Wednesday, February 9, 2011

More nocturnal cycling

Tuesday 8th, February: I will start with the gloomy and sad news first, a pedestrian was killed by after being hit by a car on the Isleham Road late on Monday evening. The driver was unhurt. There is no comment on how it occurred, but it is a stark reminder that when motor vehicles and pedestrians (or cyclists) do have accidents, the pedestrians and cyclists are at a significant disadvantage. Indeed the Cambridge News also reports that a cyclist was struck in a hit-and-run and a young girl was knocked over on a pedestrian crossing in Ely. To me it is pure and simple, we should have a higher duty of care when driving motor vehicles with regards to vulnerable road users.

Mind you just picking up News reports of crashes is not a very data-driven way of working out what is really going on. But I'll ignore that and comment on the A14 closure that occurred after an accident and the increase in the rail crossing incidents. Apparently there were almost "100 reckless drivers crossing the Foxton rail crossing" over the last two years. My own observations are that a lot of drivers ignore what they are taught in order to pass their test. I have mentioned that my daughter is learning to drive. It amazes me how many drivers seem to think that tail-gating a Learner driver at 60mph (when that is the speed limit) is an OK thing to do. Tail-gating is a no-no, but with a Learner in front - are they mad?

One of the problems is that a lot of effort has been spent making motor vehicles much, much safer but the risk-compensation effect comes into play and we then drive faster and closer to the edge. (Only the other night I found myself cycling faster because of the lights in the cycle path, to the point where I was probably at the same risk as when cycling along an unlit path.) I am not a fan of compulsory helmet-wearing. I believe that, in effect, gives permission to motorists to drive less safely around cyclists. The problem is that the helmet does not make make up for that level of increased risk. However it is in the News again - "Compulsory cycle helmets - what's the proof". I was hoping for more from a BBC article - it was prompted by the Northern Ireland Assembly voting in favour of a bill to make wearing of cycle helmets compulsory. It tends to focus on perceptions as much as hard facts and it avoids the issue that the majority of accidents involving cyclists are the fault of the motorists. If the bill is prompted by a desire to reduce accidents and deaths, (or even cynically the costs of treating such injuries) then perhaps that also sets a precedent that all the fat bas honourable members should also make it compulsory for all people over 18 to cycle for at least 3 hours a week. That would save lives (and money) - of course that would cause a huge uproar amongst the DM-classes. But what is the difference really?

In the final bits of news the BBC reported that the M25 scheme 'may have wasted £1bn' - why does that not surprise me. I do feel that sometimes were are blinded to the huge amount of money that gets churned into roads and then churned up. In Cambridge we can expect 10 months of traffic congestion as a result of a gas mains upgrade. It is just me, or was I pleased to see the Cambridge News start the report with the sentence "Motorists and cyclists face 10 months...". Well done the News for treating cycling as the serious transportation mode it is. I was also pleased to see that the new platform at Cambridge Station has been given the go-ahead. Whilst I am not a fan of long-distance commuting, for some needs must, and a relatively modest investment will hopefully make a big difference.

And finally the Loony politician Lord Toby Jug has proposed rebuilding the Cambridge Guided Bus route (CGB) in rubber and stretching it to the Channel Isles. If you want to know why you'll have to read the article - but he comments the idea is no more loony than the idea of the CGB itself!

Now back to some cycling - yet another nocturnal outing on a cool evening, it was almost ideal for cycling when you can't turn up in cycling gear. I set off a little ahead of when I needed to be there and this time was able to stop and take a few photographs. This is how it looked - a clear sky and the sun below the horizon.


This time around I managed a couple of pictures of the award-winning Riverside Bridge - as you can see it is nicely lit along the archway The railing you see leading you eye towards the bridge was not put in for composition reasons - I had my Sony DSC W-200 camera and the exposure was around 2 seconds so I had to stand the camera on something to keep it steady Ideally I would like to be on a boat in the middle so that the full reflection would also appear.. This link shows you what a computer mock-up looked like before they built it.


A closeup of the arch - ideally I would have used a longer exposure but I had the wrong camera with me. Apparently estimates were that 1,000 cyclists would use the bridge daily, but in fact 1,900 use it. (Although that data as probably out of date.) For more pictures a BBC photographer seems to have had some time on his/her hands.


I also tried to take some pictures of Wadloes Path (or rather the new lighting along it). I held my camera against a signpost - but it needed an exposure of greater than 2 seconds (which the camera can't do) and it was hard to hold the camera still. For the bridge pictures I used the 2 second shutter delay feature - I basically pushed the button, let go of the camera and then two seconds later it took a picture. For this I found it difficult not to move the camera. You can see how the different lights have different levels of brightness. I don't know whether they have different levels of charge or intrinsic brightness. At the bottom left of the picture you can just about see a white painted line - it shows how much more visible the lights are. (And to be fair they are more visible to the human eye than they appear in the picture.)


I can see that one of these days I'll have to take a tripod with me - although that'll look a bit weird.


  1. For night photography why not try a monopod? 40% of the bulk and 80% of the effectiveness of a tripod.

    Tonight's (Weds) score in White Fen, one Barn Owl and 5 Roe Deer. Too dark to see anything by the time I got to the Reach Lode bridge, so I went to the Red Lion instead ;-)

  2. What I will have to do is plan to cycle and take pictures. At the moment I always carry my camera when cycling and if something interesting crops up I then take pictures. I am not sure I want to start carrying a tripod (or monopod) all the time as it becomes yet something else to add to my pre-cycle routine. (Camera, with charged battery, phone, charged, MP3 player, charged, lights, charged, a bit of cash, puncture repair kit, pump, GPS, charged. At least I wouldn't have to worry about it being charged, and I have switched to GPS only for logging distances etc)