Friday, July 8, 2011

St Ives: There and back on the hypothetical Cambridge Guided Busway

Sunday, July 3rd: It wasn’t quite as nice on Sunday compared with the day before, but if you read the last post you will know that I have been letting the train take the strain over the last couple of days. When I know I won’t be able to cycle for a few days I try and put a few kilometres in the bank. The trouble is when I set of on Sunday afternoon I wasn’t really sure quite where I wanted to go.

I actually set off thinking that I might finally make my way over to Bury St Edmunds or Thetford or at least that general direction. As I set of eastwards along NCN51 I had a slight change of mind and decided turn off NCN51 in Bottisham and out towards Lodes Way.  Which go me thinking that if I wanted to get a decent bit of distance cycled and at the same time avoid too much road then the obvious place to head for was the closed high-quality cycle track alongside the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB).

The first problem was how to get there without just back-tracking. So I broke one of my rules of cycling and used the shared-use cycle path alongside the River Cam, despite it being a Sunday and so probably full of Sunday strollers.  Shared-use paths are great when you don’t have to share them, if they are narrow and there are cyclists and walkers then it is not so much fun for either group of users. But ignoring my own rules I headed back through to Clayhithe and threaded my way through Cambridge to the start of the CGB on Milton Road.

Then breaking another of my cycling rules I cycled up and back along the CGB. This was partly because of all the dilly-dallying earlier meant I was eating into the time I had set aside. The main reason was although I did stop on the way to take pictures there were occasions when it was so nice just cycling along – I thought no I’ll just carry on and take the picture on the way back.There is tarmac pretty much all the way between Milton Road and Swavesey with just tone bit where the track crosses a road where it has not been quite finished.

My cycle ride is shown on the map and here is the Bike Route Toaster link. It was 65Km/40 miles in length and not really a planned route.

The distance from Milton Road to the market area of St Ives is  20Km / 12.5 miles of which all but 5 Km/ 3 miles miles is tarmac. (As roughly shown on the map!) There are also five road crossings (plus one at each end). These don’t appear to be automatic and some cyclists find themselves just crossing rather than pushing crossing buttons and waiting.

The bit up near the St Ives end which hasn’t been surfaced is pretty good, except where there was flooding. Those bits have quite a lot of loose gravel on them and need a bit of car. There is also still one large puddle that you cycle around.

I counted 71 cyclists using the tarmac and one using the concrete, on my way to St Ives, and 41 cyclists on the way back. Some I overtook and some were heading in the other direction. One other thing of notes was that on the way up to St Ives I also passed 5 people roller skating which gives you and idea of how smooth the surface is.

The last few times I have cycled along the CGB it has been obvious that they were (and still are) working hard to hit their opening date. It is now “ready to go” and ready for driver training. If you watch the video one comment is that the training is about teaching them to “let go of the wheel”, hopefully they’ll break that habit when back on the road.

There you are the view from the Milton Road end black flat tarmac as far as the eye can see.

Has it gone unnoticed – no and not a helmet in sight.  Also as you can see from the last picture although most of the street furniture is of the tarmac there are some poles set in it, including the “Car trap” sign.

There have been plans in place to provide toad migration tunnels for some time  Apparently forty tunnels were in place and there were more to come once handover had taken place. The problem was that there weren’t enough tunnels and so toads were dying. well the handover has taken place and here are the new tunnels on the stretch between Cambridge and Histon (Impington lake).  It looks as if they have just scooped out some of the gravel from under the concrete tracks. Let’s hope this doesn’t cause the concrete tracks to subside!

This is the view looking up  towards Histon I am not sure whether the strip left unsurfaced will be left like that when the tunnels are finished. It does look a bit like an afterthought in terms of design though as it could prove quite a shock for an unwary cyclist at night.

Judging from the way the fences have been put in around the tunnels I don’t think the tarmac will fill the gap. 

This is the Park and Ride car park near Longstanton. There seems to be a building going up here.

As you can see the tarmac is smooth and appreciated by cyclists and roller skaters alike. Now the tarmac has been laid there are more “racing cyclists” in Lycra.

I didn’t stop until the Fen Drayton lakes area, but you see from this reflection just how still it was.

This is the bit beyond Swavesey and there are constraints on its level imposed by the Environment agency apparently.  This is one of the areas that floods and even now it has almost dried out still has a bit of mud to catch out cyclists. yes it is the same two cyclists as in an earlier picture they passed me when I stopped to take pictures. I overtook them before St Ives though!

One of the other “snags” with the CGB development was drainage in the St Ives Park and Ride car park. It looks as if the solution to the poor gradient is to dig a series of gutters along the roads – or perhaps they are lodes for the roads.

I sat down for a few minutes in the St Ives Park and Ride and a convenient family group went by when I had my camera handy. On the evidence of today (and a few other rides) this cycle path is drawing people to it. This is the busiest I have seen it though, What’s more there were more family groups out on it as well.

They must have fixed the Ouse Viaduct, well it was open at any rate.  There were quite a few boats out as well – there is nothing like a nice day to get the boats messing about on the river.

This is the Ouse Viaduct (or bridge).

This is the worst bit of the CGB cycleway – even in the middle of summer and one in which it has been very dry there is still a significant amount of water. At least in the dry weather it is possible to cycle along the bank – but in wet weather the bank gets very muddy and quite hard cycle along.

I do think that people who plan to use the CGB bus for regular commuting will get a great view of the countryside over the changing seasons. Here is some haymaking in a field alongside the CGB

As you can see bales are made and left in place then they are gathered together into small stacks. When I was a boy we used to help the farm with haymaking in the field in front of our house. Those bales are hard work to lug around when you are small.  The farmer would let us ride on the stack of bales on the trailer as he was moving it across the field. No doubt health and safety would have had a fit it they had been around in those days.

I have commented before that over seems the poor relation of the villages along the CGB. they don’t have their own stop or Park and Ride and even for cyclists and walkers the bridleway from Over to the CGB was tricky with a single plank bridge to cross. Well the single plank has gone and a decent “bridge” is now in place.  You will still have to lift your bike over the CGB tracks – but at least they have painted it a different colour.

This is Windmill Bridge where Gravel Bridge Road passes over the CGB. Perhaps it is called Gravel Bridge, although there is a plaque dedicating it to the  memory of someone involved in the design, just out of sight on the left.

it would appear that they (the council) have also been numbering sections of the track – there is 32B with 32A on the other side.

So there you have it – one of the best a2b cycle routes in Cambridgeshire for commuting. Are there things that could be better – yes.  At night you will need decent lights as it stands at the moment. There is no white lining to delineate the middle and edge. (I could go on, there are street furniture issues for instance.) But nit-picking aside – I’ve already seen a bunch of families out on it (both cycling and walking) along with quite a few cyclists. If I lived in one town then I would certainly commute by bike along it, perhaps using the bus when I was a little under the weather.  I would certainly have taken my kids along it when they were small.

Just as roads attract cars DECENT CYCLE FACILITIES ATTRACT CYCLISTS – build the cycle ways and they will come.

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