Mill Road Bridge restrictions end – but what of the future?

By CB & RW

In the real world the relationship between cause and effect can be difficult to trace but that is the task that Cambridgeshire County Council’s Highways and Transport Committee faced in deciding the future of Mill Road Bridge. 

Nobody doubts that Mill Road Traders experienced hard times during the pandemic, but was their hardship the result of restricted access to Mill Road Bridge? Or could it have been part of a wider decline in trade, which caused huge retail giants such as John Lewis and others to teeter, with Debenhams, Top Shop and others vanishing from our High Streets and shopping centres?

The Highways and Transport Committee’s decision to reopen the bridge, which was passed by the acting Chair’s casting vote on Tuesday 27th July appears to endorse this correlation. A connection between poor respiratory health prior to lockdown and pollutants that exceed those levels considered acceptable by the WHO, was not endorsed by that majority of one.

This followed a noisy demonstration the previous Saturday, which highlighted the strongly-held opinions on both sides of this issue.

image as caption
Protest by people opposed to the experimental closure on Mill Road bridge
Picture: Keith Heppell (linked from the Cambridge Independent website)

Cambridge Independent‘s Mike Scialom put it accurately – Mill Road bridge closure protest reveals divisions that will take time to heal. The article has embedded videos which show City Councillor for Romsey ward Dave Baigent, who supported the bridge restrictions – but as a city, rather than county councillor, had no vote on the implementation of the ETRO and has no vote on the future status of the bridge – being roundly abused by some of the demonstrators.

A Cambridge Independent report –Mill Road bridge in Cambridge set to reopen after single deciding vote – by Alex Spencer also includes photos and videos.

Over at Cambridge News, Christy O’Brien reports: Mill Road Bridge to reopen to traffic after controversial closure.

A live report of the meeting, from Camcycle can be found here on Thread Reader App here.

The positive aspect of this decision is that there will be a consultation on the experiences of residents and traders and the impacts that removing the restrictions on the bridge will have on health, collisions and an upturn in trade. These are trends that must be monitored.

Cambridge Independent‘s Gemma Gardner reports that work to reopen Mill Road bridge to all vehicles is set to begin on Tuesday 3rd August – Date set for work to reopen Mill Road bridge in Cambridge to all traffic. Whilst Cambridge News‘s Harry Gold advises Drivers warned Mill Road Bridge not yet open to cars.

Meanwhile, there is a question mark over whether the abrupt ending of the scheme could have financial implications for Cambridgeshire County Council’s future central government (DfT) funding for active transport schemes.

£338 million package to further fuel active travel boom

Funding for infrastructure upgrades, changes to The Highway Code and new requirements to ensure that active travel schemes’ effects are properly assessed.

Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

In a sign of the growing frustration within government at some councils, both Conservative and Labour, which have removed active travel schemes in the face of sometimes noisy objections, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris is formally writing to the leaders of all English local authorities with transport responsibilities.

Peter Walker Political correspondent, The Guardian

Read the full article: Hastily abandoned low-traffic schemes could cost councils funding


But how can we all help our much-loved restaurants, cafés, pubs and independent shops to thrive? Promotion would be a start.

Gwydir St Car Park (car symbol)
For Mill Road’s great restaurants, cafés,
pubs, independent shops and much more
Could we have signage like this on Gonville Place?
Mill Road (cycle symbol, pedestrian symbol)
Great restaurants, cafés,
pubs, independent shops
and so much more
And signage like this on the Chisholm Trail, at the railway station, on Parker’s Piece and at the Collier Road exit of Anglia Ruskin University

This post is open to (polite) comments. Before commenting you might wish to read 10 views on the decision to reopen Mill Road bridge in Cambridge to all traffic, compiled by Cambridge Independent‘s editor Paul Brackley.

From Risky Streets to ‘Living Streets’?

The Living Streets local street survey of Cambridge

In December 2020 and January 2121 Mill Road Bridges featured Pavement Survey – Living Streets and Pavement Survey – Update from the Cambridge Living Streets group.

The group’s report From Risky Streets to ‘Living Streets’? – The Living Streets local street survey of Cambridge (PDF) is now available online. Click the image below to read/download the report.

image: Living Streets Group Cambridge
Image courtesy of the Cambridge Living Streets group
The report’s author, Linda Jones. Photo: Cambridge News

Authored by Linda Jones, Emeritus Professor of Health, The Open University (also former Cambridgeshire County Councillor for Petersfield Division in Cambridge) the report highlights Cambridge residents’ dissatisfaction, with fewer than 6% happy with their experience as a pedestrian.

Table 3: Overall pedestrian experience
Are you generally happy with your experience as a pedestrian in Cambridge?
Overall YES 5.4%
Overall NO 62.9%
It Depends 31.6%

Nearly every respondent mentioned the state of the pavements themselves, with nearly 3/4 of respondents complaining about pavements blocked by parked vehicles. Cambridgeshire County Council have had powers for over a decade to tackle the issue of vehicles obstructing our pavements. And it wouldn’t put a penny on the council tax – enforcement would be self-financing as penalty charge revenue would help to pay the salaries of the existing enforcement officers.

See Protecting Pedestrian Space.

Table 4: Pavements: quality and obstructions % reporting
Pavements that are sloping, uneven, cracked or potholed 90.7%
Pavements blocked by parked vehicles 71.5%
Pavements blocked by waste bins 62.6%
Traffic signs and street furniture obstructing pavements 41.5%
Hedges protruding onto pavements 53%

Read/download the report From Risky Streets to ‘Living Streets’? – The Living Streets local street survey of Cambridge, here.

See also Living Streets Cambridge report says just 6% happy with conditions for pedestrians by Mike Scialom in the Cambridge Independent.

And don’t forget to contribute to the Living Streets organisation’s national Cut the Clutter! week of Action Monday 12th July – Sunday 18th July 2021 by mapping the pavement-clutter around your area. If you haven’t already done so, click here to start mapping your local pavement-clutter.

Mill Road Bridge bus gate opinion survey

Cambridge Labour Party have published a short survey to measure public opinions about the future of Mill Road.

view of Mill Road Bridge artwork
Image: Over Mill Road Bridge

Whilst Mill Road Bridges have no political affiliations, we would be wrong not to draw this survey to local residents’ attention. It is noteworthy that the Vice-Chair of the Cambridgeshire County Council Highways and Transportation Committee is now Councillor Gerri Bird (Labour, Chesterton Division). It would seem likely that Councillor Bird will have the results of the survey drawn to her attention.

Please fill it in – the result is likely to influence the way that Labour councillors vote in the Highways Committee on this issue.

Cambridge Labour

If, however, you would prefer to contact your local Cambridgeshire County Councillor directly their contact details may be found here:

This blogpost is also open for (polite) comments. We will contact Councillors Howitt and Shailer to ask that they monitor the post for comments, though we cannot guarantee that your comments will be seen, councillors being busy people not full-time public employees.

Bridge Protest

Cambridge Independent report – in the 14th July2021 edition – that campaigners connected to Mill Road Traders’ Association intend to ‘block the bridge completely’ on the morning of Saturday 24th July.

Piero d’Angelico is quoted as saying, “We will block the whole bridge and not even a bus will be allowed through this time.”

A protest in summer 2020 against the restrictions on Mill Road bridge (Image: Local Democracy Reporter, on the Cambridge News website)

Read the full report Blockade plan for protest on Mill Road bridge in Cambridge By Alex Spencer on the Cambridge Independent website.


Piero d’Angelico was approached for further details. He issued this statement:

We are finalising some posters with information, we will come back to you shortly.

Piero d’Angelico, Ambassador, Mill Road Traders’ Association

The anonymous Don’t Kill Mill Road Facebook page has these details and the accompanying image:

Last ditch attempt to try and persuade councillors to reopen Mill Road bridge to cars is being organised by the Mill Road traders whose livelihoods have been affected by the closure.

Show your support for Local independent shops and join them on the 24th July 2021 @ 11am – 2pm.

Also, please complete this survey set up by Cambridge Labour to gauge public opinion https://www.cambridgelabour.org.uk/mill-road-questionnaire/

Mill Road independent shops are at risk of closure if this bridge continues to be closed. Please share this event with your friends and family members.

Don’t Kill Mill Road Facebook page
Image with date and time as in quote, above

It is not known whether the protesters will attempt to physically prevent pedestrians and cyclists from using the bridge, or only the limited range of vehicles currently permitted to use the bridge.

These details are published here to enable those who support the aims of the protesters to join the protest. If you oppose the protesters, it might be better to avoid the bridge at the time of the protest and make your feelings known elsewhere.


This post is open for (polite) comments, whatever your view.

Cut the Clutter!

Week of Action Monday 12th July – Sunday 18th July 2021

The Living Streets organisation is hoping to map some of the obstructions that clutter our pavements throughout this week. Can you help to highlight the problems which pedestrians face in and around Mill Road?

This is a great opportunity to highlight some of the major barriers to safe walking, especially for wheelchair users and others with disabilities as well as for parents with buggies. Click here to start mapping your local pavement-clutter.

Photo as caption below
Black, green and blue wheelie-bins and ‘side waste’ block a narrow pavement, off Mill Road. Photo taken two days before blue bin collection, nine days ahead of black bin collection and 15 days before green bin collection.

If you can, please take some time, during the week, to record the locations of misplaced or broken street furniture and guard rails, A-boards cluttering narrow pavements, badly located bike racks, disused phone boxes, traffic signs or street lamps in the middle of pavements and other obstruction. Enter those details in the simple map provided, together with a photograph if you can take one.

However…
Traders are permitted to place sign-boards, produce stalls, tables and chairs on their forecourt area. Often the only way to distinguish between the footway and the forecourt is a line of paving blocks. Take a look at the annotated photo, below.

Photo showing footway and adjacent forecourt area on Mill Road, Cambridge
The cycle-stands and the two vehicles are pavement clutter. The produce stall, chairs and table are not, as they are on a shop forecourt.

We thank, David Stoughton, Chair, Living Streets Cambridge, for drawing this campaign to our attention.

Mill Road – The Future

Is the Mill Road community an undifferentiated block, who agree on everything? Far from it. That’s why we adopted (borrowed) the phrase Community of Communities. Gather half-a-dozen Mill Roaders in a meeting and you’ll generate a score of differing opinions.


We are pleased to see the establishment of a new website and group trying to create a positive vision for the future of Mill Road.

Mill Road – A Street for People is a group of Cambridge residents working on a non-partisan basis to seek consensus to get the best Mill Road for everyone.

Note Mill Road – A Street for People is not controlled by, nor aligned to Mill Road Bridges. We exist to foster debate about Mill Road and will draw attention to all websites, protests, opinion surveys and events concerning Mill Road which come to our attention, on whatever ‘side’ of any ‘argument’ they stand.

Photo of cyclist crossing Mill Road Bridge

It is a site which hosts a variety of (sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting) ideas.

This post is open to (polite) comments, and so is Mill Road – A Street for People.

There are endless discussions on Nextdoor, Facebook and Twitter, but not everyone has (or wants) an account on those social media. This site is open to all, as is Mill Road – A Street for People.


And what of the future?

Since June 2020 there have been restrictions on what traffic can lawfully use Mill Road Bridge – see Wider footways, barriers and bridge restrictions. Some claim that the restrictions are ‘killing’ Mill Road. Others point to the new businesses starting up in Mill Road as signs of change and growth. These include the Harvest Organic Supermarket, and the Eclipse Bakery on Romsey Broadway; whilst, on the Petersfield (city) side, Finn Boys Fish Butchery restaurant, a new Co-op, The Lads Piri-Piri, and another restaurant – Fancett’s – at 96A (Fabio’s former premises) have recently opened or are about to open.

Image street sign
MILL ROAD OPEN
SHOPS OPEN FOR BUSINESS
BRIDGE CLOSED TO THROUGH TRAFFIC
(EXCEPT FOR BUSES AND CYCLES)

Some want all restrictions on bridge traffic removed, to bring ‘passing trade’ back to Mill Road. Others insist that passing motor-traffic is just that. Passing. Not stopping. Not shopping. Would the return of the previous traffic congestion, air pollution and road traffic accidents be worth it for the alleged benefits to traders?

Can compromises be found?

Limited taxi access over the bridge? All taxis? Even the Wolverhampton-registered private hire vehicles operating in Cambridge?

Access for Blue Badge holders? Difficult as the Blue Badge is a parking permit, linked to an individual (driver or passenger) not a vehicle. But could a means be found?

Delivery vehicles to traders? Which ones? What times?

Some blame any drop in trade to the current restrictions on Mill Road Bridge, while others point out that Covid-related restrictions on shopping, eating out, and socialising have hit businesses across the city and the country.

Many have pointed out that it wasn’t traffic restrictions which led to the demise of the once mighty Cambridge and District Co-operative Society, nor to the failure of BHS, Debenhams, Top Shop, and many more; that every High Street, including Mill Road, has had changes of shops.

Doreen’s – The noted shop for coats – is long gone. As shopping preferences change, so do the shops.

Photo of former shop on Mill Road, Doreen's coats
Doreen’s – Courtesy of the Suzy Oakes Collection

To get a flavour of earlier discussions see the links at the foot of this post.


Let’s get the debate progressing.

This post is open to (polite) comments, and so is Mill Road – A Street for People.


And now for something completely different (but related)

Have you ever wondered why Mill Road has become the lucky host to Cambridge Central Mosque?

Could it be that, just as half-a-dozen Mill Roaders will generate a score of differing opinions. That’s exactly the same for Muslims?

Listen to Baroness Sayeeda Warsi on the subject of the ‘Muslim community’.

“You want to talk to me about Muslims, as if somehow they’re just one big monolithic block? You get two Muslims in a room you get six opinions.”

Sayeeda Warsi on Channel 4’s Stand Up and Deliver

If you haven’t seen the two programmes, they are well worth a watch, with (spoiler alert) Sayeeda Warsi a worthy winner, and Rev Richard Coles a commendable runner-up.

No wonder the Cambridge Central Mosque was built on Mill Road – an ideal place for a beautiful building and a continuing debate about the best future for the ‘Mill Road community’.


See also: