Sunday, January 16, 2011

Must get out more!

I seem to still have some minor lurgy delaying even further my cycling plans. Actually the only plan is to get out and cycle and to take advantage of the unseasonably mild weather we are having here in the Flatlands. It is showing as 12C at the moment. You can see graphs of the trends during January at the Computer Lab's Digital Technology Group website. The link shows January 2011, but you can explore other months. I was feeling better yesterday, but once again woke feeling just slightly under the weather - not anywhere near as bad as man-flu and not bad enough to stop working, fortunately as I mainly work from home it means I don't risk giving it (whatever it is) to others.

So I am left to get my cycling fix by reading stuff on the web. A good source of inspiration is the Sustrans map website. It is not always up to date, the Lodes Way, between Lode and Wicken Fen is still shown as a proposed route, but I look at it to plot circle routes - I must get out towards Baldock there looks like a route, not finished, up to Sandy and Huntingdon and back. I also got a book of cycle routes from my son's girlfriend with some neat routes. I would like to "wander" a bit further afield. So far all I have managed is a two day ride from Hull to Cambridge (when my wife and daughter were having a weekend in London). It was wonderful, even the transport issues, weekend trains don't always do what they say they are going to, just added to the experience. (The Sustrans website will allow route planning and sharing and printing, although apparently the printing doesn't quite work with the Chrome browser.

The other website that offers a good fix is the CTC one, in particular I like the News from the World of Cycling. It is available on the home page and can then be linked to (as my link does). The current one has around 30 different links to cycling-related news stories. One that caught my eye was of an Edinburgh city Councillor who claimed for riding his bicycle to a Council Meeting (£2.40 at 20p per mile). The story as written seems to imply that he shouldn't had done this, but does not seem to pay the same attention to those councillors who claim for driving a car at 40p per mile. Fortunately the early comments do seem to support the Councillor after all he is saving the taxpayer money and pollution and benefiting his health which also benefits the taxpayer.

I used to work for a Cambridge company with two sites but could not get the HR Manager at the time to agree that we should pay people who cycled between the two offices a cycling mileage rate. It was also the case that a cyclist could get between the two sites in roughly the same time as a car driver and not take up valuable "customer" parking spaces. (She was also a cyclist and had a Tandem if I remember rightly!). Cycling is often perceived as near to free, compared with cars it is cheaper. However as a regular cyclist, who in a good year cycles around 8,000 miles per year, I know that it takes money to keep a bicycle maintained. Tyres can cost £30 each, brake blocks £16 a set, new chains not to mention the labour costs and the cost of the bicycle in the first place.

So I support the councillor cycling his bike and wish there were more of them, setting a good example.

I often bang on about how bad the provision of cycle parking is at the Cambridge Railway Station. I also wonder just exactly how the break up of British Rail and the plethora of train companies has helped us in the UK. Last Summer an article in the Guardian suggested it was up to 40% less efficient in maintaining railway tracks than European Rivals. It seems that the idea was to create a bunch of competing services, fair enough I understand that, but we seem to have piecemeal competition presided over by chunk of Government Bureaucracy which sets all sorts of rules and regulations and it is unclear just how that all helps. In addition the article indicates that there was a Taxpayer subsidy of £3.7Bn last year! In all of this £4M disappears from the railway cycle facility funding budget. Apparently rail Franchisees were expected to contribute the money, (something to do with getter longer franchises) but that didn't happen so Network Rail has agreed to stump up some cash (£5m from their discretionary fund of £284m) leaving it £4m short.

Cyclists don't just seem to be second class citizens when it comes to the railways, apparently they are also "left unprotected by police and courts". there is concern that the excuse of "I didn't see the cyclists" is accepted as mitigation and so prosecutions don't happen or convictions occur for a lesser offence. The response from the Department of Transport is typical in that it proposes the provision of more cycle training as well as 20 mph zones in residential areas and around schools. Which seems to suggest the belief that it is still considered the cyclists fault for not getting out of the way of those hard-done by motorists. Here is an example of one such "cover-up". Whilst writing this Post the Cambridge News website reported the death of a young cyclist in Waterbeach in the early hours of this morning (Sunday). I don't know why this particular accident happened, but just because cyclists are in the minority on the roads doesn't mean that their presence on the roads can be ignored.

I generally feel that the "punishment" should act to ensure the "offender" doesn't do it again and to deter (and also perhaps encourage) others not to do the same thing and perhaps compensate for the loss. In general I don't feel that it is about retribution. So how do you distinguish between unacceptable driving and the very occasional mistake and let's face it we all do make the odd mistake from time to time. Fortunately they rarely lead to serious consequences - but when they do!.


Talking about consequences there has been a lot of news recently about flooding in various parts of the world.On Friday a couple had to be rescued from their car after it became trapped in floodwater near Huntingdon. There are techniques for driving through water (something I was shown on an off-road 4x4 course) the first thing is never drive through water that is too deep.Even a small depth of flowing water can push a car.


Whilst on the subject of warnings "'Cheap bike' scam lures cyclists into dead-end street" (no not the corny headline) warns of a trick where a high-end bicycle is advertised cheaply but not there when you go to view it. Payment is then requested with a promise to deliver the bike... There is no such thing as a free lunch.

And finally - "Mr Fibble in surreal phone box show". Yes another month has passed and so the Phone Box Gallery in Prickwillow has a change of exhibition. I am ashamed to say that despite my good intentions to pop by every month I have only managed two visits, my original and then one whilst out supervising my learner-driver daughter (which feels like cheating).

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