Back in May, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a ‘once in a generation’ plan to boost cycling and walking post-lockdown. The £2bn plan, entitled Gear Change: A bold vision for cycling and walking, aims to provide a raft of new transport infrastructure to cater for what is hoped to be a vastly increased number of cyclists and pedestrians on English roads in the years to come. With this plan, the government clearly aims to tackle two significant issues: the impact of a lack of physical activity on the nation’s health (especially since evidence suggests that obesity can increase the risk of suffering serious coronavirus symptoms), and the ever-growing climate change crisis.
The plan’s introduction states: “Increasing cycling and walking can help us tackle some of the most challenging issues we face as a society – improving air quality, combatting climate change, improving health and wellbeing, addressing inequalities and tackling congestion on our roads.”
Now, Cambridge is leading the way with the UK’s first Dutch-style roundabout, which prioritises the safety of both cyclists and pedestrians.
Located on Fendon Road near Addenbrookes Hospital, the roundabout features an outer ring for cyclists and dedicated cycle lanes on entry and exit, both marked out in a contrasting red colour, as well as zebra crossings over each approach road for pedestrians. Motorists are obliged to give way not only to other motorists approaching from the right, but also to approaching cyclists and pedestrians wishing to cross. Meanwhile, reduced lane widths on entry and exit have also been introduced to encourage motorists to drive more slowly.
Works on the old roundabout, which was considered by many as dangerous to cycle around, came at a cost of £2.3m, considerably over the original budget of £800,000, with the council citing additional utility work and the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason behind this almost trebled cost. The roundabout was unveiled for public use on 31 July.
“Killing zone” or “a small piece of Dutch cycling heaven”?
As with most new things, the roundabout has its advocates and its opponents.
Roxanne De Beaux, director of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, hailed it as a “small piece of Dutch cycling heaven”, while head of roads policy at the RAC, Nicholas Lyes, stated: “Going Dutch will take on a whole new meaning in Cambridge and the council should take credit for trying to improve safety for all road users.”
Meanwhile, other motorists are concerned that the roundabout will exacerbate congestion and cause confusion, which could lead to an increased number of accidents.
The future of transport?
In its plan, the government has pledged to create more “mini-Hollands”, citing the example of three London boroughs that were selected for “intensive, transformational spending on their roads and streetscapes to make them, over time, as cycle and pedestrian-friendly as their Dutch equivalents.” This investment increased cycling by 18% and walking by 13% in one year. Now, the government has stated that it will select up to 12 willing, non-London local authority areas to participate in the ‘mini-Holland’ scheme. Bad news for the opponents of Cambridge’s Dutch roundabout, perhaps – but the government’s vision means we’re likely to see many more in the years to come.