Some new cycle paths are being planned in Cambridge. Good news, you might think. I took a look. Amongst them are a path from Milton to Impington which ought to provide a good route for school children. It's about 1.2 miles or 2 km. A very small distance by the standards of how far Dutch children routinely cycle to secondary school.
I first knew about this as a result of the Cambridge paper being in uproar about how the improved path might mean the end of the school bus by which children currently make this journey. Back when we lived there, I found that a lot of parents were quite against there being an improved cycle route in this direction specifically because they feared the end of the school bus. Who needs a bus to travel such a short distance ?
When you read the plans on the council's website you discover that the parents fears are at least in part justified. What is being proposed is not nearly good enough. It's to be merely a 2.5 m wide path shared by pedestrians and cyclists travelling in both directions, and separated from a road with a 100 km/h (60 mph) speed limit by just half a metre. That's an inadequate gap to provide subjective safety with motor vehicles travelling at such speed so close by.
What's more, the proposed path doesn't actually reach the obvious destination, Impington Village College, which is another half a mile into Impington, around a few blind corners on the road. I had a couple of scary incidents myself in that location, with drivers coming in the opposite direction driving too fast on the wrong side of the road around corners. Is this going to be a popular route for people to send their children on ?
For a bit of perspective, our local standards (Assen now, not Cambridge) call for 2.5 m in each direction for cyclists + additional space for pedestrians, a 2.5 m gap between the path and the road, and that our local speed limits on similar country roads are 60 km/h (37 mph). It is quite normal for children here to cycle 20 km in each direction to get to their choice of secondary school and they can always do so in safe conditions. In fact, I made a video to illustrate a school run from a village into the city.
The bridge in the photo is at one end of the proposed Milton - Impington path. I'm still waiting to hear what they will do about this existing pedestrian only bridge over the A10 which is on the proposed route. The photo above was taken back in 2005 when we still lived in Cambridge. The bridge was already falling apart.
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