crime Commissioner
Email to Greater Cambridge Partnership members, ahead of the Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly Thursday 17th February 2022
And Mill Road’s safety…
It is worth noting that, following a Freedom of Information request, data from Cambridgeshire Police named Mill Road as the worst-affected single road for injuries over the past three years. Read more: Mill Road named most dangerous road in Cambridge by Krystian Schneyder, Varsity, Monday January 31 2022.
Further detail on Mill Road’s collisions, using Data from DfT/police STATS19, from 1999-2020, is mapped in this link. (Thanks to Martin L-S.)
Will the ‘Cambridge Eastern Access Project’ resolve matters for Mill Road?
The project will, will include Mill Road, but it will be a be a long time coming.
The Greater Cambridge Partnership held an eight-week public consultation on the Cambridge Eastern Access Project, which closed to comments on 18th December 2020. On 1st July 2021 the Executive Board approved the Strategic Outline Business Case that confirmed there is a strategic case – and public support – for improvements to public transport, cycling and walking for those travelling into Cambridge from the east. The Thursday 17th February 2022 Joint Assembly agenda pack, shows this project to be in the ‘Early Design’ stage, with a ‘Forecast Completion Date’ of 2027. Reference here (p93).
Why consult on Mill Road, alone?
One argument that is often put forward against traffic restrictions on Mill Road is that it should be done in the context of city-wide traffic reduction measures.
On the face of it, this is a seductive argument – who wouldn’t want to see lower traffic and pollution over the whole of the city? But in our view, that goal is totally compatible with starting work on Mill Road at the earliest possible opportunity.Liz Walter, Mill Road 4 People, Saturday 19th February 2022
Liz, posting on behalf of Mill Road 4 People, cites speeding motor-vehicles, dangerous overtaking, pavement parking and air pollution levels regularly exceeding WHO guidelines, amongst other reasons why Mill Road can’t wait. See: Why Mill Road can’t wait for a city-wide plan
Councillor Neil Shailer, Romsey County Division, Labour, speaking at the Greater Cambridge Partnership Joint Assembly on 17th February 2022 argued that Traffic Regulation Orders for Mill Road need to be prioritised within the context of city access, as accident statistics confirm that Mill Road is the most dangerous road in the city.
The special characteristics of Mill Road noted above suggest that Mill Road should be prioritised as this has the potential to improve the well-being of the greatest number of people. It would be impractical to deal with all of the city’s traffic and transport problems on a ‘big-bang’ citywide basis at exactly the same time as imposing all mooted measures across the city simultaneously would cause chaos. They need to be phased.
Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s view
Camcycle’s position is that motor-traffic on Mill Road needs to be substantially reduced and that this is best achieved through a modal filter to prevent through motor-traffic while allowing cycling and walking journeys the full length of the road. It should be possible to exempt some motor vehicles such as those required for time-critical deliveries or to transport disabled people.
Camcycle’s vision for Mill Road sets out how Mill Road could be improved, following the reduction of traffic, to create a vibrant place for people where community and local business can thrive. Their summary can be read here: Camcycle guide to the Mill Road consultation – Spring 2022.
Have your say on improving Mill Road
The consultation closes at midday on Monday 21st March 2022.
For fuller details on this consultation, public meetings, in-person drop-ins and a Sunday (on-line) workshop, see our earlier blogpost – Mill Road Consultations (again).
Like most of Mill Road Bridges’ blogposts this post is open to (polite) comments, relating to this post or to our earlier post – Mill Road Consultations (again).
This is an excellent summary, but at the same time I am concerned that there are those who want to persuade everyone else to support them. There are no easy solutions. Banning traffic doesn’t solve problems. Many streets have no alternative route but Mill Road. How can you have street cafes while parking on pavements is permitted by the county council? Perhaps Mill Road should be a one-way road, but that probably also produces more problems than it solves.
What I really want is a more open-minded discussion, rather than listening to people who have already made up their minds. If the solution was easy we’d have found it years ago.
The surfacing of that article from 1973 means that next year will be the 50th anniversary of people believing the traffic situation on Mill Road is out of hand. Will the pro-car campaigners continue to argue, untenably, that there hasn’t been enough consultation yet? Perhaps 5 decades of discussion is now quite enough.