Monday, October 11, 2010

No-cycling Monday

Monday 11th October: No cycling today, despite the nice weather - too many things to do and just a twinge in my shoulder. The weather is not going to be as nice tomorrow - but ho hum that is the way it is. Even worse I used my car today and passed the scene of an accident at the A14/Quy roundabout. It looked as if one car had shunted into another on the exit slip road, just before the roundabout. The Police and Ambulance services were called so it was perhaps more serious than it looked at first sight.

As I have not commented on cycle and traffic issues recently a number of items have piled up on my Chrome browser page - things that catch my eye. The good news is the Mill road is open again after the sewer repairs although of course it was open to pedestrians and cyclists all the time. I wonder how this really affected traffic around Cambridge and the businesses along Mill Road?

The battle for the A590 underpass also caught my eye. Apparently a tunnel under the A590 is classified as a bridle path, and so illegal for cars to use. Judging from the photograph it does not look at all suitable for cars to drive down. Apparently the Local Government Ombudsman has ordered that it be blocked to motor vehicles and pay £500 to a cyclist who has suffered as a consequence of its illegal use. Now I have had a look on Google Earth and think that it is the underpass in this link. Apparently the local Parish Council wants it to become a BOAT - Byway open to all traffic, but there is a waiting list of two years and opposition. The fact that there is some desire to make it a "BOAT" just shows how car-centric we have gotten.

Anyway it got me thinking, perhaps cyclists who use the Oakington Airfield Road in the picture could get the Local Government Ombudsman involved and get some compensation? The trouble is that might actually trigger the opening of the road to motor vehicles?

At the moment the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) is the "construction" deserving of criticism in the Cambridgeshire area and not the welcome new Cycle way improvements. However one of the "old" cycle routes has joined the CGB - "Shoddy work blamed for cycle route perils". Road re-surfacing along Grange Road has left the cycle lanes in a rather strange state. The road is a popular student route passing several colleges and has various traffic calming "features" including raised tables at junctions and "now partially-covered" cycle lanes. This is a busy road and despite all the traffic calming the pinch points are nasty for cyclists using the road. This is because cars will pass a cyclist and drive in front of them pulling into the kerb, over the cycle lane, when giving way at a traffic island. Despite the fact that there is a cycle lane with route through for cyclists alongside the island. I cycled along Grange Road the other day and would have to agree that the state the road has been left in is abysmal. Either the way in which the contract for the work was specified was lacking, or the oversight of the work done was insufficient. The final sentence of the news report - "With regards to the resurfacing, our discussions with the contractors are still ongoing".

Now where have I heard that phrase before, ah yes, the CGB, which also gets a mention in the news - "Busway stops for Christmas break". Apparently the Contractors building the CGB, BAM Nuttall are due to down tools on the 17th December, 2010 and not resume work until January 4th 2011. As there is supposed to be a "fine" of nearly £14,000 for each day of overrun detectable from the contract this equates to "in the region of £250,000" according to the report. This means that the penalty is payable for each calendar day over run and not just working days. There also appears to be some round-up-itis to a "sexier" number. Assuming the actual holiday period is 18th December to 3rd January, which is 17 days, then 17 * £14,000 is actually £238,000. Several things worry me; attention to detail is what gets things done on time so the imprecision in numbers is not good. Secondly how certain is the Council that the penalty is going to be deductible? And has there been agreement on who pays for the cost over-run?

Am I a cynic or are news stories coming out of Local Government a bit like atomic particles? In atomic Physics there are particles and antiparticles, so we have electrons and positrons, protons and anti-protons, collectively antiparticles are known as antimatter. If an electron and positron combine annihilation occurs with the production of gamma ray photons. So when there is some bad "transport" news it is followed by some "good transport" news perhaps to cancel out the bad? News like "Bus interchange 'to cut city congestion'" and "Boost for rail commuters as more peak sets promised". These improvements are in the future, a bit like the CGB these will appear in the future - although the train improvements start in December. The Bus Interchange, more in keeping with bus related matters, is somewhat further off. At this point I have to say that any integrated system needs to take into account an important transport method here in Cambridge, don't forget the facilities for cyclists around the station.

In the spirit of particle Physics here is a piece of antinews - "Residents and visitors face car park fee hike". The funniest bit is the comment about "University lackeys in Shire Hall". Now I don't actually have many pictures of Car parks - but here is one of Gilbert Road in Cambridge where hard-done by motorists have to park at Bus Stops.

Whilst still on the subject of cars - "Help us, plead residents in fear of 'school run' parents'". I am not sure if this is a special case or not, but for a cyclist primary school kicking out time in the Flatlands is best avoided at all costs. For that matter so is school starting time. Schools seem to attract cars, I guess with lack of public transport and with so many cars on the roads people have to drive their kids to school to avoid the danger!!!

Whilst checking stuff out on the Web I came across some stuff on Bridleways in the Flatlands including a new permissive Bridleway near Comberton. Also on the CCC site was a reminder that many byways are subject to seasonal closure (the list is here) to motor vehicles, except for access. This is part of a policy aimed at protecting sensitive byways in the wetter months. Apparently motorcycles are still allowed on some byways. This byway is not closed (to motor traffic) - but gives you an idea of how, in wet weather, the track can easily get chewed up.

Whilst checking out Byways which might be interesting to cycle along on the CCC site I also came across the Green Fen Way project, funded through a European program called the Fens Adventurers Program. The program supports economic development in the the fens and the Green Fens Way project is aimed at improving the countryside access networks to realise the tourism potential of the iconic landscape. Their words in the main! The project started in August 2010 and continues until march 2013 - sounds good to me - more programs like the Lodes Way please. The area covered is quite substantial and shown on this map, pdf. Further information in the pdf brochure published by Huntingdonshire CC.

Now this is the sort of countryside access I like - the Roman Road between Cambridge and Balsham.

On a more sombre note two other articles attracted my attention - "One third of motorists killed in crashes are not wearing seatbelts" and "Mystery surrounds Oxford University Lecturer death at bottom of steep spiral stairs". (I have to resort to the Daily Mail as the Times Online is a paysite, so I never visit it.) Apparently the AA reckons that this translates into 300 deaths a year - in 2007, 646 pedestrians and 136 cyclists were killed. Apparently Transport for London statistics also show that 5% of cyclists killed in the capital had been jumping a red light at the time. My point - well whilst there is huge pressure from some quarters to enforce the use of cycle helmets we perhaps miss the key elements - more people are killed through not wearing seatbelts, people die falling down stairs, the majority of cycle accidents are not the fault of the cyclist, cyclists live longer. All deaths are tragic, but we need to understand what the evidence tells us about cause and effect let's take bandwagons out of law-making and make it evidence driven.

So what should be done: well "crack down on cycle crime in Cambridge" - you might be forgiven if you think this means reducing the number of bicycles stolen - no it means giving tickets to cyclists on pavements, oh and then advising them to register their bicycles to improve their chances of being reunited with a stolen bike. I reckon that decent secure cycle parking would go a long way to wards prevention myself - such as this underground parking in a Cambridge multi-storey car-park.

This is what I think of as cycle crime - "Man robbed on Midsummer Common" - he was threatened and had his bike stolen. Perhaps the way some Police priorities are set tends to ignore the people most likely to be affected - cyclists?


  1. The Local Government Ombudsman can't order a council to do anything. All they can do is make recommendations which a council can, and often do, ignore with impunity.

  2. So it was wishful thinking then - another toothless Quango on the List.