Azara Blog: Cambridge transport planners officially throw out Victoria Avenue closure plans

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Date published: 2006/07/06

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Plans to install bollards to restrict traffic on two of Cambridge's busiest streets have been thrown out.

But residents in Victoria Avenue and Maids' Causeway are demanding something is done.

Now engineers will investigate a 20mph limit monitored by average speed cameras, restrictions on HGVs and traffic calming.

Councillors also want to see a pedestrian crossing at the junction with James Street.

Residents claim they have been waiting seven years since the two streets were included in the Core Traffic scheme which aims to reduce through traffic in the historic city centre.

Wendy Andrews from Brunswick and North Kite Residents' Association said: "In 1999, the council predicted that traffic on Maids Causeway would increase by 23 per cent when Emmanuel Road closed. In fact the traffic has increased by 36 per cent. Maids' Causeway now carries 15,500 vehicles and Victoria Avenue 17,000 per day.

"Sixty per cent of it is through traffic. That's over 9,000 vehicles per day not needing to access the city centre but just taking the shortest route through the middle."

Another resident, Dr Erica Hunter, said: "In October 2001 a proposal to ban HGVs was rejected by the environment and transport area joint committee because this would be dealt with when the phase was implemented. We've all been waiting and feeling the vibrations as the HGVs literally cause the old houses to shake."

Both speakers presented petitions to the Cambridge Traffic Management Area Joint Committee.

But the committee also received a petition from shopkeeper Jeremy Waller, saying access along the streets should remain open.

Councillors were concerned about the apparent split in opinion about whether something should be done.

A previous survey showed 60 per cent of people wanted action but during recent public consultation, 61 per cent said nothing should be done at the moment.

Coun Julian Huppert, committee chairman, suggested looking at a range of alternatives.

But Richard Preston, Cambridgeshire County Council's head of network management, warned there was no cash available for schemes in the area and implementation of average speed cameras would mean a change of policy.

He said: "I want to try to manage expectations. On cameras, people will demand why Maids' Causeway instead of a hundred other sites."

Indeed, why should Maids' Causeway have speed cameras, the problem they are complaining about is traffic quantity, not speed. (Victoria Avenue already has one speed camera.) And why 20 mph and not 30 mph like just about everywhere else in the city? (During the evening rush hour, cycles move faster than cars on Maid's Causeway and Victoria Avenue, and drivers would be ecstatic to even achieve 20 mph.) Maid's Causeway and Victoria Avenue are not dangerous roads. And if these roads are to be closed down then why not every other road in Cambridge? Indeed, forbid the rich residents of Maid's Causeway from driving down any other road in Cambridge, if they want to ban other people from driving down their road. And before Elizabeth Way was built, Victoria Avenue was the busiest road in the city, so this is not a new situation.

Needless to say if Maid's Causeway is closed down then the traffic will just move to Elizabeth Way, which is already way overloaded. But evidently the rich residents of Maid's Causeway think they are more precious than the poorer residents of Elizabeth Way. And you could not sensibly ask for lorries to be permanently removed from Maid's Causeway and Victoria Avenue because that is one of the few routes into the shops in the northern part of the centre of the city, thanks to the closure of Bridge Street. (Well, they could ban lorries from Maid's Causeway and not from Victoria Avenue. But this would increase lorry traffic on Elizabeth Way and Chesterton Road.)

Perhaps the Cambridge ruling elite are finally learning the obvious lesson that closing roads down just moves problems elsewhere. But don't count on it. A few years ago the residents of Victoria Road campaigned to get lorries banned from their road at night, and the brilliant suggestion from the Cambridge ruling elite then was for the lorries instead to use Histon and Gilbert Roads (yes, the residents of those roads told the ruling elite where to go, so this idea was never implemented). And the Maid's Causeway problems are partly due to the closures of Bridge Street and Emmanuel Road. So we have been there before and no doubt will be there again. Unfortunately the cult of car hatred is behind most policies of the Cambridge ruling elite, and that will continue.

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