Myth busters!

We're listening - picture of a man cupping his hand to his ear

Myth busters!

This article summarises the concerns that we hear raised when people argue against our ideas for reducing traffic on Mill Road. And why we believe those arguments do not hold water.

Comments are open on this page to encourage discussion 🙂

1 A bus gate will harm local businesses

We love our local shops and would never propose measures we thought would harm them. Quite the opposite: we believe that – as in many other places – the bus gate and an improved streetscape will help local trade.

There is plenty of evidence such as this report by Transport for London which brings together studies from all over the world to show the economic benefits of walking and cycling.

Just one of the many findings: ‘Over a month, people who walk to the high street spend up to 40% more than people who drive to the high street.”

Large new housing developments on and around Mill Rd (including the Travis Perkins site off Devonshire Rd where car ownership will not be allowed) will bring significant numbers of new customers who are likely to favour a pleasant walking environment.

2 Businesses struggled last time the bridge was restricted – it will be the same again

Last time the bridge was restricted was during lockdown and the worst of the Covid pandemic. It is impossible to separate these issues with any degree of confidence.

It is undeniable that many retail businesses are struggling, but high rents and rates, plus the impact of online shopping are almost certainly the main culprits.

People who really need to travel by car for an occasional purchase such as a lovely piece of antique furniture or a large quantity of rice will still be able to do so. An occasional longer journey is a small price to pay for a better street for everyone. In any case, unless they live in the immediate area, the journey time is unlikely to be much different since the road can be approached from either end.

3 It’s not true that 72% of people want traffic restrictions on the bridge

In 2022, the GCP undertook, at the request of of the County Council, one of the most elaborate and well-publicised consultations Cambridge has ever seen. Question 11 asked how supportive respondents were to a range of measures.

One of these was: Restricting motor vehicles from crossing Mill Rd Bridge.

As you will see, there is no ambiguity or spin whatsoever in that question and 72% of respondents were in favour.

Our own research, linked here, found similar support.

The question of traffic restrictions on Mill Road has also been a major issue in recent local elections, with councillors favouring traffic restrictions consistently being elected with large majorities.

4 The consultation wasn’t widely publicised

This is simply untrue. All properties in the area received a leaflet from the GCP. In addition, Mill Road for People delivered around 4,000 leaflets to houses on Mill Rd and adjoining it.

There was also widespread coverage and comment in the local press and on social media, including Facebook & Next Door.

5 The bus gate will push traffic onto other roads instead

We understand why people think this as it sounds logical but research, as opposed to anecdotal evidence, doesn’t support this view. This March 2024 paper analysed data collected from 46 different London Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes. The conclusion: that were was little average change in motor traffic on LTN boundary roads.

We also have data from a summer 2019 closure for bridge work, i.e. not during the Covid pandemic. It shows that while traffic rose on surrounding roads for a couple of weeks, it then dropped back to normal levels, as more people cycled and walked.

We do believe Mill Rd has a special claim to low traffic because of its unique nature as both a shopping and residential area as well as being a narrow street with often narrow pavements too. Of course, we’d love to see lower traffic throughout the whole of Cambridge, but our politicians have been trying and failing to find ways to do this for around half a century!

6 You don’t care about people with disabilities

Blue badge holders will not be subject to the bridge restrictions. But taking care of people with disabilities requires much more than thinking about disabled car drivers.

We have members with a range of disabilities who all desperately want a less congested Mill Rd to allow them to go about their business more safely.

Our ideas were formulated after discussion with several disability groups. We would like to see more short-term parking for disabled shoppers, wider and smoother pavements, removal of obstacles on the pavements, and help for businesses to become wheelchair accessible (many Mill Rd businesses currently aren’t).

This Pave The Way (PTW) report presents independent and in-depth research into how disabled people have been impacted by Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, and the barriers to Active Travel.

And of course, we shouldn’t forget the health benefits for future generations that lower traffic brings: this paper provides strong evidence that motorised transportation imposes a high health cost on society, and specifically children. In contrast, active transport is a very significant health benefit. This paper reports on three years’ follow-up in a study of active travel interventions in London.

7 Mill Road is an important route into the city

Maybe it is in practice, but it definitely shouldn’t be! Mill Rd has never been designated an arterial road – it’s not even a B road.
Traffic that drives through Mill Road without stopping brings nothing but congestion to our street.

8 You are just Camcycle by another name

This is untrue. Mill Road for People was started by a group of concerned residents and we have taken pains to be as inclusive as possible. We have members from all political parties and none.
Of course, some of our members are also members of Camcycle – hardly surprising when our goals on this particular issue largely align. We don’t ask people which organisations they belong to when they sign up!

9 Mill Road for People is a small group and doesn’t represent local people

Again, untrue. We currently have well over 1,000 signed-up supporters. Most live in Romsey, Petersfield and Coleridge, the most affected areas, but we have a good number in Cherry Hinton (because they want a safe cycling route to work in the city) as well as in other areas of Cambridge.

In order to sign up, you have to confirm that you are in agreement with our ideas.

The vast majority of supporters have signed up after meeting us at one of our many street stalls, or after receiving one of our leaflets – over 150 people did so after the most recent delivery, proof, if any more were needed, that when people hear our ideas, they like them a lot!

10 Mill Road is fine as it is – leave it alone!

Mill Road isn’t fine at all, and it will only get worse as more and more homes are built in Cambridge.

It has the worst safety record of any street in Cambridgeshire, according to the police.

The street is frequently congested, and not only during rush hour. It only takes one large delivery vehicle blocking a lane for large amounts of traffic to build up. And when it’s not congested, it is plagued with speeding vehicles.

Pavement parking is a constant problem, blocking pavements for wheelchairs and buggies, and leading to greater danger as cars and cyclists are forced to overtake. Would you be happy for your young children to cycle along Mill Road?

11 This is all a plot by the unelected GCP and is the beginning of a ban on cars

Mill Road for People began its campaign long before the STZ (congestion charge) was announced. The GCP has had nothing to do with the proposal other than managing the consultation as they were asked to do by the County Council in order to move things forward.

12 Cyclists should use the Carter Bridge, not Mill Rd

If cyclists use the Carter bridge, they can’t reach shops on Mill Rd!

Most cyclists who wanted to use the Carter Bridge as an alternative to Mill Road would have to use Mill Road to get to or from it! Anyone who lives in North Petersfield and is heading into town would need to go backwards along Mill Road to use the Carter Bridge.

The Carter bridge is unsuitable for anyone heading north, for example children going to St Matthew’s School or shoppers going to the Grafton Centre.

We have had multiple reports of antisocial behaviour on the Carter bridge. This is deterring parents from crossing with young children.

13 There’s nowhere for delivery drivers to turn round in Romsey

Delivery vehicles have been restricted from crossing the bridge on several occasions, yet Romsey businesses still received deliveries.

This is only an issue for businesses close to the bridge on the Romsey side. Most of these don’t need large delivery vehicles, and the vans that currently serve them can frequently be seen turning quite safely by backing into the nearest side street.

The Co-op is probably the only business that needs deliveries in large lorries. These turn in the 2-way end of Catharine St.

14 There are lots of cyclists with no lights / jumping red lights / cycling on the pavement

This is undeniably true. We want them to stop it too.

But that’s not the fault of Mill Road for People and definitely not a reason to oppose our vision for a safe, inclusive, attractive Mill Road for all!

15 It’s my human right to drive my car wherever I want

16 Only people living locally responded to the 2022 consultation

A consultation about what happens to a particular street is obviously likely to solicit responses from those who live close by to that street. That’s because those people are more bothered about what happens on it than people who, say, just travel through it to get to central Cambridge.

There was a consultation a while back about what should happen on Milton Road. Were Romsey or Petersfield residents leafleted about it? No. Was that a problem? No, because what happens on Milton Road is not of particular interest to people who live here.

17 Why are you proposing a bus gate? The 2022 consultation asked about traffic restrictions on the bridge.

We are not proposing a bus gate. The County Council are, so you would need to ask your county councillor about that. We have posted in the past about the disadvantages of alternative schemes e.g. one-way. We’ve also proposed a more comprehensive scheme which deals with a number of concerns that we have around the bus gate on the bridge. You can read about the detail of that on this page.

18 Nobody drives through Cambridge for the fun of it, many people have legitimate reasons for their journeys

We don’t claim that no-one will be inconvenienced by traffic restrictions on Mill Road. But you will still be able to drive anywhere on Mill Road – just not over the bridge? And the numbers are clear – implementing a bus gate on Mill Road bridge results in a substantial shift in journey types from cars to active travel. Our contention is that the benefits of traffic reduction on Mill Road in terms of reduced pollution, increased safety, improved health and wellbeing from being more active, and increases in trade for local businesses make this trade off entirely justifiable.

We *have* taken the time and trouble to propose a scheme which is more likely to meet our goals (and inconvenience less people) than a modal filter (bus gate) on the bridge. But the County Council voted to implement the latter.

19 Traffic restrictions will only benefit people living in the immediate vicinity

We’ve met people from Cherry Hinton, Great Shelford and elsewhere who, when the bridge was restricted previously changed their mode of travel from car to bike or walking. So no we don’t agree that benefits are only for local people.

A recent National Travel Survey showed that 56% of car trips are 5 miles or less. Clearly some if not most of those relatively short car journeys could be shifted to active travel with all the benefits that brings. If you draw a circle around Mill Road bridge with a radius of 5 miles you pretty much cover the whole of Cambridge. So no, not just benefits to people who live locally to Mill Road.

20 Mill Road 4 People is in bed with Labour / Liberal Democrat / Green / Conservative Party

We were clear from the outset that we would have no formal relationship or affiliation with any political party. This is written down in our constitution:

The group is independent of all other organisations and is not connected with any political party.

We have supporters who are also members of all these parties.

6 comments

  1. I am gutted by yet another delay. Waiting for the bridge closure so I can spend some quality time shopping. Spend one day without seeing a car life becomes a pleasure. Now everything is ruined we all get dragged down under never see a light through the long tunnel.

  2. The conditional nature of the ‘right’ to drive a car needs explanation. Permission to use a motor vehicle on the highway requires a number of controls to be adhered to. Use of a motor vehicle on the public roadway is not a matter of right but a privilege granted and managed by both local and national government. In no case is use of a motor vehicle unrestricted by law. You simply cannot ‘drive anywhere I want’

    The responsibility of users of motor vehicles to respect other modes of highway use is now spelt out as a hierarchy of ‘rights’ in the highway code. Despite this priority to those entitled to use a car over almost all other modes is evident in how our highways are designed and funded. When did you last see a motorist have to stop, press a button and wait to cross an intersection? In practice pedestrians and cyclist are forced to the margins of our public spaces. Even though the highway code now grants priority to the most vulnerable.

    Traffic reduction measures like those proposed are not new, much of Romsey enjoys them, so bringing Mill Road into the Romsey low traffic neighbourhoods is simply a continuation of a process to improve the environment begun in the 1970s.

  3. It is natural for people to resist change, that is just human nature and Cambridge, a medieval city, is being forced to change rapidly. It is becoming a global hub. The change is driven by our ‘knowledge economy’ and the consequence is increased traffic, which impacts many negatively. There are consequences for hundreds of people whose front doors open onto narrow Mill Road pavements and the nub of the matter is that a Victorian High Street cannot and should not be used as a motor way. Bridge restrictions will help reduce danger and pollution for residents but it will also create a pleasant High Street, where trade can potentially thrive.

    1. Once again, a proposal that seems to benefit only those who live in the immediate vicinity.

      Of course the surveys show huge support – most of the people surveyed are residents of Mill Rd or nearby (and probably don’t drive)

      I’m all for discouraging driving and reducing congestion, but it does the entire movement a disservice to reframe their argument I’m such a way that excludes regular users of the road.

      For example, respondants said they want motor vehicles to be restricted from the bridge. But you are proposing a bus gate? That’s not what they asked for!

      Why not consider other solutions which are truly inclusive of all road users (pedestrians bus, bike, moped and car alike): make it one-way and create a bus lane.

      It’s bold to suggest it won’t increase traffic – Mill Rd *is* an arterial road for the train station (whether officially recognized or not). This will just force all traffic onto the southern bridge which, imo, has been configured in a manner more dangerous to cyclists.

      It’s easy to complain about car users but for many people, they have a legitimate reason. Nobody is driving through congested Cambridge for the fun of it. Until measures are taken to actually provide alternative means of transport that is reliable (Bedford-Cambourne-Cambridge Rail and Bus ways) these restrictions just move the problem around. Your road Mill Rd, might be quiet, but the residents of every other road around will suffer the consequences!

      1. Hello Bob, apologies for the delay in responding but you raise a number of points in your comment and we wanted to give them due consideration. We’ve done that and have added a few points to the list above to cover some of them:

        • benefit only those who live in the immediate vicinity – see 19 above
        • most of the people surveyed live near to Mill Road – see 16 above
        • respondents to the consultation (it wasn’t a “survey”) said they wanted restrictions, not a bus gate – see 17 above
        • why not consider other solutions eg make it one-way – also see 17 above
        • will it really reduce traffic? – see 5 above
        • legitimate reasons for driving / no-one drives for the fun of it – see 18 above

Ideas? Comments?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will be made public after moderation. Please refer to our social media policy.