Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yet another loop around Cambridge (No. 5 I think)

Sunday 21st November: As an aside I put the photographs into this Post last night and posted it as a draft post which uploaded them onto my picasaWeb storage. Then in my spare moments I added the text. Unfortunately my computer had re-booted overnight - which I hate. Some piece of software had updated itself and had the temerity to re-boot my computer without asking first. (I wasn't Microsoft - that has been trained to ask first). The reason I hate it is that open programs when it gets re-booted can then get confused. That is what happened with Zoundry, my off-line Blog editor. It corrupted the linkage between the Post and the uploaded pictures and kept stalling after wrongly re-uploading the first picture and then failing. So I have edited the HTML and added the appropriate links by hand- fortunately there weren't too many pictures in this post. When I catch that bit of software... Now for the Post.

Despite it being a Sunday the fall in the number of daylight hours as we approach Winter makes it harder to fit in a decent bit of cycling and a bit of photography. We started the month with Sunrise at 06:56 and Sunset at 16:31 (9h, 36 min of daylight) on Sunday it was Sunrise at 7:30 and Sunset at 16:00 and 8h 30 min of daylight. So in what seems like no time at all one hour less of sunlight. The effect is then made worse when we have cloudy gloomy weather. What all this means is that if I want to get a chance of taking "daylight" pictures then I have to get out quite early. I reckon to go out for around 3 hours or so on a Sunday afternoon, stopping to take pictures takes time you know.

So when I set out my plan was to try to ensure I was on cycle paths for the second half of the cycle ride when it was dark. There is no fun cycling in the dark on roads with cars whizzing past. Actually I am not sure that it isn't dusk when roads are at their most dangerous for cyclists. There is no doubt in my mind that driving at dusk requires more concentration. The driver (or cyclist) is having interpret the road around him/her with less information. Is that single light up ahead a motorbike or a nearer cyclist or a car with a broken headlight? One reason I like flashing cycle lights is that they both attract attention and they differentiate between cyclists and other users. since other motor vehicles don't (mustn't?) use them. Although I suppose that the flashing red light could be a dog as flashing LED collar lights are a fairly popular way of making dogs noticeable on unlit shared use paths here in Cambridge.

Actually as sunset approaches I tend to use my front light in flashing mode, it gets me noticed as well as lighting up road signs along the road and random posts in the middle of cycle paths. (Any reflective sign flashes back as it gets flashed - and they do stand out.) So my choice of ride was to loop around Cambridge and improve my hill climbing skills. I made up the bit about improving my hill-climbing but there are a couple of short hills on the ride early on, the most noticeable one is between Fulbourn and Cambridge. Mind you there are also a climb up along Swaffham Heath Road which becomes noticeable when you descend down the A1303 (Newmarket Road) towards Bottisham. If you don't feel like the first climb you can easily chop it out by not heading through Bottisham/Swaffham Bulbeck.

I also took the new Addenbrookes Road to see how things were progressing now that the road is open and mostly finished. The route is around 54Km long (a little under 34 miles) with pretty much all but the Swaffham Bulbeck to Addenbrookes bit on some form of cycle path/cycle lane sort out route. As I mentioned there are two "climbs" one reaching the dizzy heights of 50m, the other 65m and a couple of chances to speed down hills as well. My maximum speed topped out around 50Km/h (31mph). Here is the BikeRouteToaster (BRT) link, which allows different views of the route (on a Google map, OSM or OSM Cycle map), the one below is shown highlighted on the OSM Cycle map.

The strange thing about the route is that you don't realise that there is much of a climb up past Swaffham Bulbeck. I know, compared with some parts of the UK it isn't a climb! The height is gained in stages with the odd drop along the way (just like a real climb, eh). It was pretty overcast and so gloomy as this picture of the Swaffham Heath Road shows. The road was quite quiet on Sunday but there are times when cars really speed along here. This bit is where the road has "climbed" out of Swaffham Bulbeck and then drops a little along the Heath.

On such gloomy days I tend not to hang around taking pictures and I did want to reach Addenbrookes when there was still a bit of daylight. I did have a close encounter of the motorbike kind when dropping down the A1303 towards the turn to the Wilbrahams. It was a fairly small motorbike and likely ridden by a young idiot person. He (I don't know for certain - but a reasonable guess) was crouched low to maximise his speed. Which is of course a reasonable tactic, I do the same on my bicycle and I was doing and I was reaching a shade under 30mph (48Km/h). So why on earth did he think it was a good thing to almost skim me as he went by? You would think that he would have more empathy for a fellow two wheeler. I have a motor-cycle license and am well aware of the challenges faced my motor-cyclists. This was probably unthinking behaviour - but pretty frightening for me all the same.

At one of the meetings down in Bath one of the other participants was a keen cyclists (where keen = three bicycles, including a track bike). She was based in London and one of the factors putting her off cycling in London was that motor-bikes were allowed in the cycle lanes.

Which brings me to Addenbrookes - the big hospital in these parts (especially for serious accident victims). `As I cycled down Wort's Causeway past the Strangeways research laboratory, (which I only mention because it caught my eye when looking for a link on the Causeway) what looked like a yellow medical helicopter was sweeping out Eastwards away from the hospital site. I didn't stop to take a picture as I was going downhill at the time, at faster than on the A1303 descent. You do have to be careful though as the Beech Woods are a popular area for dog-walking and people seem to cross the road from the woods to their cars parked on the other side without paying any attention to passing cyclists. My flashing front light helped though - people look around to see what is causing the flashing.

The hospital site certainly stands out as a landmark as you descend, but not one to pay attention to when speeding down the hill. I normally cycle along Red Cross Lane to get through to the ring road around the site which takes you past the Rosie (Maternity Hospital), where both my kids were born. There have been a lot of changes since then. Normally I would then cycle along NCN11 through to Shelford. This time around I had a look to see what the new "relief" road was like. This is it - to the left of the picture before heading over the bridge (mid right of the picture) over the railway line.

I took the last picture whilst standing on the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) railway bridge, this view looks along the bridge as it climbs over the railway line. As you can see it is closed to buses, cyclists and walkers alike. I didn't even bother to check whether I could sneak through as my plan was to cycle along the new road.

The CGB joins the new road just here. Even on a Sunday afternoon there were a few cars using the new road. Although not quite as many as shown in the picture. When taking pictures I normally take 7 different exposures of a particular scene which get recombined as an "HDR" picture. However when it isn't so light I switch to taking three pictures (with a smaller range of exposures). This avoids taking pictures with long exposure times as they get even more blurred. So the multitude of cars arises from the three pictures and the movement of the cars between pictures.

I then cycled back down the CGB bridge and along the new road to the road bridge over the railway line where I stopped to take a couple more pictures. One thing I hadn't appreciated, but is obvious in hindsight is that the new road provides a faster southern route for ambulances to get seriously injured (or ill) people through to A&E (Accident and Emergency). Whilst I was hanging around two ambulances came by with blue lights on and sirens sounding. This picture looks back up the railway line and you can see the CGB railway bridge.

I hung around to take a final picture of the train you can just about make out in the last picture under the CGB bridge. I rather like this picture, the exposure time is quite long. In fact it was long enough that I balanced the camera on the bridge wall, however the train was moving reasonably fast and so it appears blurred. This gives the picture a look almost as if it were a toy train set.

Although the new road is in use the pavement and cycle path at the Shelford end is still being worked on and I ended up having to cross onto the road. This road is not to be used by the general public as a through road to stop it being rat-run - with technology (cameras with number plate recognition) being used to spot transgressors. As you can imagine there is some detail here that is (at least to me) uncertain. You can drop people off for instance, which implies if you pass through every day and one of your passengers works there then you are ok?

As it had gotten pretty dark by now I did not take any more pictures. Mind you I didn't need to switch to a continuous front beam until I was cycling back down the Madingley Road cycle path. Two things stand out, the first is that the posts set across the Coton shared used path on entering Coton had plenty of reflective material on and stood out well, flashing away as I cycled through. The second thing was that the shared use cycle path alongside Madingley Road into Cambridge is little more than a poor pavement but called shared-use. At night in Autumn I needed my pretty powerful light; the leaves and bumpy narrow pavement and overhanging hedgerow don't make for the easiest of cycle routes.

One last thing - there were 11 cars parked in the Advisory Cycle lanes on Gilbert Road - it felt more dangerous having to avoid them in the dark.

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