Friday, March 30, 2012

Shorts and Sandals Cycling Weather

Saturday, 24th March 2012: It was another gorgeous day, with the temperature reaching over 19C and pretty much blue skies and sun all day. So I set off with a couple of cans of coke, jelly babies, sandals, shorts and a t-shirt. This is the sort of cycling I like. Meandering around, with no real aim.

As it has been dry the byways and bridleways have become pretty solid already and I ended up cycling along a few of them as I looped around to Exning and back along the Lodes Way. There is a small bit of climbing on the run it reaches around 50m above sea level, which might not sound a lot, but round these parts is almost a mountain. You do the climb along a track which makes it slightly harder work – but nothing you would really complain about. Here is the Bike route Toaster Link  to the map below – it is 53Km/33 miles and mainly track and cycle way with a few roads, the worst being a short run ip the A1303.

After heading out along NCN51 there is pretty much cycleway up to Fulbourn, I went via Teversham. I was reading David Hembrow’s latest post (A study tour report)  and the phrase that resonated with me was “… because how pleasant the conditions are for cycling certainly affects how much people will cycle”. Which is probably the main criteria for how I decide the where, when and how of most of my cycling.

Let’s face it, if you have the choice of cycling along a quiet lane or along a noisy road  then assuming the time difference of the two routes is not too dissimilar then I know which I would take. I keep meaning to take my iPad along with me to measure some of the noise levels alongside some of the Cambridge roads – I am not sure whether many motorists, or people in general realise just how noisy some roads have become.  Try walking along Airport Way to Cherry Hinton during the “rush hours” to see what I mean. Frankly it is small wonder cyclists listen to music (or radio or podcasts) along that route – it helps to cut the unpleasant noise.

It is a noise that I feel has become more unpleasant and uncomfortable over the years, which I think is a blight for people who live close to such roads.  There is concern about the  noise made by Wind Farms.  Well try visiting Bar Hill and standing close to the A14 when motor vehicles are driving by. Why do we think it acceptable to create such noise pollution?

The cycle way along Fulbourn Road/Teversham Road into is really a pavement that has been deemed shared-use. As you can see here – I used it. Mainly because there were no pedestrians around. If there had been then I would have cycled along the road. I can’t remember seeing more than a handful of cars. The cycleway ends just as you reach a level crossing. (The Cambridge to Ipswich Line).

I normally cycle past Telford House and up Cow Lane and past The Horse Pond. The notice board does say that there was “a duty to maintain for ever,  a pool or pond twenty yards by ten yards” and to keep it “continually furnished”. I think someone must have forgotten that duty. I did find a document about the village – “A Very Special Village”. But it appears to have been scanned in and was not searchable.

Here is what I thought was the Horse Pond, but is actually on the wrong side of the sign. So I must have a close look next time. It is on Google maps as an actual pond.

It also wasn’t until I got home that I realised that I’d focused on the braches in front rather than the depression behind.

As I was heading out of Fulbourn there was a host – well a linear host of golden daffodils as far as the eye could see – well the bend anyway.

Another sign of Spring – Pussy willow.

A slightly more focused, less blurry Pussy Willow.

I took a slight detour through Great Wilbraham – I reckon that Horse Chestnut trees tend to be the first deciduous trees in leaf in the Spring – well maybe apart from Weeping Willows. Of the Horse Chestnuts I reckon that this one is one of the first in the area. It is certainly more advanced than any I can think of. Remember this was March 24th 2012. Last year it seemed to have been in leaf by the 16th March – second picture down..

After the slight Wilbraham detour I headed for Butt Lane, which leads to a bridleway, that after a short while heads North-East, crosses the road between Little Wilbraham and Six Mile Bottom. I did have a quick look to see if I could find the road number, but didn’t. I did find this website that shows various maps. The bridleway is shown as Street Way on the old maps. In this link it suggests that Street Way may have been a variant route of the Icknield Way.

Just after crossing the road I stopped to take this picture of the freshly drilled, large and flat field. I assume it was recently drilled, mind you there aren’t any birds around, snacking.

This is what Street Way looks like now – this is what I think of as a green road – it has a reasonable width, is flat and not overgrown.

To the left of the Street Way some electricity pylons marching off to Burwell. They’ve “come from” an Electricity Sub station neat Stocking Pelham/Crabbs Green.

The construction of the A11 has caused the Street Way to take a detour along a bridleway at right angles before re-joining the Street Way Route. I stopped by the A11 bridleway bridge for a snack and a drink. Only to find I’d left my cans of coke behind – it is a good thing that Jelly Babies aren’t dry. This line of trees shields Coventry Farm. The OS map shows two lines of trees rather than the one line on the OSM Cycle map.

The view form the bridge looking further along the bridleway. To return to the Street Way you turn left just after the bridge. If you follow the track it crosses the A1304 and takes you to Wesley Bottom. the bit you can see is riddles with rabbit warrens so take care when cycling or walking along it.

This is back on the route of the Street Way. There is an uphill slope. It had a hedgerow on both sides but the right hand side has recently been cut down. The track is not the easiest to cycle along, although it is shown as a byway on the map it feels more like a bridleway. There are quite a few hoof prints.

At the top – which is the highest this ride gets the track widens out, or at least the field does. This is the view looking back the way I’d ridden. Unusually for a byway a gate has been installed. On the Cambridgeshire County Council right of way map it is marked as Byway 223/11 in the Parish of Swaffham Bulbeck. On that map it is shown as ending just before the road – which is rather peculiar. Although perhaps it has a little bit of road?

There is also a path shown just when the A14 and A11 combine which looks as if it has just been removed where the two roads combine without any attempt to maintain the right of way. I guess the road was built when they gave even less of a toss about walkers’ and cyclists’ rights of way. (That path is a footpath with the designation 223/8.) It is not picked up on the OSM map, I guess the powers that be (and the landowners) hope it gets quietly forgotten. I will see if I can spot ay gaps in the barriers on the roA11/A14 where it might have crossed.

After that  I cycled along the byway/bridleway running along the left0hand side of the A14. It is pretty tricky to route on Bike Route Toaster, so I normally route that bit by hand. My guess is that spuds are being planted here.  The wooden crates are labelled CFG – Continental Farmer’s Group? (As the supplier of seed potatoes, they might not be spuds, but the trenches look like spuds are being planted.)

After cycling through Exning it was back onto the byways of first Haycroft lane and then Howlem Balk.

This is a field alongside Howlem Balk – near Burwell. Depending on how you look at it the track depressions look as if they are sticking up.

I then cycled through Burwell and up Newnham drove to join the Lodes Way. Which passes the Burwell Electricity Sub Station mentioned earlier. It won’t bee too long before the trees are all in leaf, I hope. This one is on the bank of Reach Lode.

Some interesting field preparation – just after the Reach Lode bridge along Split drove. You can see the bridge to the left of the picture as well as the pylons all heading into Burwell.

As I was taking pictures two cyclists sped by – as you can see dressed for the very pleasant weather.

I took a few pictures as they sped by and rather liked the way the rushes looked alongside the road (Split Drove).

So I took one just of the rushes along the drainage ditch.

After that I headed to Lode and took the old railway line route back. In the Summer the paths tend to be much more reliable.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meetings in Cambridge and a scenic trip home

Thursday, 22nd March 2012: It was another fine day in Cambridge, lots of sun and blue skies and although the temperatures were below freezing over night by mid afternoon it reached 17.7C. With weather like that you can’t complain. Well I suppose you can – we have a drought – but you can’t win them all.

I had to be in Cambridge all afternoon giving a presentation, well between 2pm and 5pm, which meant it was pleasantly warm when I set off. Although my timing did not allow for too much delay as I wanted to be able to cycle at a moderate pace in order to stay calm, cool and collected. I did cycle at a moderate pace, unfortunately my plan was thwarted as the room is was presenting in had nor cooling and the windows had to be kept closed because of traffic noise.

I did take a couple of pictures on the way in, at a picturesque point on the journey alongside the River Cam. This Willow looks as though it has had its fringe cut.

At the same spot as the last picture – but looking the other way Cutter Ferry Bridge. The cattle grid/gate arrangement is not the most cycle friendly – it only allows one cyclist through at a time and quite often pedestrians will use it and or block it.  It is quite narrow as well.

I took a scenic route home, although again I did not have much time for cycling and picture-taking, but the sky was dramatic enough to force me to stop.  As routes home it was reasonably convoluted. But not as much the the Cottenham Cyclist’s Childerley Hall route – now there is a route home – respect. It is a route worth cycling along though.

It does amuse me to see people drive to Gym’s in the evening to get their exercise when a cycle ride home from work would do the trick for most people.

There seem to be quite a few planes in the sky as well.

And finally – we have been enjoying even better weather since the pictures were taken – but snow at Easter. We might need some warmth – although not from volcanoes. I also had to link to these amazing pictures of the Milky Way that took 10 years to create.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cycle paths, A New King’s Cross and cycle parking really is crap at Cambridge Railway Station

Wednesday, 21st March 2012: It was another fine morning to be cycling with temperatures above 10C when I actually needed to make a move. Once again I found myself needing to attend (um not sure about needing, expected maybe) a meeting in London. The good bits were that it didn’t start until lunchtime so I could avoid the rush hour. I wasn’t too sure about whether it would finish though. As a matter of principle, even if I am not directly paying for a trip into London I prefer to to travel off-peak if at all possible. Which means not being able to catch trains back to Cambridge.

Now all I want to know is what are the times I can’t either head to London King’s Cross from Cambridge or vice versa. The First Capital Connect  webpage seems to obfuscate that information.  Frankly the Timetables  (going, coming back) aren’t much better. Anyways, what it means when you do work it out is that I either have to catch the 16:!5 form Kings cross or wait until 19:15. Which means a three hour window to avoid in the evening. Now stingy though I am, I draw the line at hanging around Kings Cross for nigh on three hours, even if I am paying.

The timing for this meeting fitted into an off-peak ticket with me returning on the 19:!5,  without too much hanging around. As it happened the timings also meant I could plan on walking from the station to the meeting venue and back as well so I could get some fresh air. I did consider taking my Brompton, indeed I could have taken a full-size bike on the train.

As time was not that critical and once again I was not sure quite how me turning up with either a full size bike or a Brompton would be received at the meeting venue I resigned myself to parking my bike at the Cambridge Railway station, with a sinking heart. The timings meant I would not be able to leave my bike at Station cycles.

Despite the publication of data that shows cycling is on the up in Cambridge I still feel that some of the people I interact with think my cycling is slightly eccentric, although coming to think about it that might not be to do with my cycling. A common question what routes do I take. As regular readers will know I tend to favour the cycleways and country lanes. When I mention that then the presumption is reinforced that the problem is that the roads are so dangerous that is the only possible solution.

Now I do cycle on roads all the time, but noisy smelly roads versus pleasant, quite and interesting little “secret” paths – well there is no contest. But the roads aren’t that bad really. What is worrying is whilst the roads might be getting safer for most users – they are not for us cyclists. – “Big increase in UK cyclist casualties”. Why is that, well I wonder if it is because we are making motor vehicles safer in the event of an accident rather than reducing the number of accidents. Which means there can be more accidents on the roads.

This only troubles the insurers, which is why it costs so much to insure a car to drive. Small accidents don’t cause so much injury so can happen more often – except for vulnerable road users like cyclists. As a result there has been pressure on cyclists to wear helmets and high-vis clothing – without understanding the cause and effect.

So perhaps whilst we might want to reduce injury we should probably also focus on reducing the number of accidents. This will help to stabilise insurance costs and save money for all. (Although Garages who do the repairs would lose out.)

I feel that driving a motor vehicle nowadays requires far more concentration and that standards have slipped. Although I have not looked for any data to test my hypothesis. It just come from incidents like these; “Motorist using an elastic band to make his phone hands free”, “Experts call for ban on wearing ‘hazardous’ stilettos while driving”, “Driver who hit HGV ‘though it was a pothole’“ and “Three people seriously hurt when overtaking went wrong”.

The other consideration non-cyclists have is that they will quite frequently read about cyclists getting hurt by what appears to be a lack of any concern about vulnerable road users. Here in Cambridge we recently had a couple of taxi drivers fined after incidents with cyclists. Not the most reassuring message for would-be cyclists about how cyclists are treated. Nationally there was a tragic case of a teenage cyclist dying after a hit and run. How callous is that.

The trouble is when an accident does occur it is the cyclist who is vulnerable – “Cyclist hospitalised after crash with car in Cambridge” and “Cyclist hospitalised after crash in Cambridge”. are two recent and different examples.

Also when such tragic accidents do occur the excuses extenuating circumstances seem to excuse poor driving – such as this case of the driver being “blinded by the sun”. The Highway code makes it clear that one should drive according to the conditions of the road – not to the speed limit (and beyond) and yet that doesn’t seem to the practice nowadays.

I do wonder whether our culture has shifted from one of taking personal responsibility to that of blaming others. An example of what I mean is this post from Cyclogical, signs are being installed at an accident blackspot to warn drivers when it rains…  It is as if we are tuning out roads to be as fast as possible by signing everything. Is this another example of how a focus purely on safety can lead to unintended consequences. Or is it too late?

Whilst as a regular cyclist I will still cycle on the roads I can see that now matter what there will be potential cyclists who need far more encouragement – which does not mean training and helmets to get out there. So the news that “Plans for cycling superhighway to be set in motion” is welcome here in Cambridge. It relates to a route from the Cambridge Science park to Addenbrooke’s aka the Chisholm Trail. This needs to be a quality development, IMHO, if we really want to get more people out on their bikes here in Cambridge. For all you motorists remember one more cyclist is one less car.

The article suggests that it will cost around £4m – well to put that into context, back in 2005/6 the cost per lane of motorway was £6.8m/Km. So a 6 lane motorway would cost £40.8m per Km so £4m would buy you 100m of motorway – and presumably costs have gone up since then. Mind you the cost depends on all sorts of issues – the M74 extension is forecast up to £692m for 8Km. Which implies a cost of £86.5m per kilometre.

Of course the other problem is that owning a car has risk even if you are not using it.  I have mentioned seeing smashed car windows along Riverside in Cambridge. The problem seems more widespread – “Teacher is victim of crimewave” and “Six more cars hit by vandals” are reminders of the senselessness of some people. The problem is that not all housing in cities has parking space available. There is a case where a fraud is alleged over parking permits in London. the article indicates that in the part of London mentioned annual on-street parking fees would cost up to £5,760 whilst the Kensington and Chelsea parking permit is £110. That is quite a difference.

And finally I was horrified to see that Royal mail staff are bitten around 4,000 a year. That is truly terrible. Having been chased and on two occasions bitten whilst out cycling it is certainly not pleasant.

I wonder if it is a karmic balance that causes me to get worked up about these issues when I write my posts. Essentially is it so pleasant cycling around and about that i have to spend some time being grumpy and that occurs when I am sitting and blogging.

Onto nicer things – Cambridgeshire is slowly bootstrapping the provision of paths for cyclists and reaping the benefits. From the top of Mill Road there is an interesting “old-school” cycle path to the railway station. I tend to cycle by many different routes, just for the change of scenery. The route heads down Natal Road and cuts along a path to Marmora Road and then via another path to Greville Road and then onto Rustat road and up over Carter Bridge.

The downside of it is that it is bitty and there are places you have to cross where you don’t have priority, although these are not busy roads and Greville Road now has a 20mph limit. The upside is that you can avoid getting stuck in the traffic along Mill Road. Mind you Mill Road has gotten much better since the speed limit there was cut to 20mph – but there are still cars, vans and lorries fuming about the place. I do cycle along Mill Road more often than I used to though.

As I had a bit of spare time on my way to the station I took some pictures of the route. Here is the cut through to Marmora Road alongside the Coleridge Community College/ Ridegefield Primary School playing fields.

After Marmora road comes another path, this time with a chicane to make it more interesting and the path narrows at the far end. I bet it is tricky to get a bike plus trailer through there.

Another chicane presents itself when you turn off from Greville Road onto Rustat Road. The thing you have to be careful about is other cyclists as you both head from the same narrow gap. Some nice blossom on the tree there.

Rustat Road is bisected by the cycle path as it comes down from Carter bridge to the right – there is quite a slope and you need to expect bicycles coming down here quite fast.

This is Carter Bridge viewed from the Station Car Park Rustat road is to the right hand side. In the “old” days it was quite difficult getting a taxi from the station when you arrived on the London train. It is much easier nowadays after they relaxed the rules for taxi driver. The only downside is that the car park gets totally clogged with taxis when there is a busy train expected. There is some cycle parking of to the right – which you can’t see and it can be tricky if you want to leave the car park when the taxis are there.

I wonder, do the taxis pay to be able to operate from the station. If they don’t perhaps they should pay for their short-term parking? 

Once again I struggled to find a space for my bicycle. In the end I had to to triple park at a stand in the bit alongside Station Road. The stands are designed to take two bikes, however when needs must you get two on one side – sticking out into the path, at either end. There was a little bit of space so I took it. The risk is you bike could easily get damaged by people trying to get down through the middle.  In this case my bike stuck out less than the one next to it.

A bit further along the path is a real blockage – there was no way past without lifting your bike at that point.

More examples of ”triple” parking.

This is what happens in the rush to park and catch the train – bikes get trampled underfoot.

It was only when I was downloading my pictures did I realise that I must have accidentally pushed the shutter whilst walking.

Yet another crowded to over-flowing cycle park, in front of the station.

A couple of cyclists looking for spaces.

A view of the new central platform – it was built by sacrificing the freight-train lane – so they now take one of the other tracks in order to pass through.

When I reached King’s Cross (on-time) I was able to admire the new-look Kings’ Cross. I like the colour purple.

I quite like the lattice effect as well.

The outside of the Station building has now become the inside. It provides a new, enlarged concourse, with a bunch of shops and some large Train Information boards – it also makes it easier to get to platforms 9, 10 and 11 – often used by the Cambridge trains.

Another view of the roof. As it has not been open for long they had loads of people shepherding along travellers in the “right” directions.

After that I walked in the pleasant sunshine over to Russell Square. This was Judd Street – I took a picture to show how London has squeezed in cycle parking along the pavements. I should have paid attention to the shop sign and got that in the picture. It says Bread and Butter – ah well maybe next time.

This is Tavistock Place – look at there  segregated cycling – well on one side anyway.

A narrow passage to The Generator (Compton Place).

Further up the road the cycle segregation is somewhat more intuitive – if not as wide as it might be.

It was the red brick and pink blossom that caught my eye here.

This was taken on the way back from my meeting. A well polished brass plaque -  some unwelcoming message.

I had a quick wander up onto the “balcony” area where the new loos are – unfortunately the change machine wasn’t working so I was thwarted. I did take a picture from the balcony though.

I happened upon Platform 93/4, which is so magical that it even moves around the station. It also looks as if they have had to rebuild the wall with so many muggles trying to get through! At this point my camera was zipped away in my bag as I’d already taken pictures of the interior. So I used by phone camera – which is why the picture looks a bit blurry –it is amazing what you can do with only a few mega-pixies.

As I made my way to platform 1, next to platform 0 there was some cycle parking – pretty busy – this cycling lark really does work you know. Yes it was taken with my phone camera – I was in a rush to get a seat – not always that easy on the first off-peak train of the evening.

And then it was a jolly nice ride home at the other end – always a pleasure.