Thursday, August 12, 2010

A quick Roundup

I took my Mum back after her stay with us. We did have a walk around Anglesey Abbey, which is looking absolutely beautiful with various displays in the gardens. I did take my camera, but, the battery was flat so unfortunately there are no pictures - sorry. There is nothing more annoying that carrying a camera around which doesn't work. I think you end up seeing even more interesting pictures to take than usual. One thing that was very noticeable the road noise from traffic on the road between Quy and Lode was terrible - I think that motor vehicles have gotten louder - or am I just getting old, but isn't my hearing supposed to be getting worse. Next time you are out and about listen to how much noise cars make when they are speeding along.

Talking of noise - my latest CD is Sugoi Indeed by Electric Eel Shock, I am listening to it as I type - the track MTB - yes as in Mountain Bike. They are a Japanese rock band singing in both Japanese and English - good music to bounce along on your bike to.

I also seem to have had some mild lurgy - well a bit of a headache for the past few days. I hate waking up with a headache (and no it was not self-inflicted) so perhaps swapping walking for cycling was not a bad thing. Too much exercise is not a good thing when you are ill apparently.

So I am back to my usual routine after my staycation and quite a lot seems to have been happening (in cycling terms) whilst I have not been paying too much attention. So here is a roundup, which of course could not start without some Cambridge Guided Busway news (CGB) "Key part of long-overdue busway is finished early". It appears that there is a desire to have reported anything that looks even slightly optimistic about the CGB. This report is about some part of the construction of the Southern Loop, between Cambridge Railway Station and Trumpington, being completed more quickly than originally planned. The overall program is still late though and the Southern Section is expected to be completed in December - although I wonder if there will also be snagging issues thrown up with that work? The issues with the Northern section seemed to have been reported well into the construction/completion I would hope that for this Section any such problems get sorted early rather than late.

I have not seen any update on when and how the six issues with the Northern Section will be resolved. The report does suggest that the Council could step in and fix it and that £6 million has been deducted in damages for late delivery so far. I am also worried that resolving the problems with the high-quality cycle path will be one of the casualties of any resolution between BAM Nuttall and the Cambridge county Council. I wonder if the Press Announcement about the "early completion" was an example of detente. I also wonder who pays for the huge increase in the cost of the CGB.

This story looks as if it still has some way to run - unlike the buses bought by the local bus companies to run on the CGB. I wonder if they will get any of the "damages" payment.

The airfield road between Oakington and Girton has also made the news: "Rat-run drivers on no-go road targeted". Apparently someone has had the temerity to take pictures of the transgressors and no it was not me or the Cambridge Cyclist. I bet the same motorists who see it as perfectly reasonable that they make use of the road (and so break the law) are those same motorists who are first to whinge about red-light jumping (RLJ) cyclists. (Although I find RLJs a real pain as well!). Apparently they Police regularly patrol the road and are handing out £30 on the spot fines. Of course this provokes the usual response about using motorists as a source of revenue. So my advice don't read the comments - they'll just wind you up.

Having said that there is something to be said for having some sort of democratic process for whether the road should be closed to motor vehicles or not. In my opinion it should remain closed and provide a different sort of amenity rather than just another flippin road. We have way too many of those already.

On a much more positive note it would appear that the Cambridge to Wandlebury cycle route was officially opened the other day. I missed out on my chance to get some free ice cream and cycle goodies. Never mind I will have to pop out and try the route out though. According to the News Report this genuinely appears to have been completed ahead of schedule. It was also funded by a Grant obtained by Cambridge Past, Present and Future who seem to be doing some very good work around the Cambridge environs.

In fact they seem to be giving the National Trust a "cycle" for their money. The Press Report on the CPPF website also suggests that path will be extended in the near future to the byways Southeast of Wandlebury and eventually Babraham. Now that is good news - it will make the round trip I have taken from the Roman Road along the byway alongside Wandlebury through to Stapleford much more pleasant and much safer! That is the sort of "activism" I appreciate.

Cycling and crime has been represented in myriad ways "Cyclist injured in hit and run" and more on the cyclist who injured a pedestrian and bike theft and retrieval and "restoration". It would also appear that Cambridge is a better place for naked cycling compared to Bournemouth.

Yet another example of why the "perceived" level of of danger for cyclists has increased. As the report states the rider had a helmet, lights and a high-vis vest, yet he was still knocked of his bike and left in an unknown condition. What cowardice from those in the car. Fortunately the cyclist was not badly hurt. At least the guy who knocked me off my bike had the decency (and courage) to stop and wait with me and then get in touch after my visit to the hospital to find out how I was. I was also wearing a high-visibility jacket. It does make me wonder - whenever there is an accident the report will comment on what the cyclist was wearing but no-one questions whether the "safety" clothes had any positive effect. Well actually someone has - Dr Ian Walker of Bath University - bicycle overtaking studies - check out the report for the full information but one striking statistic - "23% more vehicles coming within 1m of the bicycle when a helmet was being worn". So yes safety clothes can affect passing driver behaviour for the worst. (Also risky cycling is rarely to blame for bike accidents!)

Now tell me isn't that rather frightening for would-be cyclists (and their parents). So let's see more cycle paths please and let's see more "taxing" of poor and inconsiderate drivers. Although in the interests of being a bit more evidence based - this is a Summary of Cycle path safety by a Cycle Safety Expert - John Franklin. It indicates that cyclists have more accidents on cycle paths versus roads. I am not that surprised - I have had accidents caused by cycle path infrastructure which I would not have had cycling along a road. Fortunately nothing serious - but I did fall off my bike. One of the issues is that cycle paths increase the proximity between passing cyclists and cycle paths are not really constructed to any particular level of safety. For instance they often cross many roads and turnings without regard to the visibility of such "junctions", which increases the risk of accident

Not that all cyclists are innocent though and indeed although more pedestrians are hurt by motor vehicles each year than by cyclists it does happen. I have just registered for the Road Casualties Online UK database and if my reading is correct then for 2008: 1 pedestrian was killed by a bicycle, 15 by motorcycles and 456 pedestrians by cars, buses and lorries.

But back to the news, it turns out that the cyclist who injured a pedestrian was on bail- which kind of say it all! The three bike theft related articles bike theft and retrieval and restoration - show there is hope with the last one being about a bike thief being ordered to pay back £3000 to his victims and the offender was caught by CCTV - not the sharpest tool in the bag perhaps.

Although there do not appear to have been any official surveys on the subject it appears that Cambridge is a safer place for nude cycling than say Bournemouth it the experiences of the Naked Cyclist are anything to go by. Although the article also suggests that the the cyclists ex-wife did not approve of his naked cyclist - perhaps some cause and effect there. Don't worry I look bad enough in Lycra I am not planning on any naked cycling around the Fens - although it would be an interesting topic for a Post...

Talking of the Fens a "Rare butterfly makes a comeback" in Wicken Fen. Sitting with my mother in the garden she commented how there seem to be both fewer butterflies and fewer species of butterflies around this year. A quick "google" and various reports suggest that the last two cool and wet summers have left butterfly numbers at their lowest for 25 years. Five are reported as being close to extinction. Rather worrying to me is that a butterfly I thought was common when I was a boy - the large tortoiseshell went extinct in the 1980s. It highlights why nature reserves such as Wicken Fen are so important.

It is quite shocking to me to consider that the large tortoiseshell has quietly disappeared. Whilst the articles do not blame humans for the demise directly we can't have helped with the urbanisation and growth of the use of pesticides and the need for efficient farming. Whilst stopping to think about this - I wonder how would we stop something like that extinction happening again. It is difficult to blame the farmers, after all they struggle to make a living as it is. Yet in our compensation culture we increasingly want to blame others for problems and failings rather than take responsibility.

I feel a bit deflated - I know in the general scheme of things the "extinction" was not the worst that can happen - the floods in China or fires in Russia have a much more direct human impact.

Still moving on - the police helicopter has been busy again - it is amazing how effective the Helicopter can be at finding suspicious people. It does make me wonder how much the "eye in the sky" costs to run though compared with police on the street (or bicycle). I wonder how the Audit Commission does consider value for money (for I think they are the ones who do look at value for money). In case you are wondering all the pictures in this Post are only loosely linked with the subject matter. This is a helicopter - not a police helicopter. The rest of the pictures are taken from the areas reported upon - but are not recent. I had a look at previous pictures stored on my PicasaWeb account are re-used them. I also learnt that Picasa/Picasaweb evolving and you can now store more photographs per Album that you used to, the limit has increased to 1,000 from 500. The limit on the Number of Albums has also increased from 1,000 to 10,000 which means you can store up to 10,000,000 pictures in total. It looks as if I have some way to go (grow!) as I have only 37 albums, a little over 5,000 pictures and just over 10Gb of space used.

The trouble with following the news is that it never stops - a bit like the Mill Road Sewer works which are continuing. A collapse in a main sewage drain 8.5m below the surface of the road necessitated some urgent repairs. Apparently the pipe was 60% full of items that should not be in it - rubble, nappies, congealed fats to name but a few and once those were cleared a further collapse 30m further down the road was found. It's funny really there is a fine balance between the infrastructure and the activities of we humans. Clearly Anglian Water is doing all they can, even running two repair gangs side by side, however the sewers have to cope with a "richer" and perhaps more disposable lifestyle - nappies being an example of the latter. The roads themselves are also much busier and so the fact that many sewers are built along the same lines as the roads is both sensible and when occasional problems occur highly annoying for those wishing to use those roads.

Yet we never really think about the problems until they go wrong - we just complain.

Talking of going wrong the A14 was in the news with "Business bosses" calling on people to write letters to protest that the £1.3bn upgrade has been put on hold. The trouble is with this approach is that it does not really create a planned and measured approach to how, as a county, we make the right decisions. Aside from the issue of can we afford it what about the countryside through which the road runs, what about the people who live nearby and what about the CGB, what about the Railways - is really pumping £1.3bn into a road the best we can do?

With the issues of Budget cuts has come the news that several councils are switching off their speed cameras. There seems to have been the result you might expect - "Oxfordshire speeding increase after cameras turned off". It is early days - but the implication is that speeds are increasing. The challenge is that lots of motorists feel hard done by - they feel that despite speed limits being law that they are unfair or fail to recognise road conditions or are purely revenue generating "hard-done" by motorists. Part of the challenge is that few drivers see the consequences of speeding until it is too late - it is always a problem for someone else until it isn't. So I am pleased that Cambridge is trialling 20MPH speed limits - in my mind this is not just about cutting accidents but also about making the city a more pleasant environment in which to live. Hopefully it will encourage more people to walk and cycle and so cut pollution as well.

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