The Guided Busway is a huge success. It carries many adults and youth to and from many destinations, a major destination being the Cambridge Regional College bus stop. Unfortunately, the volume of bicycle and pedestrian traffic along the line of the busway at this point probably wasn’t considered and is now causing problems. It will probably cause even more problems once the new Science Park Station is built at the far end of the busway.
When I started looking at this junction, I tried to ignore what was “built” and instead tried to observe how people moved through the junction. In the first diagram I’ve shown the main desire lines. Desire lines are where people actually move rather than those which engineers designed. For example, when crossing the access road to the college, from the busway, people walked in as straight a line as possible pretty much ignoring the supposed 90º toucan crossing.
Many people on bicycles don’t bother with the toucan but instead just wait for a gap between the traffic light phases and quickly scoot across. Many people ignore what has been designed and have found new, possibly better, ways through the junction - for example, creating a path from King Hedges Road over bare ground. This informal crossing obviously works, but is it safe? Do the bus drivers expect people to cross at this point?
There are many conflict points, some less bothersome than others. The two biggest problems are at the bus stop exit junction with the science park entrance, and between the toucan crossing and the brick surround of the gas supply for the area. When cycling there can be many people trying to cross the road, especially after the bus has stopped, or just before classes are due to start, all getting in your way. Of course, we are getting in their way too, and this isn’t helped by the poor sight lines.
I would therefore summarise that the problems are simply:
1. Severely limited space at the toucan crossing and busway crossing points.
2. Informal pedestrian crossing show junction isn’t working as desired.
3. Very narrow access to science park with poor sight lines.
First, we should always respect peoples desire lines. They are voting with their feet, it is obviously safe enough for them to do it day after day, and they have left plenty of evidence that it works by wearing down the grass. So we should make this a proper pedestrian route. This actually has two benefits: it moves a lot of the pedestrian traffic to the west side of the busway stop reducing the number of people at the science park entrance, and it allows a more “directed” path to the north side of that brick building.
Second, we should separate the CRC traffic and guided busway traffic as much as possible at the CRC junction. The busway traffic should follow their natural desire line which is straight on. There are wide turning splays for buses to access the busway from the CRC, yet no buses do this. We should remove them and make a straight on toucan in line with the busway. The CRC traffic would be given their own toucan on the north side of the brick building. Some of the existing railing (cycle parking) here may need to be removed, and the car stop line pushed back a car length or so. The space between the car stop line and the new toucan could usefully become an advanced cycle box.
Third, we should build a proper segregated footway to the north of the cycle track that links to the existing footway going to the “new” toucan. This would be built similar to the Coton path such that pedestrian traffic would be encouraged to seek the higher and safer ground.
Forth, we should straighten the line for access from the science park to the busway. The current facility bends away from the busway crossing, is very narrow, and limits the flow. I’ve seen times when people are queuing cross the busway to travel through this gate. On the south side, the highly restrictive chicane should be removed. People happily cross the busway at multiple points without problems, as here the buses are moving very slowly as they approach the station.
Lastly, we should alter the phasing of the traffic lights. A simple desire for people on bicycle is to wait as little time as possible, but we take very little time to cross a road. Therefore, I would suggest that bicycles are given a green light between every car phase, but only for a few seconds. They should also be given a green light whenever the busway is given a green light. The individual phases may need to be lengthened slightly, say from 25 seconds to 30 seconds to maintain the “capacity”, but the advantages it gives to bicycles would be huge. Also, the pedestrian crossing could be changed to a zebra crossing. This route would then become preferable to the slower toucan crossing further pulling people away. It would also allow for a much more pedestrian focused environment around what should be highly walkable area.