Sunday 13 December 2020

Response to Waterbeach Cambridge Consultation 2020

We have prepared the following response to the GCP's consultation on Waterbeach to Cambridge which closes at midday on 14 Dec:

We strongly support any plans for improving active travel routes between Waterbeach and Cambridge. Waterbeach village and Waterbeach New Town are ideally situated for cycling to and from Cambridge. Centre to centre the distance is 6.4 miles. Many destinations such as Cambridge Science Park are closer. With the rapid adoption of e-bikes this distance is well within the capabilities of anyone that can ride a bike. E-bikes and other forms of electrically powered personal mobility will transform personal transport over the next decade, particular commuter journeys, but they will require infrastructure which provides safe, direct routes with good connectivity to many destinations.  


The advantage of cycling over all other modes of transport is flexibility and reliability. Private vehicle travel is very unreliable and polluting, bus destinations are less flexible and train/CAM destinations are quite inflexible often requiring a mode switch at either or both ends of the journey. Cycling (including e-bikes) is also far less environmentally damaging in use than other forms of transport. For short journeys it can be quicker due to the flexibility and not only is it good for health and well-being but also sociable. 


Cycling infrastructure is far less environmentally damaging and costly than either road building or construction of major public transport infrastructure. It also has a far less negative impact on existing residents. For example, a high-quality cycle route could be easily delivered through the contentious area of Cambridge Rd and Glebe road in Waterbeach. Routing cycle ways through quiet residential streets works well but buses or other large vehicles are not compatible with quiet residential streets. 


Unfortunately, Waterbeach is very poorly served with cycling infrastructure. The A10 path is unpleasant, narrow and dangerous. Haling Way along the river is narrow, often muddy and indirect. There is no other cycling infrastructure. 


We strongly support the Waterbeach Greenway. The first phase was approved in February 2020 with an estimate for completion of 4 years. We would strongly encourage the GCP to make every effort to pull forward the completion date so that it is ready before first occupation of the New Town. We also think that the GCP should consider extending the phase 1 route from the northern end of the phase 1 Greenway to phase 1 of the New Town prior to first occupation. It is important that the infrastructure is in place before first occupation because new residents’ travel habits will be formed as they decide to live in Waterbeach and will be difficult to change later. 


We strongly support the commitments made to providing funding for the cycle bridge across the A10 at Denny End Road, the construction of cycle path along Mere Way to join the busway, and improvements to the cycle path along the A10.


Although we would support an active travel route alongside a transport route between Waterbeach and Cambridge we do think that the Greenway, Mere Way and(improved A10 paths would provide several options for active travel between Waterbeach and Cambridge. However, these must have sufficient capacity to support a high level of cycling. In preference to a fourth active travel route between Waterbeach and Cambridge, we would much rather see improvements to other destinations such as: 

·      routes north to Denny Abbey, Chittering and Stretham and eventually Ely 

·      a route west to Cottenham (providing a safe route to the New Town from villages to the west) 

·      a route east from Waterbeach to the villages to the east of the river Cam which would require landowner cooperation or compulsory purchase. This would provide an important route for villagers of Bottisham, Lode, Burwell and the Swaffhams to the New Town and access to Waterbeach train station 

We have concerns that the proposed western route may delay the work on the construction of a Mere Way cycle path. The developer (Urban & Civic) is unlikely to want to proceed with this if there is a possibility that it will be the chosen route for the Waterbeach-Cambridge transport route at some later date. 

We have concerns that the eastern route may delay the development of the Greenway.  

Although not directly relevant to this consultation we are also concerned that the uncertainty about changes to the A10 may dissuade Urban & Civic from undertaking their commitments to upgrading the cycle path along the A10. 


Our principal concern is that the plans for transport between Waterbeach and Cambridge could undermine and delay existing commitments to create high quality active travel infrastructure between Waterbeach and Cambridge. 


In summary our recommendations relating to this consultation are: 

·       Pull forward the completion date of the Waterbeach Greenway to match first occupation of phase 1 of the New Town 

·       Extend the Greenway through Waterbeach village to phase 1 of the New Town  

·       Avoid doing anything that will delay or prejudice the delivery of the three committed projects: 

o   Waterbeach Greenway 

o   Mere Way (Urban & Civic) including the cycle bridge over the A10 

o   A10 cycle path improvements (Urban & Civic) 

·       Incorporate into the planning process the dramatic changes to personal mobility that are already underway in the form of electrified modes; existing modelling methods will underestimate distances that people are willing to travel and will fail to demonstrate the true value of proposals.