Smarter Cambridge Transport

Could ‘lollipop’ bus routing be the answer?

I observed here at the end of July that the Greater Cambridge Partnership’s (GCP) City Access Strategy needed to include a solution for accommodating all the planned extra buses in Cambridge city centre. Their most recent report still contains no solution.

With no tunnels under Cambridge but an urgent need for action in this decade, our only option is to reallocate road space to ensure it is safe and enjoyable to walk and cycle in the city, and quick and convenient to catch buses into and out of the city.

In the absence of any better suggestions, I offer you the lollipop bus network for consideration:

One of my starting points is that large buses shouldn’t be running through Bridge/Magdalene St, Silver St and Hobson St. These should be streets for people.

The ‘lollipop’ plan would have express bus services from travel hubs in market towns and larger villages entering Cambridge along the main radial roads, but instead of continuing into the city centre, they turn right when they reach the inner ring road (Gonville Pl, East Rd, Maids Causeway, Victoria Ave, Chesterton Rd, Northampton St, Queen’s Rd, The Fen Causeway, Lensfield Rd). They make a complete circuit of the ring in an anticlockwise direction, then return along the route they came in on.

By hopping off and onto another bus at a stop anywhere around the inner ring, people can reach all destinations on all other express bus routes.

Complementary services follow different routes using size-appropriate vehicles to fill gaps in the network (e.g. minibuses through the city centre) and add capacity to popular routes.

General motor traffic travels clockwise around the inner ring road, except on The Fen Causeway, which remains two-way for all traffic. This is not as disruptive as you might at first imagine. For most trips, a route avoiding the inner ring is not that long a detour.

I presented this to the GCP citizens’ assembly in 2019, which ranked it fourth as a “supporting measure” after franchising bus services, planting trees and promoting e-bikes. I programmed all the changes into the county council’s traffic model and demonstrated it’s feasible. So, what do you think?

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 8 September 2021. The idea is explored in more detail in Cambridge city bus hub and the accompanying interactive route map.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.