Frequently asked questions
Here are some of the questions and concerns that people tend to ask about reducing traffic on Mill Road. Your question not listed? Ask us, and if it’s a question that others are asking, we’ll publish it and our response here.
What’s the overall aim of the project?
Our overriding aim is to make Mill Road an attractive, safe and successful shopping street, while retaining its unique atmosphere. We are against changing its character through gentrification, and instead want to make it popular and accessible to all residents.
How will your ideas be realised?
Some of our ideas could be implemented quickly and cheaply; some are longer-term ideas. We hope they will act both as a stimulus for councillors and other stakeholders, and as the basis of a meaningful and in-depth consultation with local residents.
The current scheme including the bus gate on Mill Road has been implemented using an ETRO (Experimental Traffic Regulation Order) which can remain in place until December 2021, when it legally expires. We believe it is essential that a formal new scheme is in place before this ETRO expires.
Because any new scheme must have substantial differences to the current ETRO scheme, it is logical for a new scheme to be implemented as a standard TRO. This will enable community-driven consultation and the delivery of changes which will support trade, accessibility, improvements to public space, and active and safe travel. The consultation should be conducted by the County Council, and must use methods that prevent distortion of results such as multiple anonymous responses.
How can I show my support?
If you support our goals, please let us know. And tell us about your ideas for improving Mill Road!
What about the impact on businesses on Mill Road?
We understand that all retailers have suffered and continue to suffer substantial impacts to their businesses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. And some traders believe that stopping Mill Road being used for through traffic has added to their difficulties. Our responses:
- The current scheme can be vastly improved as we have indicated which will encourage more people to visit and shop locally. This isn’t just wishful thinking – businesses where similar measures have been taken have reported an increase in footfall and takings.
- Large new housing developments will shortly bring significant numbers of new local customers who are likely to favour a pleasant walking or cycling environment.
- While some customers may be deterred from visiting businesses by the current restrictions, using this as a justification for re-opening the road to through traffic discounts the many downsides of returning to a highly congested and polluted Mill Road
- Traders may overestimate the proportion of their customers arriving by car – for example a survey conducted in spring 2015 in Lea Bridge Road Waltham Forest showed that businesses believed that 63% of their customers arrived by car; a survey of visitors to the street revealed that only 20% had arrived by car. Sustrans report that a study in Graz, Austria, subsequently repeated in Bristol found that retailers overestimated the number of customers arriving by car by almost 100%.
Why not go for a one-way system on Mill Road?
Some have proposed that a one-way system on Mill Road would be a better solution than restricting through traffic on the bridge. For example see this Next Door discussion. We have concerns about that idea.
- A one-way system would make bus travel for people living around Mill Road impractical, resulting in a significant extra walk and a longer bus journey. The current bus gate scheme, by contrast, has enabled buses to run efficiently through Mill Road without getting stuck in traffic.
- It would still leave Mill Road as a conduit for queueing traffic – it’s much harder to create any kind of pleasant environment if you have through-traffic of any significant volume.
- It would reduce the incentive to switch to non-car modes of travel, as the street would revert to being polluted and dangerous, albeit with all the cars pointing in one direction.
- Making Mill Road one-way would free up some space for a cycle lane – but would substantially reduce the flexibility needed to add seating / parklets / delivery-bays etc. It would become even more important not to block either the car or cycle lane, because any blockage would bring the car or cycle traffic to a halt.
- A one-way Mill Road would be impractical for lots of journeys, and doesn’t solve any of the disability access concerns. For instance, assuming you made a one-way system heading into town, i.e. turning Mill Road’s status into a queueing street for accessing the city centre, you end up making it even more difficult people to travel from Petersfield to Romsey, as you now have a queue to leave to get to the inner ring round, and then the long way round.
- Some have proposed that Coldhams Lane could be one-way in the opposite direction, to create a circular one-way system. But depending on the time of day, this would result in most of the traffic being concentrated on one road, while the other took none. For example if Mill Road was one-way into the City and Coldhams Lane one-way out, in the morning you would have heavy traffic on Mill Road, and in the evening, Coldham’s Lane would be full of cars.
How can the current scheme be changed to improve access to the street for those with disabilities?
The current scheme, implemented as part of the Covid-19 emergency measures, gives little or no attention to its impact on people with disabilities. The ideas under our Make Mill Road accessible to all goal are possible ways of remedying some of these impacts, but crucially we believe that provision must be made for disabled people to play a full part in future consultations on the street.
Our resources page includes a detailed report on the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods on disabled people.
What about the impact of displaced traffic on other roads?
People often worry that traffic displaced from Mill Road will end up in roads like Cherry Hinton Road and Coldhams Lane. We understand that concern and share it to some extent, but believe we should continue to pursue a low-traffic Mill Road:
- research based on over 70 case studies from eleven countries, and the opinions of over 200 transport professionals worldwide shows that problems of traffic displacement are rarely as bad as predicted, and overall the volume of traffic is significantly reduced
- in an ideal world we would solve all of Cambridge’s traffic congestion problems in one grand strategic scheme. But the City has been trying to solve the traffic congestion problem for decades, and getting agreement to allow anything to be done on a City-wide basis seems remote. We think we should enhance Mill Road as a low traffic street, while continuing to campaign for other traffic reduction measures throughout the City.
- a strategic project to look at traffic reduction measures in the east of the City is being run by the Greater Cambridge Partnership. This is the appropriate vehicle for consideration to be given to the wider impact of the Mill Road changes on surrounding streets.
- Mill Road is significantly different from other roads in the area, and so sees different impacts from traffic congestion. For example the number of shops and hence footfall on Mill Road is much higher; Mill Road is a narrower street with narrow pavements; Mill Road attracts more cyclists
Our resources page includes our briefing paper and two studies on this question:
Is your organisation aligned with a particular political party?
No. We are working cross-party to seek the best Mill Road for the majority of residents and traders. We have members who are supporters of all the major political parties and none; most of our members live locally, and some run businesses locally.
What are the rules around bus gates and who can be permitted to drive through them?
You can read a detailed answer to this question on our Resources Page.