Cambridge County Council has announced they are building a new £1 million roundabout that gives the right of way to pedestrians and cyclists and placed drivers as the lowest priority at a junction. The roundabout will be located on Fendon Road and Queen Edith’s Way and is aimed to improve safety, with the work beginning next year. However, most drivers around the Cambridgeshire area are apprehensive about the change.

Improving safety

The council were given £550,000 from the Department for Transport (DfT) towards the project with a further £250,000 being contributed from developers. The funding is part of a new £7 million allocated for the 2018-19 Cycle City Ambition Safety program which Cambridge is one of seven cities to be participating – others including Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, and Norwich.

For the Cambridgeshire side of the scheme, only those within the Greater Cambridge cycle city area were eligible for consideration. This particular roundabout was chosen as there have been 14 cyclist car collisions in recent years. 67 per cent of respondents to a survey said cycling and walking improvements were needed on Queen Edith’s Way, with 32% reporting they felt unsafe cycling there, 7% very unsafe; while 24% felt safe, and 5% very safe.

Dutch style roundabout

The bicycle-friendly roundabout is also known as the Dutch roundabout as it was in Holland that the idea was first implemented. The idea is that the most vulnerable people on the road – pedestrian and cyclists – prefer roundabouts over intersections with signals and this led to the reconstruction of many intersections in Holland to become roundabouts.

One of the key factors of the roundabout style is that the carriageway width is reduced to make for slower approach and departure speeds, meaning drivers go slower while approaching and being on the roundabout.
There is an allowance for larger or longer vehicles to use the over-runnable strip in the middle of the road where needed.

Pedestrians have zebra crossings at each of the roundabout entry/exit arms, and there will be cycle paths with contrasting red tarmac to give them equal priority with people on foot.

Reaction to the change

Rebecca Ashton head of driver behaviour at IAM RoadSmart welcomed the move and said that a Dutch-style roundabout separates vehicles from vulnerable road users and this was a benefit for the people of Cambridge. She added that it would be interesting to see how it benefits all road users and if they might be worth trying in other areas of the country.

Drivers were a little less enthusiastic about the concept. Some pointed out the complicated design of the roundabouts that could possibly lead to accidents. More people were keen for the council to spend money improving the overall road network rather than focusing solely on the Dutch style roundabout idea.

Ian Bates, Chair of the Economy and Environment Committee for the local council said that the council was excited to have the funding for the project. It would be a first not only for Cambridge, but for the UK that would ‘improve the experience for everyone using the roundabout’ by increasing the room for safe travel.

One interesting idea against the concept argues that cyclists cause pollution – by causing vehicles to sit idling at the side of the road while waiting for them to pass. Lord Robert Winston restated the idea earlier this year in which he said that Dutch-style roundabouts led to more pollution, meaning cars took longer to complete a journey and at slower speeds. This is often said to cause more pollution and lead to worse engine efficiency.

Cycling centre

Cambridge is often known as the cycling centre of the UK with as many as one in four people using a bike to travel to work, the highest rate in the country. There are some 80 miles of bike lanes with many routes connecting to surrounding areas. The railway station has room for around 3,000 bikes to be parked.

In spring, there are around 20,000 people who ride across the River Cam daily while in autumn, the number of cyclists entering or leaving the city is approximately 7,000 a day. And the busiest roads see about 4,000 cyclists a day using them. The relatively flat land of the city and the cycle network makes it a top place for leisure and work travel by bike.

More to come

It seems the idea of a Dutch-style roundabout won’t remain one that is exclusive to Cambridge either. Southwark Council has announced their first Dutch-style roundabout which will be finished in April 2019 between Fountain Drive and Sydenham Hill. Currently, the spot has two roundabouts following each other but no real facilities for pedestrians or cyclists. The new design will solve this problem.

Campaigners hope that by making roundabouts more cyclist and pedestrian friendly, more people will start walking or riding around the city areas. This will have benefits for their health and also cut down the number of cars on the road, reducing pollution and congestion. Whether the new design of roundabout will help with this or create new problems only time will tell.

Have you encountered a Dutch-style roundabout while driving on the continent? Do you think the move will help or hinder overall road traffic? Do you think this will help cyclists on roads? Let us know below

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