Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A hypothetical ride up the Cambridge Guided Busway

Saturday, 11th June: One of the regular routes I take is around the Lodes Way, the other is either out or back on the cycleway alongside the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB). The only trouble is the Busway is a construction site at the moment and so officially closed. I am curious as to the progress that has been made in putting on the Tarmac surface so I thought I would cycle around the CGB and see what has happened since the last time.

Before I talk about the ride there is another update from the Cambridge County Council  (CCC) on the tarmac surface. To quote the CCC Press Release: “Final section of cycle super highway gets top notch finish”. I am even more convinced that there is a bit of “good news” press release management taking place, but none the less I have to congratulate the powers that be for taking this positive decision.  It is great news and if anything also avoids us thinking of St Ives as a second class. 

I also think that this CGB route is also safer than rural or city cycling. City cycling brings you into close contact with either motor vehicles or “cycle ways” that tend to jink around, where each jink increases the level of unsafe manoeuvre. I do like rural  cycling, but there are some straight rural roads of a certain width where being closely overtaken by a speeding car can be quite frightening.  In the case of the CGB the number of unnecessary “jinks” has been cut and it is quite wide and traffic free. Mind you in a truly enlightened cycling society the lights at the points where roads cross the CGB the lights would give priority to the cyclists, as they do for the buses. (Or will do?).

The Cambridge News reports on it as well – “Hard surface for length of guided busway cycle path”. Their report suggests that a successful bid for £150,000 from Sustrans was made. Let’s hope that the plans to partially sort out the flooding are also more successful than suggested.

I am still having problems with various “cloud resources”, including Picasaweb and BIkeRouteToaster, but I’ll moan about that in another posting.

Here is the map of a hypothetical route that I could have taken if the CGB had not been a construction site. It is flat, includes some lovely bridleways and byways as well as country lanes and some advisory cycle lanes in the city as well. If you are a motorist you ought to know what that means, but follow the link for a refresher if you aren’t quite sure. It is 48Km/30 miles in length.

One of the changes for good that has occurred in Cambridge is the adding of ACLs to Gilbert Road, whilst not as good as MCLs these have the backing of double yellow lines (Highway Code Rule 238) as well. There is another Highway Code rule (243) about NOT parking within 10m of a junction, except in an authorised parking space. Since the changes to Gilbert Road apparently there has been an increase in the number of cyclists using it. Although the increase could just be down to more cyclists in the Summer than the Winter. Mind you I personally do find it much calmer when cycling along Gilbert Road and it definitely feels safer.

As it happens I cycled along Gilbert Road on my way out of town and lo and behold what do I see? Wasn’t it considerate of the AA van to have parked in only half of the cycling lane. Although it was a bit tough on pedestrians wishing to cross as it would have obscured their view. Or perhaps it was strategically placed to discourage that scourge of modern society red-light-jumping cyclists – how thoughtful. Although as my mum always used to say after my brother and I had been fighting (when we were kids) two wrongs don’t make a right.

I know, it must have broken down and probably the battery has gone flat which is why the hazard warning lights aren’t flashing – although that wouldn’t be a very good advert for the AA would it. Mind you illegal parking would not be a very good advert either. If you go to the trouble of building a brand with distinctive markings and heavy use of “van-vertising” by say painting the company fleet of vans bright yellow then you really ought to ensure that you get your staff to uphold your brand values.

Or maybe, unwittingly it is making a statement, one of motor vehicle supremacy over others such as cyclists and pedestrians, who fall into the vulnerable road user group. But that can’t be true after all those kind people in the AA gave away free cycle helmets to those poor impoverished cyclists in April. Why might cyclists need those helmets – well in a Guardian Article  research indicates that with adult cyclists Police found the motor vehicle driver solely to blame in about 60% to 75% of all cases and cyclists solely at fault 17%-25% of the time. An Australian report mentioned in the Cycling Info blog suggested that the number of cases where the motorists was to blame was higher.

Given these factors you can see why perhaps cyclists were annoyed by the AA’s cycle helmet giveaway and why I was annoyed to see this van parked here. Yes I know it is a one-off and there could be all sorts of explanations – but this sort of thing happens all  the time (vehicles in general rather than AA vans in particular) and I would expect better from the AA. We need to focus on the causes of accidents not put band-aids on the results – the AA could do better.

In case you are wondering I am an Associate Member of the AA – it provides a useful service. I wonder if they would add bicycle breakdowns to the list of services they provide – now that would be useful.

They aren’t the only ones, Cyclestreets has more pictures. The real question is how do we stop this sort of behaviour?  Crowd-sourcing pictures? Reporting it to the Police or the Government’s Nudge unit.

A coincidence is that there were reports on the BBC news this morning (Wednesday) that a kerbside survey by the AA Streetwatchers indicated that 5% of drivers were still not wearing seatbelts and that 10% were going too fast. More about AA Streetwatch here – they walked the streets checking for various things including broken kerbs, obscured road signs and dog fouling. .

I actually headed out of town on the Histon Road to, yes you’ve guessed it Histon. I stopped to take this picture on the bridge over the CGB. How about that then, tarmac on the cycleway up to Histon.

And even better, tarmac on the cycleway as far as the eye camera can see. It looks pretty thick, let’s hope it doesn’t get ruined by motor vehicles.

A close up of the “road works” on the busway itself. Although I guess they aren’t road works but “buswayworks”.  There has been a lot of activity on the CGB and since the handover the urgency levels have improved.  I am not quite sure why the hole has been dug though – perhaps the CGB has been so long in the building that they are doing an archaeological dig before operations start.

I didn’t actually plan this route before setting out and after cycling through the mean streets of Histon headed out along Gun’s Lane (a bridleway).  Why are they mean streets, well I was knocked off my bike by a SMIDSY driver a couple of years ago in Histon. I was riding along Windmill Lane and a car turned left onto School Hill running into me. It was mid-afternoon on a bright sunny day and I was wearing a yellow fluorescent jacket. The OSM Cycle map shows the triangle junction slightly differently with the main route heading to the left. That is not actually how the road is marked though.

This time around there was a vehicle legitimately parked on the opposite side of the road. The van coming the other way didn’t even slow for me but just barged through pushing me from my primary position to the kerb. The trouble is that a lot of cycling advice relies is based upon the idea that the problem is merely one of the other drivers not seeing you. Unfortunately when it comes to drivers who don’t give a toss it can actually increase the danger you feel.

At least when you go off-road the main issues you have to deal with are somewhat slower speed ones such as falling into a rut or being bitten by a dog. (A broken collar bone, the result of the SMIDSY,  is far more painful.) This is Gun’s Lane – just a wonderful path to cycle on a summer’s day when the path is firm.

The path is a mix of a gravel track and a grassy track. In fact as I cycled along I felt that the track as had more gravel put down since the last time I cycled along it. I could easily be wrong though. It was pretty easy on my Marin Hybrid with 700C wheels, however I imagine it might be a little more challenging for a youngster on a bike with smaller wheels. Which is a great shame since this sort of route is ideal for young kids to get the taste for exploring.

It wasn’t a bad day either, the bridleway meets the road between Westwick and Cottenham and on the other side becomes a bridleway called Rampton Drift. The point where it crosses the road is called Lamb’s Cross (or should that be Lambs’ Cross? – actually my 1919-1921 OS map shows it as Lambs’ Cross.)  It is too simplistic to believe that these drove ways were used to take sheep to market and this is where the sheep crossed the road?

On the other side the track also varies between grass (mud) and gravel, Westwick Field is to the left.

The wheat is growing nicely in the fields.

This was taken just before Cuckoo Bridge. What I hadn’t realised is that network of tracks round here was a little more extensive than it is now.  There is a track called Cuckoo Drive leading from the aforementioned road alongside Cuckoo Hill Farm that joined with Rampton Dr0ve, or perhaps the other way round, as the two become Cuckoo Lane (track) after they meet.

If you follow the link (assuming the WTP has not exceeded its limit for OS map tiles served) you can just about see where Cuckoo Lane went as a shadow through the field alongside Rampton Drift.  |The older maps show this more clearly)  although the WTP Historic map does not actually show the join. There are other tracks that look to have been lost leading round the back of Westwick as well alongside Beck Brook.

After a short distance you have a choice to continue to Rampton or head down Reynold Drove. At that point is at information board. Apparently Cuckoo Lane was a medieval road from Cambridge to Ely and was called Portway in Rampton and leads on to the Aldreth Causeway.

As I found out this used to be a bridleway through to Oakington but was legally downgraded at the Cambridge Guided Busway although the WTP OS map shows it as a byway still. The cynic in me sees this as a way to cut costs on the CGB by not having to make proper provision for a “cutting”.

This is the byway and there is a more direct route through to the Aldreth Causeway near the “junction” with the CGB.

As usual there are old dilapidated buildings knocking around in the fields.

A bit of wild land at the edge of a field adjacent to the CGB.

Here is the CGB the next stop is the Willingham (or is it called Longstanton) P&R – quite a few wildflowers along here as well. As you can see the tarmac surface has not yet gotten this far.  When it does you could of course then cycle up it (once the cycleway is open.)

Once you reach the Longstanton/Willingham road where it crosses the CGB this is what you might see.  Yep the tarmac surface has been laid, almost from this junction, off towards Swavesey. Obviously I have used Photoshop to add images of cyclists to show you what it might look like when being used by cyclists. (It isn’t yet open!) Indeed it will be safe enough so that cyclists might also use their mobile phones when cycling.


Up near Fen Drayton Lakes there are quite a few paths over the CGB and as this bit isn’t wasn’t going to get a tarmac surface I am afraid I ventured onto it. Along with loads of other people. This is not an interesting new bus shelter but a place where you can hop off the bus do a bit of bird-watching and then hop back on again. Talking about Bus Shelters, apparently they might be in short supply in the future so our Councillors have decided to stockpile them. The article suggests that unneeded bus shelters are being built at a cost of £40,000 in case they might be needed in the future. It turns out that these were/are due to be built by the developers of Orchard Park and it is only now happening.

One the one hand this looks like our Councillors getting our money’s worth. Mind you if it was my money I would not spend it in such a way I’d spend it on something of greater benefit to the community it is supposed to benefit. That sounds too much like common sense though. Why do the words “joined-up-thinking” spring to mind and “I wish they would use”.

I cycled up to the River Great Ouse viaduct, the bridge is closed with a couple of layers of fence and so I didn't try to get through. Mind you I met a few other cyclists who seemed to be proceeding with confidence. At the moment all of the bits of track that are prone to flooding seem ok and have had a bit of remedial work done or perhaps been flattened by passing maintenance vehicles.  You still have to take care, but is is the most passable I’ve seen it for ages. This is the view looking back in the Cambridge direction from the viaduct.

On my way out through Fen Drayton lakes I turned off Holywell Ferry Road towards the exit onto the Fen Drayton Road. A few pink poppies caught my eye.

As I reached the Fen Drayton Road this collection of daisies growing in the field opposite really caught my eye.

On the way back down I cycled through Swavesey and then turned off along New Road just on reaching Over. This road took me along Gravel Bridge Road with views of the CGB up towards the MG Owners Club. as you can see the tarmac has made it this far.  If you look really closely you can see there is a tarmac laying machine that has just about made it to the road junction. I am not sure quite what the orange fencing across the right hand concrete track is there for though.

This is the view in the other direction, the tarmac seems to have been laid pretty much between Longstanton and Swavesey so it is making good progress, Interestingly the ripples in the surface are probably a good thing for cyclists you don’t notice them at cycling speeds but they do make driving maintenance vehicles at any speed more than a little uncomfortable. Will there be a speed limit for such maintenance vehicles I wonder, or would a speed limit imply that vehicles can be used on the track? (The law of estoppel?)

Just after re-joining the NCN51 route before Longstanton I stopped to take a picture of the Over Water Tower on the horizon.

Now you probably think that I tend to rant more at the start of a Post than at the end. Well not this time. Your starter for ten – what is this driver doing correctly? Well yes he has pulled over whilst using his hands-not-free mobile phone, jolly good. No prizes for pointing out what the problem is though. He has stopped in his Landrover in the advisory cycle lanes of Gilbert Road (yes the same road that featured in the first picture). This is at the Histon Road end and yes the double yellow lines do extend this far.

So without any evidence except for my observations on a few rides along this road it seems that motorists are taking more liberties. As it happens another car was parked in the cycle lane a bit further along this time the driver returned to her car and drove off before I had time to stop and take a picture.

Once again there were a few drops of rain, but in the low tens, not enough to make me even think about putting on a rain  jacket.

My advice – get out and ride those byways and bridleways.


  1. I think the clouds in your photos are fantastic - the beauty of East Anglia!

  2. Thank you - we certainly have some wide open skies here.