NOTE: The concrete tracks of the Guided BUSWAY should not be used for walking or cycling – the busway is fully operational. To use them would be extremely dangerous.
I like the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) cycle path. It provides me (and other cyclists and walkers) with a traffic-free, bus-free fairly straight route out of Cambridge in the direction of St Ives. I do think that the spending was over the top £100+million for a gravel cycle track is a bit expensive, although the route does have some even flatter concrete tracks for the more adventurous cyclist as well!
I do think that this route could have been even better at attracting more people on to their bicycles both for commuting and leisure if there had been more thought put into how locals might join the route and if the cycle path surface had had a decent tarmac surface along its entire length rather than just between Cambridge and Histon (and/or Longstanton). The distance from St Ives to Milton Road in Cambridge is around 20Km/12.5 miles and in cycling terms is a reasonable distance to commute, once you get into the swing of things. I accept that there will be some extra distance in either end but it makes a pleasant run and does not have to be cycled along every day. However for some reason planners do not seem to think that such distances are within the reach of normal people and so lit becomes more difficult to justify a quality cycle route if it is predominantly to be used for leisure. So we don't get high quality cycle rotue - so people don't use them which reinforces the view that people don't commute such distances. They ought to go and check out the Bath/Bristol cycle path (B&B cycle path), which is a 13 mile cycle path with a tarmac surface and a hill at the Bristol end.
I occasionally have to go to Bath for meetings and have taken my bicycle down and cycled the B&B path a couple of times. Here is a picture I took a couple of years ago (October 2008). In my experience the path is used by significant numbers of commuters. In fact according to Wikipedia it was used for 2.4million trips in 2007 with the number increasing by 10% per annum. (That number equates to over 46,000 trips per week and means an average over 6,500 every day of the week. The article does not discuss the average length of a trip and the demographics around the CGB and the B&B cycle path are different - but it suggests that our ambitions for cycle use of the CGB could have been and should have been greater. Although I accept that the buses will make the route less pleasant for cyclists and walkers when (if) they start running.
Here we have two cyclists on the CGB using the optional smooth cycle track - passing is difficult but it does allow two abreast each way for more sociable cycling. You have to be confident cycling along quite a narrow strip and try to avoid clipping your pedal along the edge of the track (or falling into the weeds in the middle). NOTE IT IS NOT REALLY A CYCLE TRACK AND SHOULD NOT BE USED.
I popped out on Saturday and used the CGB route to quickly head out of Cambridge so that I could then take a more picturesque route using various bridleways and byways back. There will be a two part Post discussing the journey following this post. However what surprised me is that the path up near the St Ives end seems to be very prone to flooding. we have had a bit of rain in the Cambridgeshire area - but pretty much every other byway and bridleway I have cycled along shows almost no evidence of rain as the ground has been so dry.
So i was surprised to come across this patch of recent mud on the CGB path - it is not advisable to cycle into sticky mud and muddy ruts unless you do it deliberately.
I was even more surprised to see that other parts of the CGB maintenance path were showing signs of the recent small amount of rain. This bit was even trickier to cycle through.
This is the same part of the track in closeup - it does not reassure me that this is a high-quality cycle path nor that the path is well drained. Indeed it suggests that the original calculations showing how few days the path might be expected to flood were woefully wrong - or the path has been built wrongly; either too low, the wrong surface or without appropriate drainage.
Although I did not cycle to St Ives, I turned off before the bridge over the River Great Ouse, there was a patch of path which had flooded across its width.
Some of the Council documents referring to the CGB talk about a high quality path - this is not it. I hope that they know why they got it wrong in the first place and that they fix it - properly. We should be seeing levels of use at least some way comparable to the B&B cycle path. Not a path that floods at the slightest hint of rain.