People evaluate their transport choices when they move home or change their place of work. If alternatives to using the car aren’t available, people will invest in – or keep – those second or third cars. It will be hard for subsequent improvements to public transport or cycling routes to win them over.
At the Great Kneighton development in Trumpington, much of the housing is occupied and the secondary school is partially open. However, access by foot, bike, or bus remains awkward. To get from one half of the development to the other on foot or bike involves a constantly varying route over muddy roads, mixing with construction vehicles. Yet huge multilane junctions linking to Long Road and Shelford Road were there from the outset. These have encouraged car traffic and discouraged alternatives.
The next big proposed housing development in the city is the southern corner of Cambridge Airport. Thirty years ago, the last major development in Cherry Hinton was designed as a series of cul-de-sacs off a perimeter road, with footways linking to the High Street. The documentation released so far for the new airport development suggests that the planners are looking for an arrangement similar to Great Kneighton. They should have to provide very good reasons for doing this.
A perimeter road does have the danger of being a ‘by-pass’ which encourages more and higher speed car traffic. But if the ‘spine’ of the development is a green corridor, ideal for walking and cycling (perhaps with some bus access), benefits for all will outweigh this. The green spine must be available from day one.
Putting the main road for motor traffic adjacent to the airport would offer a buffer, and could remove some traffic, especially HGVs, from the village parts of Coldham’s Lane and Cherry Hinton High Street. For motor vehicles, roads running into the development from each side would be cul-de-sacs and would only connect to the green spine through pedestrian and cycle paths. Vehicles would not enter or cross the green spine, keeping it a pleasant and safe place for people to shop and meet, and for children to play.
This can be done, and our councillors need to lead the way.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 27 September 2017.