Thursday, November 4, 2010

Another soggy cycle on the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB)- and another reason for disliking vans!

Wednesday 3rd November: Humm, this switch from British Summer Time to GMT is definitely making it that tad bit harder to get out and cycle. Although the weather hasn't helped my cycling enthusiasm either. It is not too cold, but we do seem to be having a bit more wind. There has not been much sunshine either - but we seem to be getting more rain than the Computer Lab chart for the month of November (2010) would suggest. Wednesday was one of those days that seemed to start OK, but the forecast for the afternoon and evening was light rain. Unfortunately I could not get out in the morning and as I had not been cycling for a couple of days I felt I had to get out. So a soggy ride it was.

My choice of destination; well it was a new month so time to take stock of the Cambridge Guided Busway Cycle path, although to be honest I was not expecting any change from the last time I had been that way. For this ride I went out on the NCN51 route to St Ives and then back to Cambridge on the CGB cycle path. Here is the route link. A flat route varying between 9m and 28m above sea level and 50Km / 30 miles in length. The weather forecasters also got it right there was light rain from around Oakington onwards, but it was light and so apart from limiting the number of pictures I took I wasn't uncomfortable. I wore a waterproof jacket, gloves and gloves but just Lycra leggings and a bobble-less bobble hat, which was not waterproof but stopped the rain running into my eyes.

So the good news is that the flooding of the maintenance path has not gotten any worse, but there are still patches where it is flooded and others where it is soggy and very uneven and gravelly. The other bit of good news is that despite the closure of the Ouse Viaduct to Guided Buses the shared use cycle path was open and I did not need to stop and move fences. No of course it might not be officially open - but frankly who knows what is happening there. You'd think that the plan would be for some heavy-duty serious work if it needed to be closed for a month - I've only seen one workman and he was walking away from the bridge on the occasions I have been past.

I normally cycle along Gilbert Road towards the NCN51 route on Huntingdon Road and this time was no exception. There were 7 cars/vans parked in the cycle lanes with one of them up for sale. I think that all the publicity about this road has helped raise awareness of cyclists and how at the moment they have to cycle around parked cars/vans in the lanes. Certainly whenever I pass parked vehicles in Gilbert Road I tend to exaggerate my hand signals and cycle well away from the vehicle, well into the road and I have not sensed the usual aggression that cyclists can get when motorists are held up for even a millisecond (1,000th of a second) by cyclists. There are traffic lights at both ends and in the middle of Gilbert Road and I did have a car try to occupy the red box area, which is supposed to be for cyclists to position themselves safely at the head of the queue.

When I reached Huntingdon Road there was a bit of a traffic jam as there were roadworks and traffic lights with only one way open. This made it easier for me to cross the road and get into the cycle lane and then the lights went green as I arrived at them. Then when I reached the right turn towards Girton there was another lull in the traffic, presumably stuck back at the roadworks.

This is the road into Girton, before crossing over the A14, at the moment, an autumnal scene with the verges strewn with leaves.


From the outskirts of Girton there is a shared-used path on the right hand-side of the road going north. So cyclists heading out are on the "wrong side", this only really matters in three places, getting on and off the cycle way in order to join the traffic flow and in the middle where the cycle path is interrupted at a T-junction with Park Lane. I have commented before that the point at which cyclists have to stop to cross Park lane to get to the cycle way on the other side seems designed to maximise the risk. It positioned a cyclist on the corner and reduced the visibility of either road. Well it has been changed, you can cross at the corner, or you can go round the bend and head up Park lane a short way and then cross. This picture shows the Cambridge Road to the right and park lane in front. Cyclists now cross to the left of the picture. You get a clear view of the Park lane traffic, but have to be a little careful about traffic turning up Park lane.


I am not quite sure when it started raining, it was light rain that almost seemed to materialise from thin air. It was raining when I stopped along the Oakington Airfield road, which regular readers will know is theoretically banned to motor vehicles "except for access". If you want to know what can happen here is a rather unpleasant tale. As you can just about see in the picture it is not very wide and has no pavement and there is a cyclist coming toward the camera and someone walking on the other direction.


So in my brief stop in the rain I thought here is a chance to get a picture of a cyclist from the front - most of my pictures of fellow path users, be they horse riders, cyclists or walkers tend to be from behind. (Because it takes a little while to take my camera from its bag.)

As the road is not a route except for access the state of the road surface is a bit dodgy in places and you can see the cyclist quite reasonably is taking a position away from the "road" edge. But surprise, surprise, NOT. There is a car - I suppose we ought to be grateful they have put their lights on.


So I also took the opportunity of taking a picture of this vehicle from the front as well. I even got a wave as the car got closer to me. The problem is that although the road is straight at this point there are some nasty bends further up and some nasty potholes and no streetlights and I get the feeling that motorists speed along the road to minimise their law-breaking. The faster they go the shorter time they spend on a road they shouldn't be on. Unfortunately this road is a cause of some contention which can boil up. Just for the record I saw 6 vehicles using this stretch of road - none appeared to have a legitimate reason for being there and so presumably were breaking the law. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of them are the same sanctimonious drivers who complain about cyclists jumping red lights.


I followed NCN51 up to St Ives which for the most part is quite a pleasant route and not too busy. Although did I mention the rain? Well after Fenstanton NCN51 follows Low Road up to St Ives where you can use the shared path. Now this is one of those shared paths that is just the pavement with a few signs to indicate you can cycle along it and for good measure a couple of "give ways" half-way along it to give cars priority over cyclists. The shared path is on the right-hand side of the road heading towards St Ives which means you are directly adjacent to the oncoming traffic.

As I was cycling along the shared use path a van, coming speeding towards me, was throwing up a huge amount of water from the puddles. I slowed and pulled in and I suppose I was hoping that the van driver would slow a little. No, this was a van driver of the tosser variety. I was drenched by cold puddle water from head to toe. In reality the van driver was probably paying almost zero attention to the road and conditions and other road users. Next time I must remember to cycle slowly in the middle of the left lane on the road with my rear red lights flashing and let them all slow down for me.

I used to think that the level of courtesy on the roads is dropping, I still think that, I also think that the level of competence being shown by drivers is also dropping. Motor vehicles insulate the driver (and passengers) to the point where they have no empathy for other road users and their only concern is their journey time.

To make matters worse this was the second time in less than 5 days. It also happened to me on Sunday , somewhere between White Fen and Lode. Although in that case it was caused by a car driving through a pot-hole full of water which splashed up on me. I doubt the driver saw the pothole as it is pretty foolish to speed through a pothole - it can nadger your suspension. But it is the lack of awareness of what is around them and in particular of the roads that makes drivers annoyed that councils have been struggling to fix potholes. Blame other people is the motto of today's drivers. (Er I suppose I do seem to be blaming other people as well - mea culpa.)

After that soaking I headed back through St Ives to the CGB cycle path,sufficiently demoralised and fully expecting the Viaduct over the Ouse to be closed. Well it is - but only to buses! There are notices indicating closure from 4th October to 4th November, but very little work seems to be taking place. It would seem that there has not been agreement between the CCC and the Contractors on the six issues associated with the completion of the CGB, including problems with the bridge. So what is happening there? Who knows, still the cycle lane was open - thank you to whoever has seen the light. This bloomin' cycle path has cost us a lot of money we ought to be trying to get some flipping use out of it.

Don't worry there will not be another series of photographs showing how the cycle path is flooded and how lumpy and grotty it is in where it has flooded. Not because it is now dry, just because nothing has changed - it is still flooded. I wonder if anyone has kept records of how much of the year the path has been flooded. Now that is something I should have thought about - but I don't use the path on a daily basis. My guess is that it floods for more than half the year. This is a typical area of flooding.

Further north in the County, on the Causeway, near Sutton there is an area that regularly floods, where the Old Bedford River and the New Bedford River (or Hundred foot drain) run in parallel (The Hundred Foot Washes). It is called Sutton Gault and there is a raised walkway along the side of the road for when the road floods. I would like to see that approach taken on this path if it is to be used all year round. In this instance the path would need to be wide enough for two cyclists to pass and also I assume suitable for a horse? To be fair I am not sure what horse riders feel about the flooding. There is certainly room on the edge in this case.


After some more soggy and flooded bits of track - there is good news. At last someone, somewhere has done something about the Cycle path flooding. Phew - the CGB must be almost ready for use if "they?" are dealing with the final issues such as flooding on the cycle track.


Just in case you did not see what sterling work has been undertaken, here is a close up. Good news, my fellow cyclists, a little yellow sign to warn you as you speed along this high-quality path lest you find yourself unwittingly under water.

Unfortunately what this suggests to me is that there are no plans in the short-term to actually fix the flooding and create a high-quality cycle path. If they can only afford one little yellow sign (and one random sign post - although why not use the post already there and save money?) then what hope is there. It would appear that this high-quality cycle path can only mean the four rather nice tracks on the left of the picture. I wonder where (and when) the buses are going to run.


The odd thing is that there are quite a few "random" poles which protrude, with little bits of coloured tape on them. These poles do stick out into the path and in some cases are designed to obstruct motor traffic, mind you I think the flooding does a better job. I use a fairly powerful LED front light - a USE Joystick, which is great for this sort of high-quality track, but I wasn't impressed with the reflectiveness of the tape on those poles.


The only reason I took this picture was to give a sense of how the track looks on a wet and misty day - the little bit of sogginess you can see on the cycle track is not what the sign on the pole was warning about - the next dip is much more seriously flooded.


Enough complaining, despite the rain and the gloom and that it was getting dark it is rather exhilarating to be cycling along a track in the countryside in the gloom. As you might imagine there are far fewer people around and there is a certain air of solitude.


This is one of the junctions along the CGB that has been designed to be horse-friendly as well as cycle and pedestrian friendly. There is a separate crossing for horse-riders (and their horses of course). What's more they have even put an additional crossing request button right up the pole to make it easier for horse-riders to push the button well before they get to the road and need to cross.

The strange thing about this arrangement is that the rider seems to have to walk his/her horse right up to the barrier and then do a sort of reverse-shuffle to get around it to actually cross. I had assumed these barriers were designed to prevent hooligan cyclists from barrelling across the road, jumping the red lights in the process. All I can assume is that horse-riders as seen as just as bad as cyclists - I am not sure I have ever seen a horse and rider at a red light, let alone jump one mind.

I would love to know just how these crossings got designed and what evidence was used to indicate that this approach was required. Frankly when cycling I take the other route through the crossing without the barriers - it is safer!


Although it was a soggy day there were other cyclists out using the CGB route. Up until I got to Histon there were actually more riders using the track than the concrete with parity (7 on each) as I passed under the bridge at Histon. Once in Cambridge the final total was 10 cyclists using the concrete tracks and seven on the high-quality cycle path.

Although in the dark, even with a pretty good front light the section between Cambridge and Longstanton can be very lumpy. Once the CGB is finished and handed over and accepted by the CCC that section of the cycle path is going to have a tarmac surface. consequently the current surface has been left very rough and It can be a little disconcerting in the dark. The best approach is to maintain some speed which carries you over the rubble - but beware the raised drains.

Frankly I feel that what we have is a fair-weather route. Sustrans will need to maintain the road route NCN51 on their maps and show this as a parallel fair weather route.


  1. Why another pole?

    My guess is that the first pole belongs to the County Highways, and has signs from DfT's authorised list. To get their permission to put an unauthorised sign up is hard to impossible (see cam.transport newsgroup). So the quick&dirty solution is a new pole.

    Like you, I think that the presence of the sign means that nothing is going to be done about the flooding. "What are you complaining about? You were warned."

  2. Ah yes - I guess if there is any deviation from the "rules" then a footballer gets off from speeding.

    What irritates me is that you can get all sorts of random poles that all make it that little bit more dangerous for cyclists. Not to mention the areas that were flooded and now have very rough surfaces. So much for the high quality path alongside the CGB.

  3. Drainage is essential.

    When a rolled gravel surface is kept wet by undrained flooding it cuts up quite badly. The pressure of bike tyres will do it, and particularly horse hooves or even dog paws can damage it.

    I can't get to the MGB authorities, but I'll be making the point as strongly as I can where I do have a voice later this week.

  4. I noticed that there were a few large-ish puddles on Lodes Way on Sunday

  5. Did you notice that the sign at the start of White Fen Drove has been broken off? Fresh tractor tyre tracks right next to the post suggest a culprit. NT Wicken have been notified.

  6. No - I can't have been paying much attention - although there was quite a lot of mud around. Was it at the Lode end - there have some beet movements taking place there.

  7. Yes, at the Lode end. Pics here and here.

  8. I am surprised I missed that as I went by twice on Sunday afternoon. It looks like tractor/trailer movements into the field on the right. The road sign to the left looks like it has also been clouted at some time - it is at quite an angle.