Why Mill Road can’t wait for a city-wide plan.

One argument that is often put forward against traffic restrictions on Mill Road is that it should be done in the context of city-wide traffic reduction measures.

On the face of it, this is a seductive argument – who wouldn’t want to see lower traffic and pollution over the whole of the city? We certainly would! But in our view, that goal is totally compatible with starting work on Mill Road at the earliest possible opportunity. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Mill Road has been identified as the most dangerous street in Cambridge. Speeding, dangerous overtaking and pavement parking are all rife. Pollution levels are often very high. It’s clear that action needs to be taken and it would be irresponsible to delay.
  • Traffic reduction in Cambridge has been discussed for literally decades, but plan after plan has failed. We believe we are now at a stage where the vast majority of residents accept the need for citywide restrictions. However, agreeing the best way to deliver them will be a fraught and time-consuming process. We believe that Mill Road can become an example of a thriving and successful low-traffic street – a model which can smooth the way for reducing traffic in other areas.
  • Arguments over traffic on Mill Road have been raging for years. The issue was a major theme in the last local elections where pro-car candidates were comprehensively beaten. Councillors at the Highways and Transport Committee of Nov 4th recognised that this issue needs to be resolved quickly and decisively. Minutes of the meeting record their (correct) view that delay on the consultation would ‘betray a democratic mandate’. They agreed to expedite the consultation on Mill Road – there would be no point in doing this if the results were then to be kicked into the long grass.
  • Anecdotal evidence of traffic displacement simply doesn’t hold up when the evidence is analysed. See our blog for more details about what actually happened when traffic on the bridge was restricted and then de-restricted. When we get people out of their cars (onto bikes and buses) in one street it takes them out of their cars for all of the other streets they were going to drive on. No one just drives on one street. Of course, some individual drivers may be forced to take longer routes, but study after study shows that traffic restrictions lead to overall traffic reduction.
  • There is no other street like Mill Road in Cambridge, with its high concentration of businesses and residential homes. We believe it is the perfect street to benefit from becoming a low-traffic environment, as long as this is coupled with radical improvements to the streetscape and measures to help traders and people with disabilities as proposed by our group.