Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Supply and demand

Thursday, 8th December 2011:It was a day of meetings around Cambridge. The interesting feature of the timings was that it gave me a bit of time to cycle around between the meetings. It was not something I planned, but just how it worked out.  Mind you the weather didn’t look too promising, but in this part of the UK I don’t often find myself getting that wet. Although I suppose most car drivers never, ever get wet on their daily commute. So by comparison even a couple of days getting caught out in the rain on a bike must qualify me as being mad by most drivers.

As someone who counts photography as a hobby I was appalled to read about the way in which this young lad was treated by the police. I can only hope that we get a real change of attitude. The trouble is the Police have to pay compensation, but will that actually cause a change in behaviour – in some ways it is the taxpayer who is getting fined here. Do I have a chip on my shoulder or are photography and cycling both treated as second-class activities.

The wind did buck up a bit during the day though as the Cambridge University DTG’s weather graphs show, it swung about a bit as well. As it happens it did rain a little at the end of the day, but when you are on your way home that doesn’t count. It’s the sitting around in damp clothes I don’t like – getting wet is not a problem if you are warm enough and reconciled to the fact.

The reason for the title Supply and Demand – well my journeys got me thinking – there is demand for better cycle infrastructure – but where is the supply. When will the good citizens of Cambridge realise that “Cars cause congestion so one more bike is one less car”.

My first meeting was at Le Gros Frank on Hills Road, just where it meets Station Road. This is a great place to meet as it is convenient for the Station, (for the people I was meeting) and as there is cycle parking just opposite. The Cyclestreet website show the cycle parking on the inside of the Cambridge Botanic Gardens, but it turns out there are two bits of cycle parking on the outside as well. 

I haven’t included a Google Streetview picture, partly because it is out of date and partly because my computer is so loaded than it can’t take the strain of yet another open window.

You can just about see one bit of the cycle parking to the bottom right-hand corner of the picture. That is not my Marin though. As you can see the lights are red however I am pretty sure that the two cyclists you see across the junction went through after it turned red. Personally I prefer to see the laws upheld and have no sympathy for this sort of cycling.

The entrance to the Botanic Garden, open daily at 10am although they will close for a period over the Christmas Hols.

I had not met the two people I was meeting before and had a slightly embarrassing moment when I walked and someone said my name as I went over to introduce myself I found it was someone I knew who happened to also be in the Cafe. after a few more false starts I found them in the end.

Although it had started out somewhat damp it was not looking too bad  mid-morning so I cycled down to Trumpington to pass the time before my next meeting. This is the Trumpington P&R. According to their webpage there are 43 cycle racks and undercover cycle storage for a further 30 bicycles. Given that there are so many bicycles locked along the fencing you might wonder how many car spaces are there – 1,340.

This is the view looking the other way up the fence. Clearly there is a demand for cycle parking here. I am not quite sure why. It could be people working locally or near-ish inhabitants using the P&R but finding it much cheaper to cycle over rather than drive over. Although if I were to cycle this far I think I’d probably carry on into town.  However there is clearly a demand and yet insufficient supply.

I reckon there are at least 30 bicycles locked to the fence and there seem to be more over by the building locked to lampposts. I can’t help but feel that despite bicycles being a major part of the solution for Cambridge’s congestion problems they are either an after-thought or cyclists considered as second-class citizens.

Of course this might have been caused by a very recent uptick in cycle usage – well no. In an article in the April/May 2020 Cambridge Cycling Campaign Newsletter – My way: Fowlmere to Cambridge in which the author (Kevin Steinhardt) has captioned one of his pictures at the bottom of the article: “Trumpington Park & Ride where the cycle parking is full to bursting”.

Mind you it hasn’t taken our Councillors long  before “New charge agreed for drivers who park but don’t ride” over at Babraham Park and Ride. I am pleased to see that there are 126 cycle racks and uncover storage for 126 cycles, which I assume means cycle parking for 252 bicycles in total. There is also parking for 945 cars.  According to the article over 200 motorists (vehicles) park there and then walk or cycle over to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Mind you the hospital is seeking planning permission for its own 1,228-space nine-storey car park as the first stage of their 2020 development plan. It will not provide cycle-parking though.

Apparently the Park & Ride runs at an annual loss of £700,000. (Note here is a dissertation by Martin Lucas Smith – Park and ride – sustainable transport or expensive white elephant? with some interesting conclusions. It was finished in May 2000 so time has passed since then. But I will quote one of the conclusions “… Cambridge park and ride is merely displacing and increasing rather than reducing car traffic,… We should be under no illusions, the old adage build it and they will come appears to be true, unfortunately building better car-parking facilities will attract more users – which means vehicles. Conversely charging those Addenbrooke’s users of the Babraham P&R will probably also mean that some park out in the streets.

The trouble is that there are economic advantages from  concentrations of employment such as the Addenbrooke’s site or of shopping areas such as large Supermarkets or the Grand Arcade in Cambridge. The advantages seem to accrue to the organisations whilst the costs seem to fall to society in terms of getting people to and from those sites. Our current approach based around the motor car means that parking can be a significant cost. Indeed for some it is virtually impossible to travel without access to a car.

I guess the question it raises in my mind is are we apportioning the costs properly. If land is at a premium then why shouldn’t all on-street car-parking have a cost? Why shouldn’t there be a cost for people parking at their place of work? I would consider it reasonable to have thresholds. After all bicycles take up so much less space they ought to be free.

Winking smile

I suppose it comes down to what are we trying to achieve. At one level by making personal transportation cheaper and faster all we do is increase the number of miles driven, we reduce localisation and inevitably increase pollution. On the other hand if we suddenly charge for city parking and city congestion then politicians don’t get voted in. People who live in cities find themselves less well off . The poorer sections of society probably lose out disproportionately. 

The trouble is you have to start somewhere which means trends towards localisation, more working from home and better public transportation corridors. However everything I read suggests that our current approach is one of short-term tactical management rather than taking a more strategic view.

I think I got a bit side-tracked there back to my ride. As luck would have it I cycled up from the Trumpington P&R along the route of the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway) past Addenbrooke’s hospital site. There is quite a bit of development going on around here. I hope they make it a pleasant place to live.

One of the rather odd things about cycle routes – or shared-use paths is haphazard nature of the route. With so much housing being built and the development of the Addenbrooke’s site just nearby I would imagine that this will become a well-used way in to work. Yet the path has short poles  acting as constrictions and hazards. They appear to have been given an extra dab of green paint. Have they already been causing problems? I wonder whether road planners, who then turn their hand to busways and cycle routes understand just what cycling is all about.

I am no spring chicken, I don’t consider myself very fit and am certainly not a racer, yet there are times when I will cycle along at 32Km/h / 20mph. The only saving grace about this junction is that at least there are streetlights (or should that be busway lights). Given all the attention to health and safety how do these sorts of routes get constructed?

In fact what are those ankle-breakers for? I assume they are to stop cars driving along the shared use path. As a cyclists I am not sure the benefit outweighs the risk.

And here is one of the new buildings on the Addenbrooke’s Site with a CGB spur heading into the site. The bridge takes it over the railway line.

As I mentioned even a slow cyclist like me can pick up a bit of speed. Heading back into Cambridge the wind was behind me. The two cyclists still managed a chat whilst keeping up a good pace.

As you can see in two consecutive pictures they had travelled a reasonable distance. I should also mention that I saw some buses on this bit of the track. Look a this bit of the cycle way – not bad eh.

When I reached the station as I cycled over the Carter Bridge (opened in 1989) I stopped to take a picture on the new central platform, which is now open. Apparently they have put in channel on the new new footbridge to help cyclists get their bicycles over.  If you check out this Cyclestreets picture then you will see that it is sub-optimal and will be modified. Perhaps that is what you get when you cut back on Cycling officers. Still cyclists are second class citizens aren’t they.

Let’s hope they don’t make the same mistake on this possible “shortcut to path beside busway” at Hills Road where they have not got enough room to build a ramp. What about wheelchair access though?

At one point I stopped a some traffic lights, along with two other cyclists. The old boy turned round and commented – a nice bit of wind eh. It was at our backs. Unfortunately I was going to have to cycle back into it at some point.

Am I being oversensitive or should this council lorry have parked on the grass rather than in the middle of the shared use path – the left fork after Oyster Row towards Riverside. (Second class …)

As most people in the UK are aware it has been quite windy. For a change when I parked up at the Judge Institute there were quite a few empty cycle racks. Strong winds can be very off-putting. The winds seem to have shaken a few bikes out of the racks as well.

As you can see I followed the age-old parking principle of parking well away from other bicycles.

I have to say it was a most enjoyable day, cycling around having meetings and getting some fresh air. It was a little more damp at the end of the day which is why the pictures stop here. But as I said at the start getting wet on the way home doesn't matter quite so much does it.

And almost finally I loved this article in which a rocket car was built and powered by Mentos and coke. According to a comment as it managed to cover 239 feet using 54 bottles of coke that is about 0.002mpg, mind you don’t blame me if the maths is wrong I didn’t check it.

And really finally – a picture of Glastonbury Tor meeting Independence day. When my kids were small and we were visiting Grandma and Grandad, who lived in Somerset we took a bottle rocket with us and set it off down at the bottom of Glastonbury Tor.  We had  a surprisingly large audience gather around us.

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