Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunny Sunday Cycling on a nearly finished Cycleway between St Ives and Swavesey

Sunday, 23rd October:  I am still running behind by just over a week on my Posting, it is November 1st as I write this. My plan was to pop up the route of the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway), check out the state of the cycle way between St Ives and Swavesey and get a topical post out. So much for my good intentions.

For a change I took a “round” route and left out the scenic trip up the Cam and around Quy Fen. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the map shown below.  The round trip is 52Km/32.5 miles in length and pretty flat. The only slight downside of the route is that if the wind is blowing up the CGB from Cambridge then it can feel like a bit of a slog.

I know that “problems” make for better news copy than good things – well in general. However it seems that the popularity of the smooth tarmac alongside the CGB is bringing different users into conflict as apparently “Busway runners angry at cyclists”. In general I have found the CGB cycleway to be fine in terms of different users. I have passed walkers, cyclists, family groups on bikes, skaters, skateboarders, speedy cyclists, joggers and dog walkers to name a few. In most places the tarmac is plenty wide to allow the different forms of traffic to pass each other. I slow down the most for horse riders, very young cyclists and dogs roaming free. No surprise it is the last that I find makes me most cautious.

As a reminder of the need to be aware around horse riders, recently a rider fell from her horse near Lode – I hope she makes a full recovery.

So far it seems to me that all of the CGB users were happy to be there away from most traffic, with the occasional bus whizzing along.  There are pinch points and the photograph in the link does point to the stretch in Histon. Unfortunately for the complaining runners they are shown running side by side, which implies that they feel that all others should make way for them. Now I am sure that is not what they intended and it does make for a better picture.

What it does indicate to me is that where you have users travelling at different speeds it has the potential to cause conflict. This type of path is one where I would tend to use my brighter cycle lights as it is so dark, but of course that can be dazzling for on-coming “traffic”. Also it is the time of year when we cyclists are reminded to use our lights. In my experience the closer you get to the city centre the greater the number of cyclists without lights at night. It is also good to see that pedestrians are also reminded to “be seen”, something that is definitely appropriate for the CGB.

There is an interesting article in the Guardian on “There’s more to ‘going Dutch’ than having a separate cycling lane”. I like the quote from Frank de Jong – “I feel more respected as a cyclist, and therefore I’m more likely to respect the traffic rules”.  One aspect of respect is that the safety of the system removes the need to wear cycling helmets in Holland. Whereas the message her in the UK is those streets are dangerous, wear a helmet and we don’t really care.

Having said that there are circumstances where I would wear a helmet but if it can be safe in Holland (not to wear one) why can’t it be safe here in the UK? Rather tragically a cycling safety campaigner was recently killed in a “freak accident”. The article suggests that a helmet might have saved her life, and that she would have worn one, but hers was stolen a few days before. She clipped a 16ft long piece of plastic lying in a cycling lane.  Perhaps that is an issue of respecting cycling lanes as much as helmet wearing. Cycle lanes along the edge of the road can feel more like cycling in the gutter than a cycling lane.

Interestingly people often complain that cyclists should be tested and pay a “road tax” and have a licence plate. Well a cyclist without all of those things was fined in a rare prosecution. Which suggests that the law is adequate in such cases. The cyclists caused a motor cyclists to break his collar bone in two places. Having been knocked of my bike by a car and suffered a broken collar bone I feel sympathy for the motor cyclist. My shoulder was very sore, I am amazed that professional cyclists will sometimes carry on after such an accident.

Helmets have been in the news though (and the Cambridge News) with “Cycle helmet saved my life, says crash victim”. Of course you will never see the headline “Cycle helmet didn’t save my life”. One good thing about helmets is that you can mount a helmet cam on them and a recent Australian study “revels motorists to blame in vast majority of cycling crashes”. Perhaps I ought to get a helmet cam for Christmas – then I’d wear my helmet – I can hear my kids groaning as I type.

Helmets – oh yes another news story – “Angry can driver tore off cyclist’s helmet”. Good that appropriate action, it must have been some force to tear of the helmet.

Whilst on the subject of pleasant cycling I personally prefer segregated cycle routes, but want to be safe when cycling on roads (and to unequivocally retain the right to use those roads.) Like many cycling geeks (I have to come clean on that – umpteen bikes make it difficult to disclaim) I read John Franklin’s Cyclecraft. He also suggests that separate cycling lanes are a bad idea, which is something I don’t in my heart of hearts believe. Well here is a Post further discussing that idea – “How John Franklin misled a nation’s cycling campaigners” from Manchester Cycling – food for thought.

Back to the CGB cycleway – I would imagine it makes a great cycle commuter route for those living along its corridor and especially for the Science Park (and for companies with showers). Well “Commuting to work is ‘bad for your health’ (unless you cycle or go by foot…)”. It also suggests that “the average Britain commutes for  54 minutes every day”. (Now is that working day or really every day?)

Talking about commuting – one Cambridge family have a three-seater cycle to commute to work and school.

And now on with my ride although I ought to point out that “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway” has a much more comprehensive and up to date set of pictures on the progress on the cycle in the post of that name.

When things don’t work you tend to notice it, when they do work you don’t. Well now that Gilbert Road has been sorted with decent cycle lanes it seems to be a non-issue that, IMHO, works for all road users. Well done to the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

Mind you I do notice problems. I followed the route of NCN51, or should that be the old route. A quick check on the Sustrans website and it is now referred to as the Regional Route 24 and the CGB Cycleway is National Route 51. This is a recent change as the two blue signs still indicates that it is Route 51 on the road.

This is a “no-go” road barred to many types of motor traffic. I stopped and was planning to wait for 5 minutes, to see what went through. Surprise, surprise I did not wait that long – I took pictures of around 5 cars, but here is one cyclist and three cars in shot. None of them looked like permitted traffic. These are probably the same drivers that moan about red-light jumping cyclists.

I was hoping to get a picture of a bus approaching this bridge. But cyclists are also good. As you can see here – a wide road and two abreast is a social way of cycling on such a clear route.

As you can see buses do whizz along the track. That is what it is there for and to be fair they don’t actually create that much noise, certainly not the high-pitched tyre noise which I find the most unpleasant. Look how the cyclists have barely gotten any closer to the fence on the left and the bus is right by them.

By the time they got to the fence the bus is way down the track. That is why anyone crossing the track really does need to take care – the buses move. That is also why it is so stupid to cycle or walk on the concrete track.  Mind you the buses should also drive so that they can stop in the event of an emergency.

As I passed the Fen Drayton Lakes bird reserve there was an elephant in the grass growing. it amazes me just how fast this stuff grows. A second field nearby also had some growing. Is this the new Leylandii – with ramblers complaining in Somerset about it encroaching the path?

After passing through St Ives and down to the Park & Ride to join NCN51 – look at that – super smooth tarmac at the St Ives end – fantastic eh.

If you followed the earlier link there are more and later pictures of what is quite a construction of a Dutch Culvert or culvert cum ford. There seems to be quite a lot of work needed here. I would imagine that this is blocked to normal traffic during the working week.

After the Dutch Culvert there is more tarmac, although slightly coarser grain. As you can see loads of people have already cycled along it.

A bit closer to Swavesey and back to the fine grain super smooth tarmac. They do seem to be laying a thick old wodge of tarmac – I’m no expect on track construction, this does look pretty high quality. There is quite a thickness of tarmac. Presumably it must also be sufficient for the cycleways dual role as an emergency road to access the CGB in the event of problems on the concrete tracking.

It felt to be a bit of a slog on the way back because of the wind, but there were quite a few people out and about on the route. There do seem to be more solar panels around on house roofs, although the government is changing the feed in tariff which will make it less economic.

I did have lights on my bike but didn’t need them. This seems to be well positioned though.

And finally some rather nice Autumnal pictures. Check out the ones of Glastonbury Tor, I used to lived near there and there are various mounds, known as Drumlins that can be seen from the Mendips. There is one near a village called Nyland that I like to think got its name because on a misty day it looked like an Island (a nyland) in the sea of mist, when viewed from the Mendips.

View Larger Map

And really finally the sun-spot activity is increasing and you might see the Northern lights as far south as Alabama.

1 comment:

  1. Leylandii as mentioned in your article do gorw very large so need trimming at least twice a year. If this is done they are a good edition to the country and can be plants at the side of paths.