Saturday, 11 August 2012

A cheap way to fix Cottenham's traffic problems

Cambridgeshire is an ever growing and prosperous area with planned building works at a number of locations guaranteeing an ever growing number of people and traffic.

Cottenham being 7 miles north of Cambridge is slap bang in the middle of the growth area.  Three miles southwest is the Northstowe development (definite) to be the biggest town since Milton Keynes; to the east is Waterbeach Barracks (probably), and to the north was Mereham (a distant possibility), and Ely slightly further north has already grown 27% in the last decade.

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Cottenham's High Street - the B1049 - already has a constant stream of traffic in rush hour with school children having difficulty crossing the road.  It's bad enough to have its own website, and there are plenty of crashes, at least twice a year I come across ambulances on scene. In 2011 we had the air ambulance.

The B1049 is terrible for cycling. I sometimes cycle north out Cottenham towards Wilburton on the Twenty Pence Road and whilst doing this you get a sense of the sheer number of vehicles hurtling towards Cottenham. There are a couple of brave cyclists coming south but it is hell - to normal folk it is not an option, simply being too dangerous. You see so many more cyclists between Cambridge and Cottenham because of the cycle path. A lot of this traffic is through traffic that is rat-running instead of taking the parallel A10 trunk road.

Come the weekend, traffic levels are much lower and the B1049 becomes a popular route for recreational cyclists heading from Cambridge towards Ely, probably looping back down through the National Cycle Network from Ely, via Wicken and Anglesey Abbey. You might think that few people will cycle this kind of distance, but the Dutch do. There is also a ever growing number of cyclists trying to reach neighbouring villages such as Histon, Waterbeach through the week, and also the Guided Bus giving a regular public transport link. But towards Wilburton there is a obvious lack of cyclists.

There are many ways Cottenham's roads could be re-engineered to calm traffic but it probably would do little to reduce traffic. You won't find many children cycling through Cottenham on their way to school or college because of the high traffic levels.

If we want to be able to safely walk and cycle through Cottenham. Here is one magic solution that wouldn't cost too much:

Why not close the Twenty Pence Road to through traffic ?

I mean leave the road in place, stop general commute traffic coming through from Wilburton into Cottenham.  Perhaps restricting the bridge over the Ouse or similar. Buses, farm traffic and cyclists could be let through somehow. What lies between are almost exclusively Fenland farms.

The through traffic could take the A10. It's going to get upgraded and is, or will be better suited to higher levels of traffic.  People genuinely trying to access Cottenham or nearby locations have two alternative options. Take the parallel A10, or use the B1050 from Earith through Willingham.  The alternative routes really don't add much to a car journey.  There is of course the possibility they might cycle or use public transport.

If you worry about additional traffic on other roads, we might find that the phenomenon of Traffic Evapouration happens - removing roads doesn't cause gridlock, traffic vanishes. It's the opposite of building roads and watching them fill with additional traffic.

The B1049 at rush hour is an extra lane of the A10.  With the Twenty Pence Road returned to a quiet access road, you've just opened up a whole series of roads to cyclists between Cambridge and Ely and beyond. At the same time, the northern end of the Cottenham's High Street becomes much quieter with the possibility of allowing safer routes to school. Youngsters who can't afford cars in villages start to have the possibility of cycling themselves to work in Cambridge and Ely, or to get to the train stations.

It sounds implausible to start with, but there are not enough downsides to make this idea go away. The biggest disadvantage I can find is a possible increase in traffic on the east-west route between Cottenham and Landbeach. We'll find out what happens to traffic levels the next time there is a crash on the Twenty Pence Road.

So the question for me becomes: Why NOT close Twenty Pence Road ?