September 3: During the year I have been visiting the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) every month or so to check on the progress
not being made on the unfinished CGB. Although regular readers will know that since the Cycle path flooding subsided I have been making more use of the CGB Cycle path as a sort of cycle motorway - not so much for speeding but to enable me to cover a little more distance on an afternoon's cycle ride. In case you can't be bothered to read the rest of the blurb - the CGB Cycle Path is flooded to the point that it is again impassable, I had to take to the concrete tracks again - see the pictures further down.
The CGB has not been without controversy and recent reports suggest that Cambs councillors are exasperated with further delays, now on the South Section of the CGB (what about us tax-payers?). Although a report to the CCC Cabinet dated 7th September 2010 asked Cabinet to "note that the contractor is continuing to progress the southern section .... Busway complete in December". Strange then that the same day the report was dated we read that the Southern Section will now not be open until January. I have been involved in project management and slips are a problem, slips where in a week the slippage is an additional month are a big problem - one wonders quite how this project is being
mis-managed. Indeed such is the infamy of the CGB that other transport experts are visiting to see how not to do it the pitfalls. They are considering a Guided Busway in Manchester - with Professor Knowles reporting that "I have concerns following my visit to Cambridge". He is not the only one.
Back to my ride, I was not intending to cycle up the CGB, but when I popped out to my get on my bike (Marin Hybrid) and head somewhere as yet unchosen I found that the rear tyre was flat. Flip these Schwalbe tyres are meant to be almost puncture-proof and punctures a distant memory. even I can remember what happened last week and yes in case you were wondering it was the same rear tyre on my hybrid as suffered at the "hands" of a drawing pin in the King's Forest. This time around I had picked up a thorn whilst cycling along the Roman Road the day before. I had seen that there were thorns from recent hedge-cutting and naively hoped I would have no problems - more fool me. After a bit if fiddling to get the thorn out I gave up as time was ticking and I had a hard deadline to be back home later that afternoon. So I took my Longstaff - as I use this less and tend not to take it out over bumpy tracks it is much less rattly and noisy - a real pleasure. I do notice it when I change position on a bike though. You tend to get used to a riding position and then notice any change, then you get used to the new position and notice the change when going back to the other bike.
Anyway I wanted to get some distance in to make up for the lack of kilometres cycled in August - in fact I have yet to tally up the distance cycled. So since it was a new month a route incorporating the CGB seemed like a good idea - but because I had been up it a few times recently I decided to carry on to the Hemingfords and investigate the new route Sustrans show planned between Hemingford Abbots and St Ives. Here is the link to the BikeRouteToaster map which you can also see below. The distance is just under 60Km and has 91m of ascent/descent although you don't really notice any hills at all.
The route headed out of Cambridge via Gilbert Road (14 cars parked in the Advisory Cycle Lanes) and then along Sustrans 51 through Girton - which must be where the early climbing was? There is a shared-use cycle path with lights set along its edges between Girton and Oakington. This truck has taken the concept of sharing too far. There was a BT van doing some telecommunications work along the road and a section had been coned off and had traffic lights and yet the driver of the "Road Repair" vehicle still felt it necessary to park on the pavement. The BT van driver didn't obstruct the pavement so why did the other truck driver feel the need.
After Girton I passed through "no-car-land" - the stretch of road around the old Oakington Airfield that is closed to through motor-traffic (with some exemptions) - where recently "Drivers fined for
breaking the law using no-go shortcut". Normally I see loads of cars and vans driving along this road, this time I only saw two cars, both looked like mums on the school run and they looked a little sheepish as they went past me. I also saw three mums cycling along with kids in bike seats - so my unscientific survey clearly proves that traffic scares off cyclists - especially those that we should be encouraging to cycle.
Talking about law-breaking as I was cycling out of Longstanton and crossing the second roundabout towards Ramper Road a car driver pulled out in front me me. He was on my left and I had priority as I was approaching from his right and already on the roundabout - he saw me, pulled out then stopped in front of me. I was cycling at a moderate pace - say 20mph/32Km/h and his mindset was that cyclists don't go that fast and therefore he had time to nip out in front of me. He saw me, that's for sure. However when he realised his mistake he froze - in the middle of the road. If he had carried on I would have slowed and gone around the back of his car - disgruntled but used to cars bullying their way through. However he was not really intending to bully his way through and in the end I slowed right down before slowly going around the front after making sure that is what he wanted me to do. I did wave my arm - but no fist or other hand signal - honest. As he drove past me he did have the decency to wind down his window and apologise.
(A side note - the Streetmap and Google maps of this area are out of date and do not reflect the new bypass road around the village, the Wheresthepath (OS) map is correct, as is the OSM Cycle map - not sure what the TBA next to the Sustrans 51 route is though - "To be Axed or altered"?
After seeing MikeC's comments about cycling back via Utton's Drive and Tippler's Drove I thought it was worth investigating, despite being on my Longstaff. The turn off is signed as a bridleway, but starts of as a tarmac road.
So not a bad detour to start and judging from the map it is not much longer in distance than the Sustrans 51 route along Ramper Road. I like the name of that road! Mind you Tippler's Road sounds good as well!
The track surface did deteriorate a bit after that - it became large-ish lumps of loose rubble/gravel. It remained flat, but the wheels got kicked around a bit. I found the best strategy was to cycle quite fast, sit loose and allow the bike to kick a bit, it was not too bad - but would not have been pleasant in the dark. Utton's Drove led to Tippler's Road and I stopped here for a tipple - lemon squash. The road to the right is Utton's Drove the road to the left is Tippler's Drove. As it turned out Tippler's Drove was easier to cycle along the gravel on the track was smaller in size. The picture was made by stitching two pictures together.
The view looking back towards Cambridge at the same spot. (It was the clouds that made me take the picture.)
It seems standard to use farm machinery for gates around the flatlands - here is my Longstaff propped up waiting for me to finish taking pictures.
Did I mentioned that a mini-bus driver failed to give way at another roundabout in Fenstanton - he knew what he was doing and just bullied his way through. It looked like a "charity" bus giving people lifts. After that I stuck to the Sustrans 51 route until Hemingford Abbots before turning off along Meadow Lane and crossing the Ouse in two bits. The first using Black bridge the second by Houghton Mill. The route also crosses the path of the disused railway which further down forms the CGB route between St Ives and Cambridge. This is the Ouse by Houghton Mill. After passing the Mill I turned down along Thicket Lane in Houghton - between the Three Horseshoes Inn and an Antiques Shop. Technically at some point the road then becomes a footpath, but it was quite wide and had a tarmac surface all the way through to St Ives. (It is the Ouse Valley Way). As I passed along the route at least 6 local cyclists went by, it would seem that local practice is to use it as a cycle route.
It is definitely a worthwhile route to open up as it provides up a safe and picturesque circular cycle route between Houghton, Hemingford Abbots and St Ives. It would not surprise me if it became the default Sustrans 51 route leading on from the CGB, assuming that the necessary permissions get granted.
Then I reached the CGB and time for a fast cycle home - I was late and my detour had made me later still - oops. I guess I had assumed that the CGB cycle path was going to be OK, more fool me. The first dip after the St Ives P&R showed signs of recent flooding with large puddles and mud on the path.
Then I came across a completely blocked section - it looks as if another rider was going to cycle through and changed his/her mind and skidded to a halt at the last minute. This is a long section of flooded path. I know we have had some rain recently - but I was surprised how bad the path was. I had to resort to cycling along the tracks at this point to get around the flooded bit.
No surprise - more flooding at the next dip.
And yet more flooding at the next dip. At this point I was getting to be seriously late, what with having to detour onto the tracks each time (and take a picture or two!).
The only saving grace for cyclists and pedestrians is that as the Busway has not been completed no buses are running and so it is safe to get onto the concrete tracks to bypass the flooded bits. At the moment most cyclists stick to the Concrete tracks - on my journey back to Cambridge I passed 29 cyclists on the concrete and 9 on the track.