Little Downham to Ely shared use path


We’re proposing the path along the south side of the B1411 be designated a shared use path for pedestrians and cyclists.

Little Downham is close to Ely and is on the National Cycle Network route 11. However, the only direct road is twisty and busy with traffic traveling at high speed.

Between Little Street (Little Downham end) to the A10 roundabout, there is a broad footpath on the South side of the road, which crosses to the North side cyclists often use this as a safer option to riding on the road.

The Route

View larger map


May 2012

This project was raised as a topic on Shape Your Place (

County Council replies were initially promising, with a suggestion that Little Downham P.C. put it on their list of Minor Road improvements for submission in the next round of grant consideration. Also, it was forwarded to John Richards at Highways.

The following reply appeared on Shapeyourplace:

From the perspective of the Local Highway Authority, this path is not given shared status because of its inadequate width. it is not surprising that cyclists use it as an alternative to the road on occasion given the traffic speeds.

It may be possible to legitimise cycling here but that would bring the potential danger of motorists expecting cyclists to use the path when there is absolutely no obligation for them to do so.

It is felt that unless it is possible to achieve improvement work along this footpath, competent cyclists should remain on the road; this reduces the risk of conflict with pedestrians. It is anticipated that the more timid cyclists and children will continue to use this path, albeit unofficially.

As has been suggested by Councillor Philip Read, this matter is one that the community, via the local council, may wish to consider.

May 2012

The cyclepath was also discussed at the May 2012 Little Downham Parish Council meeting:

28/12, 4 ShapeYourPlace – Little Downham Cycle Path – request to investigate adopting the path as an official shared use path – This was emailed on the new county community website and forwarded to the Clerk. The comment was noted but considered it to be a Highways issue.

18th July 2012

John Jermy surveyed the proposed route.

Survey of Little Downham to Ely Cyclepath at EveryTrail

The Little Downham to Ely path is adjacent to the road. The surface is sound, and varies little in width from 1.5 metres, to 1.8 metres, with most of it being around 1.6 metres width. There is one point where there is a telegraph pole that restricts the width to 1.3 metres.

The path crosses the entrance to one commercial premises (Ely Tool Hire) and crosses the B1411 Downham Road before it reaches the Ely Rugby club. A proposed development of the sports facilities at Ely Rugby club, includes the provision of avoiding the crossing of the A10 by installing a tunnel under the road.

As a comparison, the similar length, shared cyclepath from Ely to Little Thetford was also surveyed:

The shared-use path to Little Thetford, alongside the A10, varies in width from 1.0 metres to 1.3 metres. There is one point where a telegraph pole restricts the width to 0.85 metres. There is some break-up of the path surface and distortion by tree roots.

The path has quite sharp changes in direction at 2 lay-bys and crosses the entrance to a number of residential properties, a farm (Braham farm) and a camp/caravan site.

25th July 2012

The County Coucil have responded on Shape Your Place –

To paraphrase the response:

  • It’s not part of the current year’s budget
  • It’s not wide enough to be implemented without further consultation
  • Community support will be required to make current path shared use
  • Additional funds would be needed to make the path wider

30th July 2012

Little Downham Parish Council replied to an email asking if they supported a shared use path.

They are going to discuss it at their next meeting in September but raised the concern that  it may have an impact on the school bus service to the village.

August 2012

LD PC have supplied more details of the school bus issue

As Debbie has said, there were plans by the County Council to withdraw the free bus service for children in Little Downham in May 2004 because the path was considered suitable for  children to use to and from Ely College.  Parents launched a big campaign and the Parish Council supported their concerns.  I have attached the letters received and written by the Parish Council for your reference. The parents lodged an appeal and the County Council withdrew their proposal.

With the ever increasing proposals by the County Council to try and cut services to save money, there will be a concern that the County Council will consider the above option again.  However, where previously the County Council considered that 10 seconds gaps between the traffic was enough time for the children to cross the A10, there are now more vehicles on the roads and presumably less gaps, which would make crossing more treacherous.

September 2012

13th September 2012

Andy Banks attended the Little Downham Parish Council meeting.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is that the LDPC cannot support our campaign. Despite my protest that the path is wider than an existing shared-use path (Ely <> Little Thetford) they still believed it wasn’t wide enough. Also, they still think the bus service would be under threat if the path was declared a shared-use path. The underlying feeling was one of “We love cycling but…”, although I did explain we would do our very best to support the college bus service and help them with their campaign to keep it if it was threatened.

One of the people on the council mentioned there was already a path that cyclists could use between Little Downham and Ely called the Hurst. From Google Maps I think this is Hurst Lane which comes out opposite West Fen Road. The parts that I can see on Google look to be of good quality, but I don’t know whether is gets worse towards the middle of the lane. It certainly is very out-of-the-way and I can’t see people wanting to use it in the cold and dark of winter. When you reach the A10 you would still have to cross it to get into Ely, and there are no islands in the middle if you wanted to walk your bike across. I would think that this is more difficult to navigate than the roundabout at the A10/B1411.

The Hurst is a totally unsuitable alternative. It’s not paved for most of it’s route, impassible in the winter when it’s wet and pitch black at night.

19th September 2012

County Council have replied to some of the comments about this on Shape Your Place.

Comment 13 asked:

How and why did the path to Little Thetford (which is narrower than the one to Little Downham) become shared use?
Who (and I mean specific people and organisations not ‘the local community’) needs to agree to this?
Are you going to arrange a meeting with those people and organisations to take this forward?

Comment 14 asked:

If “Encouraging cycling is a priority for the County Council” why wasn’t this very obvious improvement included in the funding for this or any previous year?
Given that it has now been highlighted will it be included in the projects funded for next year?
If it needs to be widened to be implemented properly will that also be included in the work?

The County Council’s detailed response was this:

Hi Michael.

Comment 13

The recognition of shared footway/cycleway use between Ely and Little Thetford occurred when the A10 was a Trunk Road and, therefore, was administered by the Highways Agency and not Cambridgeshire County Council at that time. The County Council inherited the A10 via de-trunking and, therefore, inherited the decision for shared use at this location.

De-trunking was back in 2002/3 approximately and, consequently, no current County Council highways officer has knowledge of decisions made by officers representing The Highways Agency. Also the record paper files available covering the period prior to 2002/3 for the A10 do not elaborate.

Department for Transport guidance indicates the most suitable adequate width for a footway/cycleway shared use and such information can be found within relating web page searches. Obviously, this is guidance and if the local community requires the Local Highway Authority (LHA), in the spirit of localism, to take forward compromise to guidance and standards, the LHA would investigate further. However, the LHA would need to ensure that the community representatives accept the compromise to standards.

Such suggestions/requests are better being identified by elected members of the local parish council, of the city council, of the district council or of the county council, as the LHA would want to establish that the desire is representative for the greater community.

Miscellaneous groups could also make such a request to the LHA; in that case, the LHA could potentially need that group to identify the financial resources for the scheme.

To fulfil the County Counil’s required processes, there is a need to establish that all of the local representatives similarly agree to suggestions forwarded and any compromise to be made. (A list of representative members for ECDC is available within the authority’s web pages. Similarly the names of CCC members are available on CCC web pages). Contact with Little Downham Parish Council and Ely City Council can be made at their local area offices).

To date, the LHA has received no official request from any of the community representatives. If one is forwarded to the LHA, officers will agree to meet at some stage to discuss further. Similarly if Ely Cycling Campaign wishes to meet to discuss the matter, contact could be made with the local highways office and officers will arrange to meet the group.

Comment 14

For years preceding 2011 all of the Jointly Funded Minor Highways Improvement schemes, were the subject of bids from the local Parish Councils, City and Town Councils. Last year, the Local Highway Authority provided the opportunity also for any local groups to apply.

Assessment of success or failure of individual schemes bids are made based on consideration to other presented locations and desires. For the year 2012/13 the Local Highway Authority was not presented with such a bid to make any assessment and, therefore, no funding was recognised.

Although it is accepted that this has been highlighted within the Shape you Place trawl, the County Council has not been officially approached by any of the community representatives or indeed officially by the Ely Cycling campaign group. It is hoped that invitations to bid for 2013/14 Local Minor Highway Improvement schemes bids will be out within the next few months.

There can be no guarantees of the likelihood of success or failure of any scheme bid or submission at this moment. Decisions on which presented Local Minor Highways Improvement Scheme is successful, and availability of finance, would be made by a forum of county council members and not county council officers.

Desires for widening of the whole of the existing footway would be dependant on this being raised as a bid and a decision would need to give consideration to the feasibility on the available highway and the cost of delivery.

Terry @ Community Engagement

20th September 2012

CCC replied to our response asking for the contact details regarding the Jointly Funded Minor Highways Improvement schemes.

Andy Shaw contacted CCC on the number given, CCC said someone would email the campaign with the details.

2 thoughts on “Little Downham to Ely shared use path

  1. Gary Wing

    I’ve just seen a sign saying Little Downham Parish Council have organised a public meeting to discuss safety on the B1141 on Friday May 4th. Also advertised on their website.

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