Mill Road Bridge – 72% Discounted?

On Saturday 21st October 2023 Mill Road hosted a march or rather a dance!

Poster for the Dance/march, reading:
72% wanted traffic restrictions on Mill Road Bridge when asked back in spring 2022...
but we are STILL WAITING
Let's show our love for Mill Road & support for the introduction of the MILL ROAD BUS GATE
Put on your best 70s fancy dress and join us Saturday 21st October, Donkey Common assemble 10.45 to start at 11am

Organised by Mill Road – a street for people, Living Streets Cambridge (who have recently launched their CamStreets4People Project) Cambridge Sustainable Travel Alliance and other pressure groups in favour of introducing restrictions on vehicular use of Mill Road.

72% Discounted?

The march/dance arose out of frustration that, although 72% of respondents to the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s consultation (on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council, the highway authority) were in favour of introducing restrictions, there have been delays owing to legal challenges.

photo of the march with participants holding banners reading: "safe routes to school" and "What are we waiting for?"

Traffic Regulation Order – Background

On Tuesday 7th March 2023 members of Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee voted to reinstate the Mill Road bridge closure to all motor vehicles, except buses, cyclists, emergency services, taxis and blue badge holders, following a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) and an extensive public consultation by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, where 1,986 online and written responses were received and saw 72% of respondents supporting restricting motor vehicles from crossing Mill Road bridge.

Cllr Alex Beckett, chair of the Highways and Transport Committee, said: “We had a very good debate, heard from all sides and listened to the concerns raised. This was not an easy decision with very strong opinions, but on balance reinstating the bus gate whilst making improvements to pedestrianised areas was agreed.” 

Cllr Neil Shailer, vice-chair of the committee, said: “We have listened to the public feedback and decided to go ahead and prevent the majority of motorised vehicles travelling over Mill Road bridge. This will encourage safe, sustainable transport and access to shops at the heart of our community.”

There was also a wish to see the environment enhanced along Mill Road including improving the public realm and walking and cycling provision. Various funding opportunities are still being explored for this project, which we plan to develop in discussion with the local community. It was anticipated that, subject to funding, design and engagement work will begin in 2023/24.

from Cambridgeshire County Council news release, 07 March 2023

Read more:

High Court challenge – on what legal basis?

A recently-formed group, Friends of Mill Road Bridge, are taking legal action against the implementation of the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). From their published literature it is unclear on what basis this group are challenging the legitimacy of the TRO. What is clear is that this group are opponents (in the 27% of consultees who did not support the restrictions).

Cambridge campaigners launch legal action against Mill Road Bridge closure – by Alex Spencer, Cambridge Independent, 26 June 2023

Mill Road bridge closure delayed by legal challenge – by Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter, Cambridge Independent, 30 August 2023

As a result of the high court challenge, all work on safety, and on enhancements to the public realm, have been suspended.

Rain did not stop play

Despite rain, over 200 people marched/danced from Donkey Common (by Parkside Pools) to Great Eastern Street car park in Romsey. Colonel Spanky’s Love Ensemble played numbers from the year 1972 to reflect the fact that 72% of the 1,986 online and written responses to the consultation were in favour of introducing restrictions. 

Ironically, July 1972 was the date of publication of the Cambridge Transportation Plan: The final Report of the Cambridge Transportation Study by R. Travers Morgan and Partners, with 1973 seeing the first local campaign to stop through traffic on Mill Road. Read more on Antony Carpen’s Lost Cambridge blogpost The Cambridge transportation plan 1972-73.

Better for the whole community or a ‘cynical money-grab’?

Organisers of the march/dance believe that when these restrictions are implemented, Mill Road will become safer and less polluted, and that buses will be more punctual. Indeed, Cambridge Area Bus Users, together with other members of Cambridge Sustainable Travel Alliance, will be meeting with senior management of Stagecoach East, shortly, to lobby the bus operator to improve the frequency of the citi2 route if/when Mill Road’s notorious congestion is eased by the implementation of the Traffic Regulation Order.

However the Friends of Mill Road Bridge make entirely different claims:

The [Greater Cambridge Partnership] and County Council want us to drive a long way to avoid the £70 fine, which just creates congestion on Coleridge Road, Coldham’s Lane, Devonshire Road…

Mill Road only has moderate traffic now, except maybe twice a day during school terms.

We feel this toll is a cynical money grab disguised as ‘green’ and ‘active travel’.

Where this case leads, will influence freedom of movement in our city.

Promotional poster, displayed on Friends of Mill Road Bridge website

Readers who think they may recognise the ‘cynical money-grab’ phrase may have heard it in ‘War on motorists‘ protests about speed cameras and existing bus-lane cameras.

As Peter Walker, points out [Guardian, Thu 28 Sep 2023] the ‘The war on motorists’ is as old as cars themselves – The war on motorists: the secret history of a myth as old as cars themselves.

Walker remarks, inter alia, that:

… the AA [was] formed in 1905 with the specific goal of helping drivers dodge the law, using bicycle-riding “scouts” who would warn about speed traps.

Op cit

Mill Road – a street for people, a group of local residents and business people, have a Myth busters! blogpost, summarising the concerns which are raised by people arguing against ideas for reducing traffic on Mill Road. And why they believe those arguments do not hold water.

The [Greater Cambridge Partnership] has had nothing to do with the proposal other than managing the consultation as they were asked to do by the County Council in order to move things forward.

We have data from a 2019 closure for bridge work, i.e. not during the pandemic. It shows that while traffic rose on surrounding roads for a couple of weeks, it then dropped back to normal levels, as more people cycled and walked.

The street is frequently congested, and not only during rush hour. It only takes one large delivery vehicle blocking a lane for large amounts of traffic to build up. And when it’s not congested, it is plagued with speeding vehicles.

Mill Road – a street for people, Myth busters!

And your view?

This post is open for (polite) comments…