Can we fix the Long Road/Hills Road junction for everyone?


Let’s play “you are the cyclist”.
Although for hundreds of cyclists every day, this is not a game. You are cycling down Hills Road from the city in the morning, aiming to get to work (or an appointment) at Addenbrooke’s. You reach the Long Road crossroads above. What will you do?

Obviously, you’ll follow the traffic over the junction, down to the Addenbrooke’s roundabout where you’ll turn right into the hospital, won’t you?

Not if you do it regularly, you won’t. That’s because there is an alternative which cuts off half of the distance and avoids a roundabout which can be, quite frankly, terrifying. Admittedly the alternative involves cycling diagonally across the junction, then proceeding down the wrong side of the road, on a pavement. But it’s something which hundreds of cyclists take the decision to do, every day.

Here are the two routes compared. You can understand why cyclists take the red route.


Now, as part of the Greater Cambridge City Deal, this junction is being examined for possible improvements. And the views of residents and users are being sought. We have until 15 February to do so. The reshaping of the paths will have a significant impact for the residents of that section of the road, so it’s important that things are done properly. However, overall the improvements should solve an acknowledged problem, as well as completing the Hills Road cycleway down to Addenbrooke’s.

What should be done? Reading the discussions on the Cyclescape Forum (membership required), there is no obvious answer to keeping everybody the right side of the law, improving safety and maximising traffic flow. The planners have come up with two options. One formalises the cyclists crossing diagonally and taking the red route, on the basis that “they’re going to do it anyway”. It puts a contraflow cycleway on the west side of Hills Road between the junction and the hospital. The other design attempts to keep the southbound cyclists on the correct side of the road by providing a combined pedestrian and cycle crossing just before the roundabout.

You might think that regular cyclists would be in favour of formalising the diagonal crossing, but not all are. Some are strongly in favour of consistency in cycle route provision, and don’t want another ‘one off’ solution in the city which is not replicated anywhere else.

Also under consideration is preventing southbound motor vehicles from turning left into Queen Edith’s way, to avoid difficulties caused by vehicles crossing the cycle lane. You may have a view on this.

So, what’s next? Firstly, there’s an exhibition coming up where you can see the plans and presumably quiz council officers. It’s being held at St John the Evangelist church (Hills Road, on the corner of Blinco Grove) on Wednesday 3rd Feb, from 5.30pm to 8.30pm. I know that lots of local residents are planning to attend and find out more. If you can’t make that meeting, there’s information (including detailed drawings) on the City Deal website here.

Then there’s an official survey where you can put forward some very basic views. You can just skip through the pages about the schemes elsewhere in the city. Finally, you can put your views forward to the City Deal team via any of these routes:
Twitter: @gccitydeal
Post: City Deal Team, SH1311, Shire Hall, Cambridge, CB3 0AP
We have until 15 February to respond.

6 Replies to “Can we fix the Long Road/Hills Road junction for everyone?”

  1. Thanks for drawing this to people’s attention Chris. I think there are two key points:

    – firstly, the potential impact of closing the left turn into QEW requires proper consideration, not just because of the implications for residents on that road, or the extra load on the Addenbrooke’s roundabout, but also because of the risk of encouraging rat-running on Glebe Rd, Holbrook Rd and other ‘short cuts’ heading east through heavily parked up residential streets with three primary schools in close proximity. The City Deal team have launched this consultation without having done a count of the number of cars that would need to be re-routed.

    – secondly, this scheme is supposed to be in response to the foreseen increased demand for cycle access to the Biomedical Campus behind the existing Addenbrooke’s site. Yet whether it implements the formalised diagonal crossing or not, this scheme only deposits cyclists at the front of Addenbrooke’s, from where they will have to pick their route through the hospital site to the Campus, and that’s not easy! If the City Deal want to support straightforward cycle access to the Biomedical Campus, they have to deal with the frankly appalling cycle provision on Long Road – but in the four years I have been campaigning for this, it has been virtually impossible to get any engagement. It may be easier to throw ?millions at Hills Road than resolving the Long Road access, but it isn’t really going very far to solving the problem they claim to be addressing.

    My final observation is that the currently available engineering drawings do not make fully clear the impact on the neighbourhood – for example, if the diagonal crossing is not implemented, then the assumption is that cyclists will continue to the Addenbrooke’s roundabout, then wait for a two phase cycle/pedestrian crossing to get them to the hospital side. There is no provision in the drawings for any ‘pen’ to hold any waiting cyclists, let alone in the numbers who might be using the crossing. When questioned, the City Deal engineer I spoke to explained that the necessary space could be created by *re-aligning that whole leg of the junction*, eating into the verge beside the staff car park.

    Sadly, on the basis of the currently available information, people signing up for this scheme cannot know what they are really signing up for. That makes it a bad process in my eyes. Sorry for the lengthy posting but poorly-thought-through stuff like this makes me cross!

  2. Sam is right about traffic turning left into QEW.
    I do that all the time now when coming from town, since Cherryhinton Road became a 20mph zone.
    I don’t want to get involved in the Addenbrookes roundabout in peak periods, so Holbrooke or Glebe Roads are the obvious option.
    Thanks for putting this one out there.

    1. Turning left on a bike will still be permitted, just motor vehicle turns may be restricted. You don’t say which you do. I do both, but approx 50 times more often on a bike.

      I don’t have strong opinions on the two addies access options, beyond the general principle that the hospital does a terrible job of catering for cycle access and all improvements are welcome. (I have been campaigning for years to get the end of Red Cross Lane opened up to be decent cycle access instead of pushing pedestrians and cyclists through a 0.9m wide gate (and now down behind the hedge for no good reason at all. Progress has been astonishingly slow – it’s clear that the hospital really don’t care).

      The should be major improvements on Queen Ediths for cycling (segregation) in the next year or so, and on Fulbourn Rd which should make it a lot easier for people to get to Addenbrookes, but if the Addies Roundabout remains a barrier without good alternatives people will stil mostly drive from Cherry Hinton instead of cycle. I’d argue that the recommended route should be QE->NIghtingale Ave->Red Cross lane, thus avoiding the main rbout entirely. (And with a much better crossing of Hills Rd there)

      Also the proposed new Robin Hood junction remains a barrier. The design does almost nothing for cyclists and makes pedestrians cross every arm in 2 stages, because the whole design is about maximising motor vehicle flow. The cyclists still get to go in with the cars (no segregation in time or space) and turning right will be very difficult for all but the fast and experienced.

      If we want a load of those people driving to go by bike instead (and we should – it’s by far the cheapest way of reducing congestion and improving journey reliability) this junction needs to be convenient and attractive on bike and foot, not just by car. We are in danger of getting 3 nice cycle schemes on the attached roads leading up to a terrible junction that scares off most people, making the schemes mostly a complete waste of time and money.

      It needs a rethink. Something like this:

      This is part of the same consultation (‘Cross City Cycling’). So respond on this part too if you care.

  3. Holbrooke Road, Glebe Road, all those back roads are a currentlyy a nightmare .Cars parked on either side, visibility impaired, so much more traffic passing through and the verges on the “through road”to Rock Road churned up. If this is the result of the 20 mph limit it’s not a good one.
    The cycle path on the south side of Hills Road to Addenbrookes has always been a two way route for cyclists, it’s less hard work and less dangerous than on the other side of the road and the crossing of Long Road is quite safe if you obey the lights. The cycle path is now double the size that it used to be so where is the problem?
    I honestly think that the roads, roundabout, speed limits and cycle paths are something that councillors just enjoy meddling with to prove that they are actually doing something. The houses on the Long Road/Addenbrookes side are lower than the road. Concreting over the grass verges may bring unwelcome mass of water down the drives of these properties when we have torrential rain – which is quite often.
    I cycle regularly on this route and I cannot say that it is any better than it used to before the “improvements” and I also believe that there have been more accidents since the new lane and floating bus stops. It also has not improved the look of the road and I notice that a tiny grass verge no wider than a ribbon has been left at one point…….how to mow?

  4. No cheap or simple solution to this, however since the Addenbrookes site is responsible for such a large proportion of the traffic movements in the south of the city (including the southbound queue back up Hills Road) its got to be tackled.
    Taking as read the fact that the organisations on the site ( and wider biomedical campus ) ought to be running a comprehensive works bus service and taking other measures to encourage alternative travel methods ( and pushing for a Cambridge South station ) let consider the just the junction at the front of the hospital.
    To get the capacity to cope with the current traffic volume we will need to look at replacing the roundabout with a signalised junction and possibly grade separation ( this is one of the few places in Cambridge where a vehicle “tunnel” or at least underpass might be viable – possibly height-restricted) i.e. Fendon Road would run under a re-aligned Hills Road and into the hospital with just sufficient slip roads to maintain hospital access from all directions.
    With this volume of motor traffic all pedestrian and cycle routes would need unravelling from the road network and taken through their own separate underpasses and tracks away from the road.
    This will all need more land take; so the surface car parks at the front of the hospital would have to first be relocated. The solution might be to convert the surface car park in the centre of the hospital site into a multi-storey.

  5. The City Deal is intended, inter-alia I believe, to assist us in dealing with traffic issues in this [once compact, beautiful] City of ours. Some of the issues will be far easier dealt with than others, however, I suspect that as time goes by we will miss the majority of funding due to inertia and a lack of [and I hesitate to use the words] blue-sky thinking. I have read lots of “stuff” on the possibility of constructing an underground system across the City and despite it being a relatively straightforward project to implement given the right design and contractor involvement, [and that would preclude any of those involved in any way on the Misguided Bus scheme], this will never happen. It should, but it never will due to a lack of vision. Moving on……..
    What is possibly needed at this junction is a stainless-steel “spider” style raised cycle / pedestrian bridge. Constructing the base “stations” only would hinder traffic flows for a short period of time providing Skanska were not involved, the bridge itself made off-site with just a couple of overnight road-closures whilst the bridge is craned into place. Run a competition, get a Starchitect involved, and get a cracking solution that would bring even more visitors to the City. In memory of David Bowie we Cantabrigians could call it the Spiders from Mars Bridge. I am serious…. run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it

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