Friday, November 11, 2011

Grey days in Cambridge

Tuesday, 8th November: One of the problems of working from home is that it is a little bit harder to meet up with people. I don’t mean in terms of finding time, rather finding a place to meet when neither of us have an office. Anyway I popped over to Fulbourn for lunch at the Six Bells with some friends and to catch up on things. The last few times I have been there it has been sunny and warm and I’ve sat out in the garden.  Tuesday was a rather grey day, again, with a lot of mist in the air. Although according to the Cambridge University weather web site it wasn’t actually rain, well not until 1pm or so.  I did wonder whether I should have worn some waterproof leggings.  The trouble is that you can wetter from the sweat from the mist. The alternative would have been to wear shorts or a pair of trousers than "sort of” repel the water.  IN the end I just wore a reasonable pair of trousers – this was not cycling for leisure after all.  Although they got a bit damp it wasn’t bad at all and they soon dried off on the pub.

I did make the mistake of thinking it was going to be cold and wore a shirt, jumper and water-proof jacket – I was deficiently too warm. After lunch I carried my jumper in my bag – which was much better for cycling.

I cycled along Fulbourn Old Drift on my way back to Cambridge. I’d arranged to meet at Le Gros Franck near the railway station. My plan was to park my bike there, and the person I was meeting was coming in by train. 

There is a slight hill on the way out of Fulbourn round the back of what used to be a Hospital. The Cambridge-Ipswich railway line runs to the right, the hospital was on the left.

After passing through Cherry Hinton I used The Tins path to get to the railway station – it is pretty direct and cycling friendly. It does duck and dive a bit nearer the station, but there are light-controlled crossings on the busier roads.  Now that Mill Road has a 20mph speed limit I sometimes don’t follow the signed route but carry on down Mill Road. As you can see the greyness did not let up.  You can also see that the pavement is somewhat damp.

This route toe the railway station comes in the back way and passes through the car park. You get a view of the new bridge being built to allow passengers to reach the new centre platform. It looks like many other similar railway bridges – which I suppose is no surprise.

Would you look at that – whenever I drive to the station, which I try not to do often there are no car spaces. Whenever I cycle there are spaces – there are two right there.

As luck would have it there was also a space in the small cycle park in the car park. One thing that does annoy me is that cyclists are expected to be grateful for pretty poor parking. You expect you bike to bang up against others and get scratched .  You expect to remove all things that are not screwed or bolted on. And yes I did remove my GPS after locking my bike up.

Apparently now car drivers are complaining about the size of the parking spaces for their 4x4s. Apparently if they park over a line then they get fined and so are demanding more space. I can’t feel too much sympathy, I drive a 4x4, yes someone has to do it. Actually I try not to drive it unless I need to as it happens. Although the car spaces at Cambridge Railway Station are not super wide – they are good enough for my 4x4. I have always said that we motorists should expect to pay for our car-parking – so people who use/require bigger spaces should pay more.

Whilst I am on the subject of motoring, we motorists do bleat a lot about the costs. the TaxPayers’ Alliance has suggested that we pay £300-a-year on taxes that are NOT spent on our roads.  Mind you the article did not seem to take into account policing and accident and injury costs. I would also say that roads have gotten noisier and motorists certainly don’t pay to fix the noise pollution you get. Perhaps the amount of tax paid by motorists should be related to the frivolity of the journey. I’m afraid that taking kids to school in cars would be heavily taxed if I were running things. (Here is a BBC article on the cost of petrol and oil.)

Here in Cambridge it would seem there has also been an increase in the use of hand-held phones by motorists. I see people using their phones when driving quite a lot when cycling. It is scary to think that I am sharing roads with people wilfully distracting themselves in whilst driving large vehicles. I don’t use my phone when cycling, but neither am I that concerned by other cyclists using mobile phones the consequences are just not as severe.

As it happens I was crossing at a light-controlled crossing later on and waited not just for the lights for the road to go red, but also the lights for the pedestrians to go green, just as I started to cross a white-ish van shot through. I am glad I waited!

I have moaned far too often about the poor provision for cycle parking at the Railway Station here in Cambridge. However there is always going to be an improvement around the corner.  To be honest since money is made from car parking I am not sure that there is the motivation to fix that problem.

However the Station area revamp was going to fix that problem along with the provision of a multi-storey car park – well “Multi-storey axed from station area scheme” suggests that it might not be the case.

Given we have a Railway Station where we do, then there ought to be provision for access as well as for the new inhabitants in the area – it will only get worse. Talking of which Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has been appointed the vice chair of a Parliamentary Group for the East-West Rail link. (Cambridge, Norwich, Ipswich, Reading and Oxford.) It sounds good – but we need to be able to get more people in and out of the hub and being biased, cycling should be one of the key methods of transport.

It was reported in the press how delinquent cyclists had blocked the disabled ramp provided at the Cambridge Railway Station. Now I do think such provision is important and often what is provided for wheelchair users is pretty appalling. So I don’t condone the blocking of such facilities one bit.

To be honest I had not noticed it until it was reported in the press and I walked by it. This is the ramp, which is I presume, near the car spaces set aside for disabled users.  One of the commenters suggested that all bikes parked illegally should be taken and crushed. Now that’s an idea – could we also apply it to all the motorists who park illegally as well please.

As you can see it is almost clear – the ramp anyway.

The fence between the car-park and the cycle park was not clear though. clearly there are more bicycles than parking provision.  A lot more. 

It would seem that the muddy cycle park along Station Road has had a new entrance built for cyclists. Although it might also be that someone has vandalised the fence.  In wet weather that is one muddy cycle park and I struggle to keep my trousers clean as I try to walk my bike along the narrow paths to find a cycle space. (You rub against dirty bike wheels.)

Anyway enough moaning I went on down to what I though was Le Gros Franck and ordered a cup of coffee and waited.  I did mention how the place had had a major revamp since the last time I visited. It was empty apart from me. After a while I looked at the menu – The Sahara, oops I was in the wrong place, I drank up and popped next door to apologise instead of being early for my meeting I was late. It was much busier in Le Gros Franck as well.

Afterwards I realised that there was cycle parking provision alongside the entrance to the Cambridge Botanical Gardens and there were spaces – hum must remember that for next time. There is quite an office block being built nearby as well.

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