Friday, August 26, 2011

Cycling over Coldham’s Commons

Friday, 19th August: I had to get to London for an afternoon meeting. Fortunately the timing was right for me to be able to pop in after the peak travel and then with the right timing I would be able to get back before the evening peak time.  This off course meant the ticket was cheaper, but it might mean one or other of the journeys would be busy.  I have found that the first train after the morning peak-time and then the trains either side of the peak time in the evening can get pretty busy. especially if you turn up just-in-time.

I can’t complain though at least I didn’t have to be there for a full day and it meant that I could leave my bicycle with Station Cycles rather than have to find a parking space and then leave it locked up.  Strange as it may seem the time taken to find a parking space for my bicycle means I have to add quite a safety margin onto my journey time. So as the cost of leaving my bike at Station Cycles is only £1.5 for the day it saves time. Not to mention the fact that I can leave stuff in my rack pack and so don’t have to wander around London with lights/GPS/rain jacket/tyre inflator…

Also in my small way I am helping businesses such as Station cycles and it is reassuring to know that the “Cycling industry gives economy £3bn boost”. According to a report by the London School of Economics more than a million people also started cycling last year, bringing the total to 13 million. Mind you I am sure the motor industry could similarly claim to boost the economy by large amounts of money. The real challenge is what is the net cost or benefit and what might the alternatives be?

One benefit is that bicycles take up less space than cars and id space is money then bicycles save it. According to an article in the Guardian there are now 1bn cars on the planet. That is a lot of cars. What cars give you is the “freedom to travel” what that translates into is a “slave to commuting” and research in Sweden suggests “Your commute is Killing you”. “Couple in which one partner commutes for longer than 45 minutes are 40% likelier to divorce”. What is worse is that if you are female “Commuting is far more stressful for men than women”.

So what better than to make use of some of the delightful Cambridge Cycle routes that cut through some of the green spaces dotted in around the City of Cambridge.  One (for me) great circle route to the railway station is via Coldham’s Common. It isn’t that much of a detour and is so much nicer that battling through the fumes of some of the busy roads. This common has a fair number of sporting facilities including football pitches, a swimming pool, an American football pitch and there is even space to graze the cows.

Oh would all cycle routes be like this eh – well I suppose it could be a bit wider and longer. The cycle path cuts across from the near the Cambridge United Football Ground on Newmarket Road though to Coldham’s Lane.

It is quite common to see cows grazing on the common – they are no trouble. Also I guess that the route might be a little more congested when there is a football match on. I don’t find football that entertaining to watch (I used to play it though – that’s a different matter) so I am not sure quite what sort of crowds are attracted.

The route does pass under the Cambridge – Ipswich railway line and whilst I don’t tend to need route signs for cycling around Cambridge I do think that the signage is pretty good for cyclists in Cambridge. They give both the place and the mileage, which is helpful – only 1.75 miles to the station from here.

There isn’t a lot of room under the railway line underpass and there are cattle grids on each side – so don’t expect to go barrelling through. I don’t remember it but a cyclist was mugged here in June 2008 and required surgery so perhaps it is better not to go too slowly. Having said that I have been through here late at night and although I’ve passed groups at the benches I’ve never felt threatened.

This route then heads along Cromwell Road and Sedgwick Street – it is one way and to accommodate the residents they are allowed to park their cars using some of the pavement – so that there is only room for vehicles to go in one direction.

The cycle route is shown taking a dog’s leg so that it allows the cyclist to cross Mill Road onto Stockwell Street leading onto the Carter Bridge to the station. I don’t bother I carry on to Mill Road and then cycle along Mill Road and turn down Devonshire Road instead. Since they introduced the 20mph speed limit on Mill Road I feel that it has been easier turning onto it and cycling along it – mind you that might just be down to the summer holidays reducing the traffic in Cambridge.

Apparently “Up to half of drivers flout new 20mph limit”. I started reading the comments – but rather like too much commuting it raised my blood pressure. It is recognised as a problem in West Cambridge (see section 2 of the pdf document). We are a car-sick society – they have a place – no doubt – but lets not shape our lives to suit them please. It also turns out that “Casualty rates at some speed camera sites have worsened” although I suspect that the data has not had the full rigour of analysis. The chance of winning the lottery is roughly one in around 14,000,000. However someone wins it pretty much each week – so even if something is very rare – if the chance of it happening enough times occur then it will happen.

So if you look at enough speed cameras then random fluctuations in accidents will mean that it wouldn’t be unusual for crashes to increase at some camera sites – since they were chosen because of the potential hazard in the first place.

We have a holiday weekend coming up with the August bank Holiday – so one place to visit would be the Haddenham Steam Rally – when my son was younger he enjoyed it.

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