Azara Blog: Cambridge businesses do not like the proposed closure of Victoria Avenue

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Date published: 2006/04/23

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Two of Cambridge's busiest roads could be closed during the middle of the day - blocking access to two multi-storey car parks and countless shops.

Cambridgeshire County Council is considering closing Maid's Causeway and Victoria Avenue from 10am to 4pm - a move which would cut off access to the city centre, and to Park Street and The Grafton centre west car parks.

The council says up to 60 per cent of the 15,000 vehicles using the two roads between 7am and 7pm daily is just passing through the area.

And one of three options the council is proposing to cut city centre traffic is the part-time "tidal" closure of the roads in Stage 5 of the city's Core Traffic Scheme.

But businesses have reacted furiously to the possible introduction of bollards, similar to those in Silver Street, which would limit access to the city.

Under Option A the two roads would be open to city-centre-bound traffic only from 6am to 10am, and for vehicles heading away from the centre between 4pm and midnight, but with exemptions for buses, taxis and cyclists.

The council says this would improve the environment for residents, pedestrians and cyclists, improve air quality and reduce accidents.

But it concedes it will push traffic on to Elizabeth Way - which already carries around 25,000 vehicles from 7am to 7pm daily - and Chesterton Road.

The council says diverting traffic to Elizabeth Way and Chesterton Road at peak times would cause unacceptable congestion on these roads.

Brian Stinton, lead engineer with the council's Cambridge projects team, said: "We are looking at moving some of the traffic flows onto the ring road in such a way that it can cope.

"We would still allow traffic in the dominant direction during the peaks. The closure would be during the off-peak period."

Michael Wiseman, director of The Grafton and chairman of the Cambridge Retail and Commercial Association (CRACA), called the scheme a "step too far".

He said: "CRACA is concerned retail businesses in Cambridge are already suffering from ever increasing restrictions for people wishing to access the city centre by car.

"While we have worked with the city and county council's to try and reach an acceptable compromise with previous schemes, we feel the closure, or even partial closure, of Maid's Causeway and Victoria Avenue is a step to far at this time.

"The closure or partial closure of this route will only push even more traffic on to the already crowed Elizabeth Way route and cause further pollution in this relatively narrow area.

"It will also severely affect flows into Park Street and the Grafton West car parks which is likely to lead to a loss in parking revenue for the city council and subsequent further increases in either parking charges or increases in the local council tax to offset the loss of income.

"CRACA will therefore be encouraging its members and other local businesses to support Option C - do nothing at present."

Another businessman said the proposed scheme would have a "vast" negative impact.

Jeremy Waller, who lives in Brunswick Gardens, off Maid's Causeway, has his Primavera shop on King's Parade and another business, First Edition, in Wellington Court, off Newmarket Road.

He said: "The negatives are vast, compared with simple traffic calming measures.

"It would send another hugely negative message to city centre shoppers, employees who need their cars to get to work and businesses that need vehicles, that the city centre of Cambridge is not the place to go to or invest in."

He added: "I have experience of what happened at Silver Street. It has had a terrible impact on the trading results of all shops and activities near or on King's Parade."

Giulio Cinque, proprietor of Giulio's menswear shop on King Street, said: "I am a member of the recently formed Sussex Street Traders Association and we can see no benefits.

"If I drive in by 9am to open the shop, what am I going to do if I want to go out before 4pm?

"There is an option to do nothing and I think that would be best."

There was traffic chaos when Victoria Avenue was closed northbound for two weeks last August while work on an underground gas main was carried out by Transco.

The council's Option B would see both roads remain open but with traffic management measures to control speed, improve safety, and improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists.

Option C, the "do nothing" option, would also maintain the current choice of routes but offer no improvement to conditions for road users or residents along the route.

This is an elaboration of a report from last week. Unfortunately the people who run Cambridge hate cars, and if they have to cut off their nose to spite their face, they will. They have done it before, and they will do it again, and then trumpet how wonderful the world is (in spite of plenty of evidence to the contrary). They seem to want a Cambridge where only students and tourists go anywhere near the centre of town.

Option A really is crazy. If you go for that (the likely option, unless enough people tell the plonkers who run Cambridge that they are plonkers) then the city might as well shut down the Park Steet car park, because it would be inaccessible during the day. (The Park Street car park is already the world's most expensive cycle shed, so it could just solidify that status further.)

And Option B is just letting the health and safety nutters ruin yet another road. Victoria Avenue is already perfectly safe for cyclists (of which there are enough) and pedestrians (of which there are hardly any, except to cross at one of the two crosswalks). So the city is offering great expense and grief for no reason.

And note that the city talks about "through" traffic, without even defining what it is, or why it is allegedly bad. Most major roads in Cambridge have almost nothing but "through" traffic on them. Let's shut them all down. Victoria Avenue was built specifically as a bribe to the citizens of Chesterton to compensate them for the additional tax they would have to pay when they were amalgamated into Cambridge, just over a hundred years ago.

Closing Victoria Avenue is a stab in the back for everybody who lives north of the river, in particular for the people of Chesterton, Arbury and King's Hedges. Let the electorate of those areas know that it is the Lib Dems who are promoting these crackpot policies, and the local councillors are doing nothing to help. Indeed, one of the Chesterton councillors, Julian Huppert, is one of the chief protagonists trying to close the roads down.

And Elizabeth Way is a disaster area not just in the rush hour. In particular, on the weekends it is congested worst in the middle of the day. Does anybody who has anything to do with transport planning in Cambridge have a clue about transport in Cambridge? Sack them all.

The only advantage of this proposal is that is shows how dreadful are the people who run Cambridge, and it will keep them occupied having to defend this nonsense for awhile, so that they have less time to inflict their damage elsewhere in the city (until next year, of course).

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