Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Another month - the Cambridge Guided Busway rides again - not. And other news stories

Wednesday 10th, November: So having finally gotten Zoundry working for me again (my off-line Blog Post editor) I can hopefully ignore it for another few months until it gets picture-constipation and needs a good clear out again. The more observant of you will have twigged that I haven't talked about cycling for a few days. Well that is because I haven't been cycling yet this week. (Apart from popping to the shop in the morning to buy a newspaper that is.) Two days is quite a long time not to have cycled anywhere for me. It only needs a bit more bad weather and the days of non-cycling could clock up. Apparently the weather is going to be bad tomorrow so I'd better try and get out later today. The temperature outside at the moment is 4.6C and it looks still and the sun is a white spot in an otherwise grey sky. (The BBC has Sunny intervals, between 5C and 7C, with a 10mph wind from the west.)

One thing that has been bugging me for the last few days is that cycling in the rain seems to have ground my brakes down, so they are at the limit of effectiveness for cycling in the flatlands. There is no way I would feel comfortable in say the Lake District with them. The rate of wear is really quite noticeable when cycling in the rain and mud. I have also gotten a replacement speedometer so I need to fit that. In the end I got a Sigma BC1609STS - it is pretty similar to the one it replaces (BC1606L) and is fixed in place using rubber bands o-rings. As a more recent model it has some interesting tweaks, for instance it also now shows the temperature and can be programmed from a PC, with a suitable interface. Dealers can also set a "service" interval to remind you to take your bike in for a service - all the features of modern cars - it'll be getting a windscreen wiper next.

My general philosophy is to try not get get too many gadgets, especially ones that require software as well. You end up spending being diverted into spending time on whenever there is some sort of gadget glitch. This is a challenge as I like gadgetty things, when they work. Having said that I feel that having both a GPS and a speedometer provides redundancy in the event of one of them failing (or me failing to start the GPS or reset the Speedo).

So while on the subject of faults and glitches it is that time of the month for the airing of the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) problems, with the Cambridge News reporting "Guided Busway firm told again to fix faults". It seems that the recent interview by the BBC of BAM Nuttall chief executive Stephen Fox - "The guided busway contractor BAM Nuttall speaks out" has created some exasperation in the Council. In these days of open government there are also helpful press releases issued by Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC): "Councillors brand BAM Nuttall's explanations as laughable" being one such release. What the Press release does confirm is that "... parts of a cycleway that have been built in a drainage ditch so they flood and are impassable to more than half a year, ...". Fortunately at the moment there are some very nice concrete tracks not doing much that were not built. in a ditch. All this build up is of course for the monthly report to the CCC Cabinet on 16th November 2010 on the status of the CGB. Here is the actual report, a Word document. Paragraphs 2.11 to 2.18 discusses the flooding of the Maintenance Path, (also known as the "high quality track available for pedestrians and cyclists"). Apparently the track should have been built at the toe of the concrete track embankment at 5m Above Ordnance Datum (AOD) but in places has only been built at 3.8m AOD - what a difference 1.2m makes eh. According to the document parts of the track were built at "bottom of the ditch level" and is underwater for more than half of the year. Whenever I cycle along there there are around 4 or 5 bits of track that are prone to flooding, it still worries me that the track will get quickly degraded, even by small amounts of flooding, unless it has been built to a higher standard.

Slightly worrying is Paragraph 2.16 which suggests that to rectify the fault as per the original contract might be expensive and that a lower level may be acceptable if BAM Nuttall can demonstrate the frequency of flooding is not significantly worse. Personally, this statement gives me no comfort whatsoever. Why should the expense of fixing the problem be an issue for the CCC? I think the original specification was only just acceptable in terms of the assessment of how many days per year that parts of the track would be flooded, so any degradation in quality should be unacceptable. I really hope that the quality of the maintenance path is going to be to the specified levels and not sacrificed on the altar of expediency.

The CCC expect that the CGB will be completed around mid-January 2011 - almost two years after the planned completion in February 2009. For an excellent review of this sorry saga have a look at noguidedbus an archive of media coverage from 2003 with some nice photos as well :-).

Whilst mentioning "open government" one news item appeared that, in my mind indicates that not all government really wants to be open. In a piece on the Cambridge News - "Blogger hit by city council filming ban" it appears an "activist" Richard Taylor ( - but not available when writing this Post ddos attack?) has been barred from recording Cambridge City Council meetings, apparently because of a complaint by a member of the public at a meeting he recorded. Yet the Council's Chief Executive has said that other people could still make filming requests. Ah I see, perhaps they only want to allow people who don't want to film the meetings to film the meetings. So we have talk of the "big society" and here we have an example of someone who is prepared to get of his arse and do something to make our local government more accessible. So what happens - they hit him with bureaucracy. Perhaps they want to spend chunks of taxpayers money controlling doing it themselves.

Now for a switch to the roads, when driving on busy roads I feel that the risk of accidents is increase by what my Physics Teacher would have called turbulent flow. The problems tend to occur when motorists move around unexpectedly. Sometimes the manoeuvres can be illegal such as over-taking on the inside (a bit of an oxymoron that). However problems can also occur when traffic slows suddenly causing a ripple of braking, sometimes culminating in a rear-end shunt. I have long believed that the addition of average speed cameras to the roads works on motorways has had a major positive effect. If only that it makes the drive through such roadworks much easier on me as a driver which must have a benefit in terms of safety. It turns out that there are "More average speed cameras set for A14". The report suggests that the existing cameras on the Cambridge-Huntingdon stretch have saved the economy £4.3m annually in terms of road repairs and emergency service activity.

According to the article between July 15, 2004 and December 15, 2006 40 people were killed or seriously injured but from July 15, 2007 and December 15, 2009 there were 13 casualties. Now statisticians will point out that there could be confounding factors such as how much traffic used the road in those periods, whether there were extensive roadworks and whether the difference was just a blip. as far as I am concerned there seems to be reasonable cause and effect to believe that the average speed cameras really do help safety. Mind you the road also has a number of junctions, although it is called the A14 it was not built as one road and so has a number of large junctions that presumably also contribute to the safety problems.

There are still those pushing to widen the road and are looking for European Cash to fund it. Personally I would like to see that amount of cash spent on alternate ways of helping people go about their daily business - more rail traffic and better rural broadband and tachographs/GPS monitors for cars being three such examples. Lower speed limits on 'dangerous' city roads also made the press. Apparently it would cost £20,000 to introduce a speed limit to the area mentioned. It seems that at the moment there is a belief that rather than rely on enforcement to get the traffic speeds down there should be traffic calming - which can increase pollution, (air, noise and visual) and can also make it more difficult for cyclists.

If you are interested in the lot of a traffic policemen there was a program on the Cambridgeshire police available on 4OD, (there are 28 days left as of today). I have not yet seen it so can't really comment, but apparently it is pretty candid.

It turns out that my recent Post on the Department for Transport casualties overlooked the 10% fall in cyclists deaths in 2009. it also notes that the 5% rise in killed or seriously injured cyclists was in the context of a 6% rise in cycling. It does not really look much like safety in numbers though.

As a cyclist I do sometimes wonder at the intellectual capacity of those I share the road with - yes drivers - well it appears that the "new hospital road puzzles them". I think this is the same puzzlement that causes drivers to use the Oakington Airfield Road - they believe that the law only applies to other drivers.

Although I prefer cycling to trains, I do like trains so I feel I have to report on "Rail link hopefuls to chart progress", a group trying to restore the line between Cambridge and Sudbury.

And finally, I will need to keep my eyes open for the "fen tiger" it will make a change from the deer I usually see. It was seen near Duxford - and there have been several sightings.


  1. Sigma have INCREDIBLE direct after sales service.
    I have lost two BC1606L computers and probably on both occasions because I didn't 'seat' them properly.
    With an email to their customer service department, they posted me new bike computers from Germany at no cost and within a week.

    I've never gotten that kind of service from anyone.

    Also, I've put my BC1606L through the washing machine by accident (cycling shirt back pocket!) and it's survived.

    Great kit. Highly recommended.


  2. I have used Sigma for ten-ish years and for a long time refused to go wireless. They had a Targa model that had thicker cable from the wheel to the readout and was much more resistant to being snagged by bushes. I then used a wireless speedo (not Sigma) on my Brompton (to minimise risk of cable trapping when folding/unfolding) and was very unimpressed, it had poor battery life, used to suffer from interference; on the train, from my phone and from my LED light.
    The Sigma wireless speedos have been much better. Although the downside of all wireless speedos is two batteries versus one.
    I am impressed your BC1606L survived the washing machine.

  3. Regarding bicycle brakes: rim brakes destroy alloy rims. When it is wet, the alloy rim is eroded even faster. Eventually, your rim will be destroyed. Use either disk or drum brakes to preserve your ally rims. Drum brakes, though not as powerful, are the ultimate all-weather, long-lasting commuter bike solution.

  4. When riding in India with my son he went down to the metal on his brake blocks on a wet, sandy mountain pass. It was a rental bike and they didn't have any spares. I didn't tell him why I kept squeezing the rims until the trip was over. They didn't charge us for the rent on his bike though.

    I have had a rim tear, several miles from home and had to push my bike. I now check the rims on a regular basis.