Friday, September 9, 2011

Cycling–good for all

Saturday, 3rd September: Just when I thought that Summer was over we have some glorious sunshine. Weather so irresistible that I didn’t, I went out for a ride.  But that post will follow – there is some “stuff” to rant about first!

With perhaps more predictability there is also some CGB news – “Busway journeys top 220,000”. the Cambridge News reports on the number of CGB trips during its first month of operation.  They do note that the month of August was not expected to be that busy because of the Summer holiday period and that the targets for the first year is 3.5 million journeys and 12 x 225,000 is 2.7 million so the hope must be that numbers do increase after the Summer period.

I have to admit the CGB has been better than expected for me as a cyclist. It has provided an excellent off-road route between Cambridge and St Ives through some pleasant countryside. The buses, now they are running aren’t too noisy as they sail along the concrete tracks.  However I am disappointed and surprised that the concrete tracks were not routed through Cambridge since that is where the traffic problems really occur (along with the cycleway of course).I still think the desire of a guided busway was as much a political decision driven by the strange way our rail system is controlled here in the UK. Here is one cyclist’s view on the rail system.

Given the building developments around the city; Northstowe, Orchard Park, Clay Farm, Glebe Farm and West Cambridge (NIAB) to name a few places it is bound to increase the cross-City traffic massively. Which means the transport issues need to be considered up-front. (By transport I mean both moving cars and parked cars.)  I don’t know what the car ownership data is here in Cambridge, however we really ought to be working really hard to make it easier to own one less car.  That means the there need to be top-quality bus and cycle routes through the city and to the railway station.

We must also not forget the provision of decent and safe for children routes to schools. Whilst it would be naive of me to think all motor vehicles could be removed from the roads there ought to be a goal to make many car journeys unnecessary and free up the roads for the necessary ones. Ambulances and Fire engines for instance – actually not just the fire engines but also the part-time fire-fighters we still rely upon.

When cycling around and about I do find school checking out time to be a time when way more care (as a cyclist) is needed on the roads. Whether it is the swarms of people school children crossing roads randomly or the chaotic roads as a result of the haphazard parking by “parents” picking up their kids or the ways in which parents driving their kids around seem to forget the rules of the road.

The trouble is that cycling is perceived as dangerous and we hear enough reports of bicycle accidents which “supports” the belief. In the US apparently you even have the Police threatening parents with arrest for allowing their children to cycle to school. When I was a by the deal was that once I passed my Cycling proficiency test then I was allowed to cycle where I wanted on the roads. (Now I lived on the outskirts of a City – but one of the smallest cities in the UK).

Surely we should be making it easier and safer for kids to cycle to schools. Like the hundreds of thousands of children who cycle to school in the Netherlands. After all whilst it might be hard not being a helicopter parent – by doing so you increase the risk of obesity in your children and the resultant long-term health problems.

Talking of helicopter parents I think that we also suffer from helicopter police.  The link refers to a Sustrans article about the chap who carried his son on a seat on the crossbar of his bicycle. Several comments refer back to when the usual response was for the policeman to offer a word of advice. It would seem that the lingua-franca of modern society is so strongly tied up with money that it becomes the only response, whether it is bankers’ bonuses, compensation claims or fines for every transgression.

Not everyone thinks that cycling is a highly dangerous activity only undertaken by red-light jumping Lycra louts clogging the roads and so stopping Mr and Mrs Car-driving-Citizen from assuming their rightful ownership of the road. Travel Plan Plus in Cambridge got people out on Tandems, trikes and electric bikes on the CGB cycleway.


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