Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not another month, yet, but another trip to St Ives and back along the CGB

Sunday, 27th February: I was let off of blind and curtain fitting duty. After re-decorating our living room it was time to putt the stuff back into the room, starting with the curtains/blinds and then various bits of furniture and I also had to re-connect the TV system. Gone are the days when you just hooked up the power and the aerial. However my wife was feeling a bit under the weather and wanted to do some floor polishing before letting me in which meant I could go cycling after all as postponed the floor polishing a bit.

When I opened my eyes on Sunday morning I thought my wife had turned on the bedroom lights early, but it was the sun - yes the sun streaming in the window, strong enough to light up the room even with drawn curtains. Unfortunately the air temperature didn't live up to my expectation, but it made a very pleasant change from the grey days we have been having. Anyway i wasn't going to turn down the cycling opportunity and I could also catch up on the week's Archers!

So with little time to think about where to go I settled for a good Sunday afternoon leg-stretcher - up to St Ives and back. I tend to use the NCN51 route up to St Ives, but with various modifications. I wasn't expecting the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) high quality path to be up to much at the St Ives end as we've been having quite a bit of rain, but whilst the buses aren't running you can avoid the flooded bits by using the concrete tracks. In my mind I did think about taking a few pictures of the track using my long lens to get a sense of how wiggly it appears in places. At first I thought I'd cycle up to Histon and then across (back to NCN 51) via New Road. That way I'd find myself getting more opportunities to take pictures of the CGB whilst it was still daylight. But I changed my mind and decided to go up via Gilbert Road and Huntingdon road in the end. I did divert through Over though before returning to the NCN51 in Swavesey for a couple of CGB pictures.

This is the route I took in the end, around 52Km (just over 30 miles) and it was pretty still and really quite pleasant. I am not really looking forward to the time when the CGB is running and the High quality path flooding problems are still waiting to be fixed. That is going to make the route impassable at the St Ives end and so unavailable. I was going to cycle up NCN51 to Hemingford Abbots to see whether any progress has been made on the route back to St Ives on the other side of the river. It was getting towards sunset by that time and so I cut short the ride just in case there were some interesting sunset shots of the CGB.

Cambridge to St Ives Loop 6Annt.jpg

Gilbert Road is so much nicer now that the cycle lanes have been "sorted" out. It seems to work because the road is pretty wide and so can take the cycle lanes and road traffic. The fews times I have cycled along, since the work, I have not found the passing traffic to speed excessively but the trouble is traffic adapts to road conditions so we shall see. As you might hope, there were no cars parked on either side of Gilbert Road. You can also just about see the "No Loading" restrictions painted on the kerbs.


Unfortunately the same is not true of the shared-use path between (NCN51) between Girton and Oakington. I frequently see cars/vans parked across the shared-use pavement. Perhaps this is the shared-pain concept. By parking on the road and path everybody gets a bit of aggravation. It would seem that the Law prohibits parking (partially or otherwise) on the pavement in London but only makes it a Highway Code piece of advice "should not do so" elsewhere (Highway Code Rule 244). However I believe that an obstruction is illegal - so I suppose that technically this car is not doing something illegal, although it is going against the advice in the Highway code. Mind you it would be difficult to get a wide pram through there (one for twins for example) so perhaps it is illegal.

I do use this shared use path, but I do wonder whether it increases my risk because of the large number of house entrances it passes.


As it was Sunday I was not expecting to see cars go through the Oakington Airfield Road which is banned to motor vehicles except for access (and apparently emergency vehicles, taxis, mopeds and public service vehicles.) Allowing Taxis to go through seems odd, is a bus a public service vehicle?) I did stop though to take pictures of the low sun on the horizon and three cars went by me so here is one of them. Perhaps it is a soft-top taxi?


This is the picture I actually stopped to take - looking out to the North-West. There seemed to be quite a bit of cloud around.


The next stop was Gravel Hill Bridge, by the Comms Tower and Windmill, although I have taken pictures from this bridge quite a few times. This is the view looking towards St Ives. You can see how the maintenance path is wearing into two tracks. I believe that the two smooth tracks are predominantly caused by the bicycle traffic - although I could be wrong. There seems to be vegetation growing between the tracks further along and then in the foreground just the rock infill is apparent.


This is the view South. It is good to see the path getting good use. There is always someone on the path when I have been cycling by. In this case there are two dog walkers in the foreground and a cyclist further down the track. This side of the bridge there is no vegetation growing between the tracks.


Whilst I was stopped I also took a picture of the Over Water Tower - near, well Over. This looks like a conventional tower and if you are interested there is a British Water Tower Appreciation Society.


My route took me to Over and then down Station Road into Swavesey and on the way crossed the route of the CGB. I stopped to take a picture of these Horse riders negotiating the crossing. They were on the CGB path and had to weave through the obstructions on the way to the crossing whilst also trying to reach the button to get the lights to change. After they had passed through I noticed that the CGB lights kept changing and stopping the traffic on the road. The entrance to the CGB bus tracks is blocked by large chunks of concrete at the moment and I parked my bike against one of them whilst taking pictures. The blocks must be near the sensors that cause the traffic lights to switch automatically when buses come through because they kept changing as I took my pictures - oops.


This is the view looking South from the CGB/Station Road crossing. The bridge in the distance is where I was taking my previous pictures. You can see the Windmill just peeping out on the left and the lower legs of the Comms Tower on the right. Those blurry things in the foreground, one is red and white and the other concrete coloured, are the obstructions used to block the CGB - perhaps they don't trust the car traps? Since these will be removed when it is in use then are they relying on passing buses to stop whatever it is they are worried about from using the CGB. I believe that the buses will have cameras to record any incidents.


By the time I got to St Ives it was getting darker so I didn't hang around except I did take a picture of this Pub Sign - The Oliver Cromwell. (I also found the main road into St Ives easy to cross as it was Sunday.


On the way through St Ives back to the CGB Station Road now leads to traffic lights and onto the CGB, the route is specifically for CGB buses with various signs to let drivers know this. As I crossed Harrison Way at the pedestrian crossing a car pulled up at the CGB traffic lights. However either they twigged when the lights changed or read the signs whilst waiting for the lights to change because after a while it reversed and headed down Station Road back towards St Ives. As a cyclist my physical safety depends on drivers of metal boxes remaining alert and ware. I can tell you this, it hurts when you encounter a dozy driver.

The sunset wasn't quite as spectacular as the last time I was up here and with my long lens it was tricky getting much of the sky in the picture. However they don't call this time of day the golden hour for nothing. Here is a duck on one of the slightly golden lakes.


With a 300-600mm (in 35mm terms) lens you tend to focus (forgive the pun) on close-ups rather than wide-angle shots.


This time around I wasn't planning to take pictures of all the flooded bits of path, although it is as bad as I've seen it for a while. There is even flooded path between the Great Ouse Viaduct and St Ives. I thought they sorted this bit out - but clearly not. It was dark and in the shade of trees so I just took a picture of one representative bit of flooded path. They don't look so much like an unintended puddle as a purpose-built pond. Perhaps thats what happened, someone stuck a few natural ponds into the design of the high-quality path. Perhaps I'll be able to get some frog spawn later in the season.


This is the CGB taken from the same place, you can just see the tail-end of the pond on the bottom right of the picture. I wonder if they used earth from the path area to build up the foundations for the concrete track of the CGB which is why the path is worse than expected.


Although the CGB seems to ripple and wiggle in places I have to give BAM Nuttall there due in parts it looks very flat and straight - as you can see in this picture - nary a wiggle.


The nicer weather is bringing out cyclists I passed around 70 on today's ride. Nine of those were using the CGB route - all of them were on the concrete tracks though. I did not pass anyone cycling on the high-quality path. As I got back to cambridge the skies got darjer and darker - and it was not just the sunset. There were clouds looming and I felt a few spots of rain, I managed to avoid it though.

Whilst checking something (why a comment hadn't appeared) I realised that I have now written (and posted) over 500 Posts on this Blog. I must check and see how many pictures that works out to be - well over 6,200 if you were wondering, which takes around 15Gb of space.

And finally I like to listen to music when working at my computer. I listen to the radio (streams), (my) ripped CDs and Spotify. I have just signed up to - I like it - it creates a set of tracks from an initial choice and it works for me.

Stuff - don't talk to me about stuff

What is it with the weather, during the first real signs of Spring - well a bit of sun and warmer temperatures I find myself struggling to find time to cycle. In case you are wondering, this is not some elaborate psychological trickery my brain is playing on me to avoid cycling - life is really getting in the way.

Saturday's little surprise started off with rain. Although when I want to cycle a bit of rain is not a problem, in fact a lot of rain is not a problem either. It can be quite exhilarating cycling around when it is pouring.

We generally get our food shopping done on a Saturday morning, as you get older you become creatures of habit I think. We were late setting off and so my daughter who is learning to drive - well drove us. Anyone who has a son or daughter who has turned 17 will know just how expensive it can be to insure a car for them to learn to drive. At the moment it costs less for girls than boys, but that might have changed with a European ruling. The consequence of this is we have a very small second car which my daughter is learning to drive in. It came without a spare tyre (tire) or jack. You get a bottle of sealant, a device to remove the valve and an electric compressor that runs off the battery. It saves space and weight (and cost) but it will not fix all types of puncture.


You can see where this is going, whilst she was driving home, via a slightly longer route we had a puncture. It turned out to be scaffolding clamp that had lodged by a drain. The puncture happened at a reasonable speed and to her credit she didn't panic although she didn't know what had happened. we pulled in and as luck would have it the car manual was in the kitchen so as the car was still covered by the Manufacturer's warranty/breakdown cover we got the AA out. They (he) turned up surprisingly quickly and jacked the car up checked the tyre. The puncture was in the middle of the tread and quite big and took quote a lot of the sealant to "seal" it. To encourage the process the AA man spun the wheel to ensure the sealant fluid got to the puncture. It did seal after a few minutes. (Note Tescos are selling Jelly Babies as a TwoFor".)

When I am cycling for pleasure I carry patches, spare inner tubes and a pump to deal with punctures. However when I am cycling for business I carry an aerosol with sealant, at pressure, that will inflate a tyre and pump sealant in to "fix" the puncture. It is much quicker, lighter and saves time, but is messy and I always replace the inner tube when I get home if I've used the aerosol. I very much view it as a temporary get me there fix.


Well it turns out that is the same for cars - they don't recommend fixing punctures after the tyre has been gunged - you need a new one. As our tyre hole was quite large the AA van followed us to the nearest tyre dealer (Quick Fit) at speeds no faster the 50mph. I drove as my daughter felt is was probably better. It turned out that the tyre size was a little unusual and after a 40minute wait in the queue we had to go off to another tyre place. This time they had one and after the usual faffing about we were on our way. (Yes my daughter took over the driving, although nothing untoward had happened it is better to get back into the saddle straight away - car bike or horse.)

The final thing that is needing attention is we have redecorated out living room and after some floor cleaning I need to put the blinds/curtains back up. As any cyclist will know there is no way that cycling can take precedence over the precise, but unforeseeable point in time when the blinds/curtains suddenly need to be done!

All this means I have had to get my cycling fix vicariously, along with my attempt at demonstrating how cars will have to play a smaller role in our lives. (Yes I know I am a bit hypocritical there having spent the last six or seven paragraphs talking about car stuff. I can't resist pointing out this news item - "The end of the road for millions of drivers..." which predicts petrol could reach £8 a gallon. Now I am not anti-car, I like the flexibility my 4x4 gives me and can achieve just under 40mpg when I focus on not wasting diesel. However I do feel that we could be better at planning a world with less reliance on the car. I cycle more miles each year than I drive. I don't think it compromises journey times. I might turn up to meetings a little more ruffled but hey that's a small price to pay.

I think that we are all assuming that some "magic fix" is just around the corner, well it has done a good job of staying hidden. Here in the flatlands the Police plans to bring in electrically-powered police cars had been shelved - too expensive and they don't run for long enough between charges. Unfortunately here in Cambridge bike theft is the most common crime. despite recent Police successes tin catching bike thieves the number of cycles stolen has risen - 2010: 2,870, 2009: 2,597, 2008: 2,326, 2007: 2,240. Sadly the numbers have just gone on rising. It would be interesting to see whether this correlates with cycle usage. Sadly I also saw another report of a cyclist hurt in a hit-and-run in Newmarket. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt. However it makes me wonder whether we are seeing more hit-and-runs because more drivers are perhaps not driving legally? Talking about driving illegally, a Mobility Scooter rider was charged with being drunk in charge of a bicycle as there isn't a specific offence for a mobility scooter. I hope this doesn't skew the data against drunken cyclists! (The picture is completely random by the way.)


I am not sure quite how I feel about this story of a Cyclist awarded £12,000 damages for being grabbed too forcefully by a London Underground employee. Whilst the idea of jobs-worth employees annoys me I have rarely come across them, certainly not on the railways. Then when you read that the individual tried to claim for massage and a two-month holiday in Thailand it makes me think that there two side to this story and perhaps the London Underground got the raw end of the stick.

It is a somewhat loose connection from the Tube to the Intertube: Edinburgh cyclists launch an interactive 'innertube' map. It is a "tube" style map of the various cycle routes around Edinburgh and what I like about it is it has the potential to get more people thinking about cycling by stripping it down to its simplest features. Of course one you know you want to cycle then Cyclestreets helps work out how long and how far.

I mentioned earlier that it helps to get back in the saddle after a fall. As a cyclist I tend to think of horse-riding as much more dangerous. Although if I am honest I really don't know what the numbers look like. However with Newmarket just down the road we do get regular reports of riding accidents. This one had an Air Ambulance in attendance but ended up going to Addenbrookes by road. Apparently the East Anglian Air Ambulance was grounded recently, they had their Operator's licence taken away (on technical grounds) but did get a replacement in quite quickly. It goes to show how running a charity is no picnic. As Addenbrookes expands it will get a lit helipad apparently. It is expected to employ 17,000 people by 2020 (currently 9,000 work there). Let's hope the CGB is up and running by then.



And almost finally with the heightened sunspot activity we might get a chance to see the Northern Lights in Scotland. The Northern Lights are something I would love to photograph. Mind you it is quite a long cycle ride to Aberdeen. And finally - yes really, "lack of sun" is leading to rickets apparently. Now there is a good reason for cycling I must use that the next time I go for a ride. Which is in the next 30minutes hopefully.


Friday, February 25, 2011

There was an old cyclist that swallowed a fly - I really hope he doesn't die!

Thursday, 24th February: The weather seems to have made a complete change the grey days have gone and the temperature has risen to around 12C, if you check out the Cambridge University Computer Lab Weather info you can see the rise quite clearly just after the 22nd. Now despite having to get stuff done I could not resist the temptation to get out and get at least some time cycling in the sun. In fact because I haven't been out for a few days I felt it had to be a longer run. I managed to get everything wrapped up by around 4pm and set off. Despite the late start my plan was to do a loop taking in Coveney and Ely. I knew it would be dark on my way back, but I did have my powerful rechargeable light (Exposure Maxx-D) and I figured a cycle up alongside the Cam in the evening sunlight would be good for a few pictures.

I have to say I really like the fact the the days are getting longer - or rather the sunset is getting later it is now around 5.30pm and come the end of March it will be two hours later than that (7.30pm). This is a loop I have done before, but some new annotations on the map for this particular ride. The Bike Route Toaster Link is here. The distance was just under 75Km (47miles) and I have to admit that whilst the spirit was very willing the flesh was a little weak. Towards the end of the ride I had to get off and do a bit of stretching. When I got home I had a bottle of cider with my supper and later fell asleep in front of the television. The good news it that I felt ok the next day. There were three "hills" en route, they look worse on the BRT chart than they were. Mind you even a small hill gives a good view here in the flatlands.

While writing this Post I am listening to my latest CD - Let England Shake - PJ Harvey - really good, I have already played it around 5 times.

Cambridge to Coveney LoopAnnt.jpg

One thing about the nice weather, it has brought out the rowers, some look as if they might need more practice than others though. This lot weren't bad, though they did splash a bit.


My apologies if I have got this wrong, but the rower in the middle looks like a man from the back and the cox seems to have used a tie as a headband to keep his hair out of the way.


The sun was getting low in the sky by the time I got out - this is the view looking back towards Cambridge with the Cambridge Museum of Technology Tower providing a landmark against the lemon skies.(Along with the Cambridge to Kings Lynn railway line and a crane,)


There were quite a few boats on the river along with their coaches cycling along the towpath (NCN11). I took this picture into the sun which is why it is more of a silhouette. I found myself overtaking the boats and cyclists, stopping, taking a picture or two, being overtaken and then having to leapfrog them again. Be warned the cyclists are focusing on the rowing so give them warning.


The rowing boats don't go beyond Baits Bite Lock though. There are other boats that do use the lock, but the water traffic drops off considerably at this point. As you cycle up the path you pass the village of Fen Ditton on the other side and after passing under the A14 (and then Baits Bite Lock) the village of Horningsea. Somewhere along there you pass a row of large Willow trees growing in a garden - seen here after I passed them. I had my long lens and needed to cycle up the track a bit. The Google Satellite picture of the area shows that racing (boats) was taking place on the day.


This is the path looking North, it was around here I swallowed a fly, I don't know why, but I didn't die. I guess that was another sign the weather has warmed up - flying insects along the river. The path all the way along the river is pretty firm which makes for good cycling. There were a few people out walking so a bell helps. Just try not to scare people so much that they jump in the river.


The sun wasn't hanging around though it was setting so I carried on up to the outskirts of Cottenham where I take a narrow country road to avoid the "main" road north out of Cottenham - the Twenty Pence Road. I should mention that just after Waterbeach you have to cross the A10, but there is an island in the middle and I have never found it that difficult. The track is called Long Drove and runs along for a few kilometres in parallel with Twenty Pence road before joining it just below the point where it crosses the River great Ouse. Nice lemon skies though.


This is the Long Drove, I couldn't quite get the focus point where I wanted it - but you get the picture. The barriers at the end are where a bridge is being repaired. At that point the road itself heads left.


Long Drove does another left turn just after crossing a drainage ditch called Engine Drain. They suffer from fly-tipping out here as well. Although to avoid any safety issues the tyres have all been cut across the tread - can't create a Health and Safety Issue can we. You can see how, from the "warmth" of the picture the sun was pretty low at this point.


This is the bridge over Engine Drain.


When I reached Twenty Pence Road I stopped and took some pictures looking back. The Drove turns right just at the bridge


Twenty Pence Road between Cottenham and Wilburton is quite a fast road for a B road (B1049), it is fairly straight, but fairly wide and I find that most cars give you a reasonable amount of space when overtaking. I did put on my rear flashing light and I was also wearing fluorescent yellow though. Since we were all heading away from the sunset there was also less likelihood of them being dazzled. The sun was getting quite low down in the sky by this point This is the Haddenham Water Tower.


The photographs now tail off as the sun was setting and I wanted to make a bit of progress on my journey. Crossing the A1123 in Wilburton was not too bad, although there were quite a few drivers in the queue on the way through to the junction who were probably not very happy that I could just cycle up past them. The cars on the A1123 had to slow down as they drove through the village though. Crossing the A142 between Ely and Chatteris was much worse. It is a fast road, no island and there is no reason that the traffic should slow down, especially during the evening rush hour. I did get across but it was quite a long wait.

I did stop on the hill up to Coveney though, to catch the last of the lemon yellow skies. I also saw a black rabbit in the grass verge, but it moved too quickly for me to stop and take a picture of it.


By this point the sun seemed to slip away pretty quickly. After passing through Coveney and on the way to Ely I realised that there was no way would I be cycling along Lodes Way with any form of sunset to photograph. The skies had turned pale purple - although I did not really capture the colours in this picture.


By the time I reached Ely it was quite dark, but my front light was great cycling along the NCN11 off-road path alongside the River great Ouse. I say alongside but it is not that close, you don't feel you are going to fall in, but a bit of decent light is reassuring. When I got to the railway bridge, which is called the Newmarket Bridge on the OS map I did try to take some nighttime pictures looking back at the cathedral. The tower looked almost as if it was floating in the sky it was so much brighter than everything else. Unfortunately even resting my camera I could not hold it still enough and the best picture was still over-exposed and wobbly.


The rest of the journey was uneventful. The good bit of news was that the path modifications on the other side of Wicken Fen are complete enough that you can use the new cattle grids and not have to walk through the churned up muddy fields. This was a good thing because I was feeling the miles in my bones. I did stop to have a stretch at one point which seemed to do the trick. The trouble is I know that a 50 mile cycle ride is quite doable, unfortunately I have not been cycling quite as many miles this year and my body wasn't quite keeping up with the spirit. . A related bit of Lodes Way news is that the need for a gate on the exit of Wicken Fen has been removed by the new cattle grid system which speeds up the ride a bit. Having to carry my bike over the bridge over Burwell Lode was trickier in the dark though.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Random bits of news - some cycling related - some not

Wednesday, 23 February: There seem to be times when I find there are a lot of bits and pieces to keep moving along, but often unrelated. The trouble is they keep me from cycling. So after a few decent trips out on my bike I find myself desk-locked. So not many pictures today, although it was raining so it would have been a drizzly cycle ride in any case.

We have some some minor plumbing issues, a radiator wasn't getting hot, which in the end led to us having the system flushed, cleaning stuff added and left overnight and then re-flushed and sorted. The radiator that wasn't working was fine, but there was some gunge in the pipe leading to it that had caused problems. It has meant that someone has had to be around as this all got worked through. There have been times when the house has been pretty cold though, because the heating has been off, you can't run it when it is being emptied and various doors have been open so that the flushing pipes could be led outside. Not that we can complain, the Plumbers were very good and took their boots off when indoors and went around checking all the radiators at each stage to ensure that the whole system was up and running. It also turned out that some pins in the Thermostatic-static valves (TSV) needed wiggling. Although we were warned that if you wiggle too hard and the pin comes out the radiator will start leaking.

The other problem was my Broadband connection wasn't working, which makes working from home a bit tricky. I do have a 3G data dongle for my laptop as a backup, but it is a bit slow and needs some work to get it to act as a gateway for my desktop computer (and costs more money to use). The problem turned out to be that I'd gone over my limit of bandwidth for the month and the system they have in place to throttle you back until you purchase more bandwidth and the purchase mechanism had stopped working. My ISP responded pretty quickly though and have temporarily increased my limit to the next step up whilst they sort things out.

Whilst all this was going on I also seem to have spent a lot of time on the phone as well. I have to report that my Femtocell (a mobile base station for the home) has been doing what it says on the tin plastic. Where I live the phone signal in my house is very poor and required me to stand near a front window to make or receive phones call. When working from home I find it to be better if you don't give people your home phone number as a business contact number. My wife doesn't like being woken up in the night by someone in another time-zone leaving a voice-mail (message) and yes is has happened to me. When I bought mine, a Vodafone Sure Signal it was £20 but I see that the price has gone up to £50. They must be selling well.

The femtocell works by connecting with my phone and then using my Broadband connection to connect my call to Vodafone's system. When I first got the Sure Signal it took a bit of fettling of my Router to get it all working and even then it seemed to require resetting - however there must have been a software update somewhere because it seems to work without much fuss at all. The voice quality is great, I can sit in my office away from the window and still be on the phone and as it allows the phone to transmit at lower power levels it also means the standby and usage times have improved. I can also watch my Router flash merrily away as I talk.

It was a relief then to read in the Daily Mail that yet another study suggests mobile phones do not lead to brain tumours. It was less of a relief to read that "Cycling to work is one of the biggest causes of heart attacks". It is a good job I work from home then. Apparently the study looked at 36 studies and ranked a list of activities/situations and it seems that by adding up the factors involved in cycling to work (stress, exposure to pollution, exercise, traffic exposure) then it comes out near the top. They did seek a comment from Professor David Spiegelhalter, Winston Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk, who probably gave a small groan before commenting "it was difficult to 'disentangle' the risk factors in the study for certain situations, such as driving or cycling to work in heavy traffic. The study was published in the Lancet - I thought they taught doctors about risk and probability. They do if Dr Ben Goldacre is the yardstick. Who I shall be going to see at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in May (One of the Uncaged Monkeys!).

Whilst on the subject of "odd" news reports - I mentioned the cyclist carrying a fridge in his bicycle - it also appeared in the Daily Mail "Freezy rider: Barmy cyclist pedals along busy A-road with huge FRIDGE on the back of his bike". Barmy and cyclist - that must be a tautology, the opposite of an oxymoron! Well in the Daily Mail's eyes perhaps, although the comments I read indicated that most people thought it was a good idea.


The good news is that we cyclists have a champion - Cambridge MP Julian Huppert. Whilst cyclist deaths have decreased in 2009 serious injuries rose by 6% from 2008. There was certainly one piece of news that he could act as a champion for cyclists (and taxpayers). Apparently some cycle lanes built in Hove at a cost of £800,000 are to be removed at a cost of £1.4m or £1.1m BBC, to "improve the visual impact and traffic flow". Apparently bike-related accidents have fallen by 20% since the cycle lane was installed. How can a Council be thinking of wasting so much money - no-one would do it if it was their own money surely.

Whilst reading about cycle lanes I came across various for and against arguments, here is one write up of a gentlemen who was against them and argued that it was better to cycle on the road, tragically he was killed by a drunk driver whilst cycling on a road. Personally I am in favour of proper, fit for purpose cycle lanes (think Netherlands) and yes I have cycled in the Netherlands.

Talking of roads there has been a whole slew of news here in the Flatlands, apparently when emergency vehicles try to make there way to accidents drivers don't always pay attention and block the progress. Now that is a surprise - drivers not paying attention. Apparently a study has also warned that Cambridge should also expect to see travel times increase by 46% by 2021 and the routes around the sub-region would see increases of 23%. As you might expect there are the usual platitudes about working together, public transport etc. I wonder why we seem fixated on moving lots of people around all the time which isn't consistent with all of us having cars, look at Tokyo - perhaps we should create more virtual offices. (Easy for me to say as I do work from home though.) There are also a whole bunch of amusing comments. Funds are not available for the A14 for at least another four years though.


Given the issues with using a non-renewable source of energy to drive our personal kingdoms cars around (petrol) and the trouble in various oil-producing parts of the world it is no real surprise that petrol prices are rising. Apparently the cheapest petrol must have been stolen as "Police ordered to track down cheapest petrol". Hum the article does say that the Chief Constable has led the budget cutting - he has dispensed with a Chauffeur driven car and now drives himself. Hinchinbrooke Hospital has been rewarded for encouraging staff to use public transport and bicycles to get to work. I hope there is leadership from the top there.


Talking about theft - Cambridgeshire County Council has had its "wobbly bike" stolen, so that drunk person you saw cycling the other day might not have been drunk after all.

Not to give up on the issue of cars, the trouble is better roads mean more cars, more cars mean more people wanting to park which leads to residents in streets where there is on-street parking complaining when they can't park their cars. We also complain about the problems of parking fees going up - but more cars... Oh and by the way all those roads that need gritting in the winter so we can drive on them - well apparently the gritting salt kills the trees.


I won't end on another Cambridge Guided Bus (CGB) story - but here is one anyway - "Builders of busway 'may be obstructing progress'", apparently some of the Certificates that guarantee major structures (like bridges) are overdue and the late delivery penalty has also now reached £9.5million. So near yet so far. My concern is that this sort of situation puts more political pressure on the Council to follow a "more roads" policy as they do not have the same level of uncertainty as the Guided Bus project.


And finally the world's hottest chilli - the Infinity chilli has reached a level of 1,176,182 scovilles. My wife grows chillis and pickles them - they are delicious, one year she pickled Bird's eye chillis (50,000 - 100,000) and more recently Scotch bonnet chillis (100,000 - 350,000). They are delicious but a small amount of Scotch bonnet goes a long way, I can't imagine eating an Infinity chilli. (And es I know the plants in the picture are not chillis - but they were to hand and it is almost spring.


Monday, February 21, 2011

A Cambridge loop - spitting distance from Duxford - lots of mud

Sunday, 20th February: Despite it being yet another grey day it was Sunday and our family plans were to have Brunch followed by afternoon tea (although a late-ish one). So I found myself setting off around noon, well fuelled for the journey, perhaps too well fuelled. Mind you when I was a boy a fried breakfast included fried bread - something I don't think I have had for years. In fact as I write this it reminds me that I used to sometimes spread honey on my fried bread - really delicious. Nowadays Black pudding is my "guilty secret" and what's more it is cheap as well and yes we did have some, although I always buy it in a link or half-link, rather than pre-sliced.

So when I set out on Sunday, my plan was to not have a plan, but not go to Wicken Fen so I headed south. After a large Brunch I also figured a hill-climb wouldn't be a bad thing so after braving the Cherry Hinton potholes I headed up Lime Kiln Hill, though Shelford, joined the NCN11 before taking a very muddy byway (the Drift) between Whittlesford and Thriplow. I had to walk along one bit of the Drift and my feet sunk right into the mud in places. Then on the way back I had a look around the Souther Section of the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) before cycling over the Hills Road Bridge to see what it is like for a cyclist.

Parts of the route reach the dizzy heights of 40m above sea level, but it is only 40Km (25miles) long, although it seemed longer, that must have been the bit where I was trudging through the mud. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route which is also shown below.

Cambridge trip to Thrplow and back Antt.jpg

I have said before how I dislike the Traffic Calming in Cherry Hinton, as a cyclist I feel it compromises my safety (as a cyclist) rather than enhances it. I suppose it does slow traffic down a bit though - well I hope it does. The trouble is the cycle path has diverts that are quite narrow and at night you really wouldn't want to clip your pedal on the kerb on either side. Here is one such divert, but what I really stopped to do was take a picture of the pothole, it doesn't look too bad, but was worse than it looked and was not what you want just before negotiating a divert. I took the picture to ensure I remembered to report it - which I did using this link. Checking the tracking reference it seems I must have placed the arrow on the pavement rather than the road. Still it will be interesting to see what happens.


After heading out of Cherry Hinton I took the hill route up Lime Kiln Hill, this is a narrow lane, but a bit of a rat run and despite its narrowness seems to be used by quite a lot of cars. It is not a long hill though and on the day I rode up all the cars waited until it was clear before over-taking me. I feel that for a cyclist thin roads and wide roads are ok, the worst ones are where the road is just wide enough to make the car or van driver think that they can whizz by without slowing at all.

If you ever cycle along this road you will see a lot of wing mirrors smashed by the side of the road - clearly the ancient sport of wing-mirror-jousting is still practised in these parts. Is it something that drivers are taught in their driving test? It is better to lose a wing mirror than to show any weakness in the face of oncoming traffic. What worries me though is drivers who can't judge how far the oncoming car is from theirs probably can't work out how much room they need to give to a cyclist when over-taking them.

I promised myself I wouldn't go on about the grey days or let it stop me taking pictures. Here is a picture of Addenbrooke's Hospital taken from the top of the hill. I rather like the way it has compressed the scene and has a painty feel to it. The trees almost look as i they were added as an afterthought.


As I took the picture a fellow cyclist came by - travelling into Cherry Hinton - he went the safe way. He cycled up the hill from the Shelford side where it is wider and then down the narrower Cherry Hinton side where he could travel at car speeds.


After passing through Shelford I joined NCN11 where I decided to cycle along the new cycle way into Whittlesford from Sawston. Before that I had to cross the A1301 twice, first into Sawston and then on the way past the Paper mill. Just before the first crossing was a dead badger, not a very reassuring sight - there must be drivers who go so fast that they can't avoid a sizable animal. Now I can imagine a deer bounding out unexpectedly, but a badger.


To be fair the Council has done something by placing traffic signs warning motorists that there is a crossing ahead. In fact it looks as if the passive signs were insufficient and a sign that seems to measure the speed of the oncoming traffic and light up to warn motorists diving too fast has also been added. It would have been harder waiting for a car to pass by that did not light up the sign than it was taking pictures of cars being warned. The next couple of cars as I stood taking pictures both lit the sign.


Volvos - so safe that risk-compensation allows you to drive that little bit faster? I certainly looked carefully when crossing the road with my bike.


After cycling along the new shared-use path, where I passed quite a few families out for a Sunday afternoon walk I decided it was time to head off-road. I am not quite sure why, I have cycled this route before and it was muddy in places the last time (which was in the Summer I think). The path didn't look too bad though - it was quite hard work, I got quite a bit of rear wheel spin, but it is all exercise and is good for my bike control. I didn't had to dab my feet down at all - well on this bit anyway.

The track is called the Drift and crosses the M11 with its own bridge and cellular base station - which you can see to the right in this picture.


Duxford air field is only a couple of fields away and so I took a picture of the Airspace Hanger (the one nearest the entrance) shown here. I did hear some aircraft flying but didn't see anything to take a picture of.


I did take a picture of this electric fence running along the edge of the field, partly because of the splash of colour and partly because I wondered why it was there. It does not enclose the field so I assumed it was either a barrier to deer or a work in progress.


As I cycled out of Whittlesford I passed a horse rider on the road. (Yes I did give them plenty of room, treat others as you would like to be treated.) With all my faffing around slipping and sliding and then taking pictures they had caught me up - well around 0.5Km away and was crossing over the M11.


Before I reached the road I found myself having to walk - the byway was completely chewed up and a couple of times my feet sunk right into the mud. I even had to unclog my wheels as the mud had practically stopped them from turning. I cycled through a few puddles to help wash the mud away. My boots are waterproof so fortunately my feet didn't get wet. (I normally wear waterproof socks as well - but not this time.) Next time I go this way I think I'll go to Fowlmere - however this time around I headed up to Newton where I saw signs of the Secret National Byway Society. The signs are in place but they haven't published a map on their website. Apparently there is work in Essex that needs to be completed. The link indicates that it will be ready by the end of the Year - 2010! This times around I didn't follow the route, it heads back to Whittlesford which is where I'd come from (via Thriplow).


As well as having a village sign to indicate the name of the place - Newton, it also warns of the dangers of having a thatched roof. Apparently the fire destroyed most of the village - although it was back in 1746. Whilst the sign might look old it was only put up in 1977. I must admit I did think the sign said ERIT 1977 - and dredged my memories for what Latin I could remember and it sort of seemed to fit - maybe - Erit - "it will be" - not as I imagined "erected" so wrong tense and meaning - and then I realised ER II - Elizabeth Regina II.


I then carried on up the London Road and Cambridge Road into Cambridge past the disused Hauxton chemical works - and yes there was a smell in the air. The Cambridge Road part of the route has a shared use path but at the moment the path is being re-surfaced although it was still easier to cycle along it than the Drift.

As I passed over the route of the CGB I stopped to take a picture from the road bridge - this one. This bit of the route is only wide enough for a single guided bus track - which is why you can only see one. I think that the problem is the bridge you can see at the top of the picture. The track has a bit of a wibble in it - for what appears to be no reason. At this point I realised that I could cycle along the high-quality maintenance/cycle path and so set off back under the bridge I was on and then along the track. Being careful to avoid the car traps - a bigger version of a mouse-trap perhaps.


This is the view from the ground - it looks nicely landscaped . the traffic lights are at the point that dual-running becomes single-running and presumably stops two buses trying to use the CGB at the same time but in opposite directions. There is also a Trumpington "station" with a covered bike shelter, which was good to see.


I also heard the whump-whump of a helicopter flying which looked yellow and I thought might be the East Anglian Air Ambulance on its way to the Hospital (or Marshall's Airfield). By the time it cleared the trees and I got a picture it was an indistinct object in the distance. I had to enlarge the picture quite a bit to get this image.


There were signs at the start of this bit of the CGB indicating that the gates were locked at the Railway Station end so I went along the Addenbrookes Spur. The current version of the OSM Cycle map shows a gap in the footpath and no spur. No doubt this will get fixed now the route is navigable. The bridge over the railway line was blocked by fencing until recently.

I then cycled along Hills Road and over the Hills Road Railway Bridge which has had quite a lot of work done to allow the CGB to run underneath it. It has also had some bold bike lanes painted to make the car and cycle traffic flow safer for all. I found it very good - no issues at all, but I am a confident cyclist, quite happy to take my position on the road and it was a Sunday.