Thursday, April 14, 2011

Opportunistic cycling–just get out and ride

Monday, 11th April: How times flies when you are having fun, (and working and the weather is really nice and … and…).  One minute I was catching up with my posts and now here I am a complete week behind.  Well there is good news, I have been out cycling and there are another 5 trips out on my bike after this one “still in the can”.   I deliberately did not use the term ride for my er rides, because not all of them were for pleasure. Mind you that did not stop them from being pleasurable.  When the weather is fine you can have a good time – just using your bicycle for transport. 

Readers of my Blog will know that I have a love-hate relationship with my car.  I cycle further each year than I drive, I think that driving standards have deteriorated significantly and come to that so have cycling standards and pedestrian standards.  If you don’t believe me go and stand at the junction of  Hills Road and Cherry Hinton road and see how virtually all classes of “road user” disobey the lights, particularly during the morning rush hour.  They are all as bad as each other, but to be fair the bigger they are the more dangerous they are – which some people don’t seem to realise is a very important consideration.

For various reasons I had to drive to a meeting on Friday last week. It was one I could probably have used a combination of train and bike to get to and on my own I might well have done.  The only snag is that I would have to had travelled into London and than back out again.  Which would have meant using my Brompton as bicycles are prohibited during the “rush hour”. Mind you  that would have been fine as the place I was visiting was pretty close to the station.The fastest rail journey would also have been 1 hour 47 minutes, station to station versus the 1 hour 20 minutes estimated by Google by car – although that was door to door.

So for me it was a close decision – except there were four other people attending the meeting from Cambridge and for various logistical reasons no other cars or bikes. So in the end I drove us over, at least the car was full of people.  Now, I have a Land Rover Discovery – great for carrying bikes and my son’s kayak and tents and going to rugged places, but is perhaps not so great when it comes to reliability.  The suspension has failed on me a couple of times. It has had to be taken back to the garage a couple of times on the back of a truck.  In fact not long after I got it I was in a car park in Newmarket and the gear selection failed and I could only get Reverse.  So I wasted a few hours waiting for the Recovery People to turn up and tell me they couldn’t fix it and then for it to be transported back to the garage.

Why am I telling you all this – well at the end of our meeting when it came time to drive home I had a similar problem. I managed to get it to stay in Drive after a few false starts and left it that way and got us home.  I booked it in to get fixed at Marshall’s Garage here in Cambridge on the Monday after the weekend.  Mind you as my daughter had her driving test later in the week we let her do all the driving – including the weekly shopping trip and left my car alone – well alone. A quick look on the web and it turns out that there is a simple linkage under the car that can wear and corrode and make gear selection a trial.

So come Monday morning I got up early, put my bike in the Discovery and with fingers crossed got the car into Drive where it stayed.  Newmarket Road, which is where Marshall Garage is, suffers from rush hour traffic. However I had gotten up early to give me time to load and fiddle with the car if necessary and avoid the rush hour – I hate sitting in traffic I would prefer either to get there early or take longer but use a combination of train and bicycle. I had forgotten that the school holidays were on in Cambridge which magically eases the flow of traffic and found myself in the Garage Car park with ages to spare. So I had a cycle around – what better way to spend the time waiting for the Garage to open at 8am.

When getting from A to B for a reason you tend to plan the route, it need not be the most direct route but you tend to know where you are going. This time around I had some time to “kill” so just cycled around a bit.  After leaving the Garage I headed into town and then turned down Wadloes Road. For a moment I thought I must be in the Netherlands.  A quick search throws up two slightly discouraging reports for Wadloes Road – including an accident in 2008 citing it as a rat run and a recent article about “Aggressive beggars”. However early in the morning it was pretty empty with a road, a cycle lane and a pavement all side by side with proper separation.

To be fair the last time I went cycling in the Netherlands was over 20 years ago on my honeymoon so things might have changed, perhaps it is even better now.  Judging from David Hembrow’s blog a “view from the cycle path” it is – by coincidence today’s (18th April) Post mentions how traffic light timings in the Netherlands are designed for pedestrians and cyclists and actually work to reduce the problems of Red light jumping cyclists and pedestrians – perhaps that is what Hills Road needs?

The only criticisms, well it is not that long and the side roads seem to have priority.

The cycle route through to Ditton Meadows, Stourbridge Common and the River Cam is well signed and for a potter around on a bike a pleasant place to be on a Spring morning.  Mind you it seemed that there were quite a few people on their way to work. This is also a popular spot for joggers as well. It is part of NCN51. There is also a foot bridge over the Cam at this point – Green Dragon Bridge so there is cycle and pedestrian traffic running North/South as well as East/West.

This is Ditton Meadows and normally joggers carry on up alongside the Cam, the tarmac cycle/pedestrian path heads away at this point. On the other side of the Cam is NCN11 with a pretty reasonable surface for cycling.

No – I didn't have so much time on my hands that I cycled around all day. After booking the car in I cycled home and then later on up to the Science Park for meetings.  Marshall's garage was actually open and receiving cars before 8am so I was home before anyone else was up (school holidays!).

The weather for the rest of the day was delightful as I made my way over to the Science Park past the NAPP building. This picture was stitched together from two and I still didn’t get the whole building into the picture.

As I made my way home the weather was not quite so bright – but still good for cycling. I was pleased to see that whoever specified this building had made excellent provision for cyclists – right out in front. I haven’t counted the number of stands but I reckon there are 50-60 which means provision for 100-120 bikes all in full view rather than tucked out back  in some squalid smoking zone.

Actually this just goes to show how you can make a feature of cycle parking rather than tuck it away, there are three rows of cycle stands here. I wonder if they took advantage of this “Free bike stands to beat cycle thefts” offer.

I can’t help feel that bikes ought to feature more highly in Cambridge, especially with the cuts in Bus Services that seem to be planned. Mind you given that “2,000 riders took part in city cycle challenge” there would seem to be an appetite. the real problem is that there are some who cannot easily cycle and for whom the buses are an important means of transport.  It would seem that the Government is encouraging Sustainable transport – but look at the cynical comment from Mike.

I got my phone call  from the garage and set off to pick up my car. Where had the sun gone? – on my way over to the garage, in shorts and t-shirt the wind started whipping up and it started raining. Or more accurately it started spitting, heavily. Fortunately it never got too bad so when I picked up my car I was damp but not saturated.  I felt happy with what Marshall’s Garage had done, the gear selection was so much easier – although it was a lot of money for a simple problem – which judging from the web is inherent in the design of the car.

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