No immediate plans to upgrade Cambridge Road but granite setts might be re-done

On Tuesday (18/09/2012) I met with Jane Thompson from East Cambs Council and two Highway’s Engineers from Cambridgeshire County Council to look at how best to refresh the existing cycle provision in Ely and point out any other improvements that could be made.

I had two issues to think about:

  1. The granite setts – speed bumps outside the Porta at the top of Back Hill (
  2. The pinch point where Cambridge Road becomes St Mary’s St at the junction with West End. (

The good news might be the granite setts. The council officers all agreed they needed re-doing and the highways engineer thought the most cost effective way to tackle them was to take them up and re-lay them in a material that was durable and could be smoothed to the same smoothness as the bumps further down the Gallery. They would still need to be aesthetically pleasing to get approval but it didn’t sound like that would be an issue.

The Highways Engineers will cost up the work needed to close the road, take up the setts and re-lay them so they are smooth. Jane Thomson from East Cambs Council then has the choice of whether she submits this to use the S106 money.

As most of the commuters use this route to the station; there are obvious benefits so hopefully this will go ahead. This issue came up at the Ely Cycle Forum meeting earlier in the year which Jane Thomson attended. So she knows it’s an issue that has been brought up by the cyclists of Ely and not just the Cycling Campaign.

The outlook for the Cambridge Road pinch point was not so hopeful. As you cycle into Ely on Cambridge Road, you approach the junction with West End and St Mary’s Road. Firstly there is a big flashing 30mph sign to slow drivers down, then SLOW written on the road, then the road markings narrow the middle of the road and a bollard forces the vehicles left into a small gap. For cyclists, the path ends and you are forced into a tight space with the vehicles coming up behind you who are driving to avoid the bollard as well as you.

The council officers agreed that the pinch point where the cycle path ends was dangerous for cycles and with the traffic calming already further up (big 30mph flashing sign), it wasn’t really needed.

However, Cambridge Road road surface is in a very bad condition with potholes, cracks and patches which make it unpleasant to cycle on. The council have put the road forward for resurfacing and recently lost a bid down to a road marking error. When the lines were refreshed they were done further than instructed and when the road was inspected for resurfacing it was decided, “if you think it was good enough to paint, you don’t need to re do it”. A simple error by painting too far meant they lost the improvement bid.

They have applied to have the whole stretch from the A10 roundabout down to the city centre to be resurfaced. However, there are plans to replace a huge power cable that runs from Soham to the electricity junction building on the corner next to the aforementioned pinch point. If they re-surface the road before that cable gets done, then there will be a trench dug into the new road surface. This cable replacement is planned for some time around 2014, so the chances are they will wait until that’s done before bidding to have the whole road done.

All in all, this means that they won’t re-surface the cycle lane, and remove the island for fear that they delay the road improvements they want overall for the whole road – the better the road looks, the less chance CCC get the funding to do that stretch the way they’d like to. In short, the system encourages councils to let the roads look in really bad need of improvement in order to get them higher up the list on big projects.

It’s not suitable to go in as a bid for the Sainsbury’s S106 money as it’s too far from the area the funding is supposed to cover.

It was an interesting insight into why our roads are so rubbish. So, in places where they aren’t rubbish…how do they do it? It can be done. Is it more money or just better management?


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