Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cycling on a Sunny Sunday - Horningsea and Lodes Way

Sunday 7th, November: Sunday is a good day for a pootle in the countryside, especially on a sunny Sunday. Generally I think it it is best to avoid shared paths that are also popular with weekend walkers - well, shared paths that don't have enough room to accommodate different users. So one of my favourite rides is to cycle along to Fen Ditton and then up High Ditch Road - round a byway (Low Fen Drove Way) back to Horningsea, then along the cycle way between Fen Ditton and Horningsea. Then across another byway between Horningsea and Lode. I then follow Lodes Way but detour around Upware and Wicken Village and then back along the Lodes Way. I sometimes detour back via Burwell and then Newnham Drove onto the Lodes Way - but not this time. Yes I know I try to avoid shared paths and the one through Wicken Fen is pretty bad at the moment with Windpump building work - but it is not too long (there is always the alternative of the Maltings Path).

I like the solitude - well not solitude exactly, I am quite happy to chat with other people on the path, what I really like is to be able to get away from motor vehicles. There are times when I have just had enough of boorish motoring behaviour. I believe it is a minority, but either poor driving or discourteous driving is growing, so that minority is also growing. The DfT (Department for Transport) issue Quarterly estimates of reported road casualties. The estimates for Q2 2010 (pdf) have been published (4th November 2010). The good news is that there were 3% reductions in Pedestrian and Car user casualties, but the number of pedal cycle casualties rose by 4% and the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured rose by 1%. The document also notes that road traffic fell by nearly 1% for the 12-month period ending Jun 2010 when compared with the same period ending Jun 2009.

On page 13, Table 7 shows "Reported road casualties by severity and road user for the second quarter 2010 comparing Q2 2010 with Q2 2009". The worrying reading is that there has been a reduction in all categories with the exception of slightly injured pedestrians and Cyclists. I have extracted some of the data and show it below. There has been as 12% reduction in killed or seriously injured car users compared with a 5% increase in killed or seriously injured cyclists. I am frankly appalled. Although I don't show it on the table below, there has been a 1.2% reduction in motor traffic (excluding cyclists!) over the same period. Now one should not over-generalise on limited data, but what worries me is that motor vehicles are getting safer, but further insulating "car users" from the road which makes the roads less safe for the rest of us. Why else is the situation getting worse for cyclists?

It would be interesting to know what the change in numbers of people cycling has been over the same time. If you believe that more cyclists on the roads makes it safer for cyclists then the implication is that there are fewer cyclists and proportionately more of them are involved in serious accidents. Or if more cyclists make it safer for cyclists then there must have been a huge rise in the number of people cycling - yet we have only seen a 1.2% drop in motor traffic so where have all those cyclists come from? It would be interesting to see the data broken down by region to see what correlation, if any there is with the various activities to promote and improve cycling. I would hope that Cambridgeshire fares better than the average.

Road accidents UK Q2 09 vs Q2 10.JPG

So that's why, generally, that I stick to the "cycle paths" - they are safer. Talking of which on the way between Horningsea and Lode is this track - The Drove Way - not bad eh. A sprinkling of leaves and a fairly flat surface. I do meet other people on the path - but not that often and there is plenty of space.


Whilst cycling along the Permissive bridleway along the back of Anglesey Abbey, which also happens to be the route of a disused railway (Cambridge to Mildenhall) I heard a helicopter in the sky. So I stopped and got my camera out ready, this is it - A Eurocopter EC-155B Dauphin. How do I know well I did a google search on the aircraft's registration M-XHEC, which is registered in the Isle of Man. But further searches suggest it might have previously been known by other registrations and could even be used (and presumably owned) by Roman Abramovich.


After Lode I headed to White Fen, first down White Fen Droveway which leads onto Sandy Road, as the droveway itself kinks and then runs parallel to Sandy Road. This is Sandy Road - which has a tarmac surface. The parallel bit is a grass bridleway - confusing how some of these tracks get named. There was a nice "almost" arch of autumnal trees over the road.


I have been round this route (and variations) of it many times and yet I still find myself stopping at Burwell Lode, by High Bridge which is where cyclists have to haul their bikes up over a footbridge. Having hauled my bike up the footbridge I stop for a rest and probably, nine times out of ten take a picture. This was one of those 9 times - I took a picture of a boat coming down the Lode from Upware. You can see how still the water is - it was a windless day.


Whilst standing on the footbridge I must have needed a longer rest. This is a view of the route from Wicken Fen. Whilst most of Lodes Way has had some sort of work to make the path suitable for its users this bit has been left as a muddy path along the bank. There are hopes to build a decent bridge for cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders and animals over the Lode. But that will cost a lot of money and so is bound to be some way off. What I did take the picture for was to highlight one of the challenges, as the area is opened up it certainly attracts low impact users (the afore-mentioned horse-riders, walkers and cyclists) it also seems to be attracting more cars. There are five in this picture.


I didn't stop at the new Reach lode Bridge, surprisingly, but I did stop at the slightly older, but fairly new Swaffham Bulbeck Lode Bridge. There seems to be quite a lot of work taking place here with stakes being put into the water to prop the bank up. I think it must be all the diggers that drive up and down the top of the bank. Yes there is another car peeping over the bank.


This zoom picture of the same scene shows how the caterpillar tracks do dig into the bank. There are two diggers one seems to be doing some work on the edge of the field - I must check that out next time I am out this way.


Various Information Boards can be found around the route - which I think are a good thing - and so it seems does this cyclist also taking advantage of the sun to cycle along Lodes Way.


Before I finish I forgot to mention that whilst cycling along the byway from Horningsea to Lode there were a whole bunch of used fireworks stuck in the corner of one of the fields. Someone had had a firework display. I assume they were sensibly leaving the user fireworks behind at the time to ensure no accidents (in case they were still hot and only partially used.) I would hope they come back and clear the empty tubes now though - there were around 30 or so stuck in the ground.

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