Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yet another cycle ride to a meeting–this is getting to be a habit!

Thursday, 1st March 2012: This was a good week for meetings, which ordinarily wouldn’t be what most people might wish for. I work from home though and meetings represent a way for getting out on my bicycle. If I have the choice then I quite like getting out of Cambridge into the countryside. I also try and sneak in a bit of extra distance as well.

The only downside is that I find that I have a little less time in which to write up my posts.  That is something I am happy to live with though. I suppose there is another downside and that is that I carry around my smaller camera so I don’t have so much flexibility when it comes to taking pictures.

The weather seems quite variable. It started of quite cool around 4C today but the temperature got above double figures by lunchtime and then started dropping by around 4pm. It was also a sunny day. This time around I was meeting some people who drove in, so for their convenience and to give me a change of scene we met at the Holiday Inn in Impington. Hotels like this are popular spots for business meetings, when I used to be on the road in my salesman days I have had many a meeting in this sort of location.

They have the advantage that they are close to major routes, in this case the A14 and M11. They also have parking and serve tea and coffee.  So when you are tied to a car then they work.  The UK is not that well set up for travelling to meet business customers by train. When I used to visit Japan that was a different matter. The train system within the cities and between the cities was great. It was easy to travel from customer to customer, I even started recognising the Kanji characters for places. The trains ran on time and so it was quite possible to precision plan a series of meetings around Tokyo.

I was once on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) during a major storm and my Japanese colleague was horrified when our train came to a stop to wait out the storm ahead – that was almost unthinkable.

I first started travelling in Japan before the advent of mobile phones  (not that long ago really!) and all the stations had banks of green pay phones and it was common to see Japanese business men hop off and ring their offices (or customers). We would hop off and dash into the nearest noodle bar for lunch. My Japanese colleagues seemed to be able to slurp down the super-heated noodles without any problems. I struggled, it was either burn my mouth or be late for the next meeting, or go hungry. Actually being late was not an option.

Today’s meeting was around 3.30, so I took a cycling lunch and set out earlier to get in a few kilometres. The meeting was slightly less formal so I wore a shirt, light trousers and jumper and trainers. I did pack a wind-proof light-weight high-vis jacket as well. (and lights).

On my great circle route I did come across the field that was being drilled earlier in the week. It was now finished – how about that for a bit of precision agriculture. Unlike the Fens this was a pretty light-brown soil.

My original plan was to cycle through Milton and go to Impington via Butt Lane. If you follow the link you’ll see that the lane has been dissected by the A10 and you can no longer escape Milton by car along Butt Lane.  In the end I didn’t go that way, mainly because until the complete the cycleway it really isn’t a pleasant route to cycle along.

The OSM Cyclemap does not show the cycleway, presumably because it is not finished, it currently goes from the outskirts of Impington to Mereway Farm. The County Council website shows it as a future route.

My tip is to avoid cycling along it if you can help it. I decided on riding along the CGB Cycleway from Milton Road to Histon and then back down to the Holiday Inn. I like cycling in the countryside and will tolerate all sorts of grotty byways and bridleways for the peaceful solitude. My pet hate as a cyclist is travelling along noisy roads. (I plan on taking my iPad and using a free App to check out noise levels on a few of the roads I cycle along. I find the noise levels really unpleasant nowadays.)

The CGB cycleway is surprisingly quiet – even the buses don’t seem that noisy. It was certainly a pleasant route up to Histon, passing under the A14 and Bridge Road in Histon. Although there is a lot of decent quality cycle parking in Cambridge both public and private it seems that the cycling influence has a limited reach. (Note I do have to point out that the current Cambridge Railway Station provision for cyclists does not qualify as decent cycle parking – roll on the future.) 

The Holiday Inn does not seem to expect their business clients to arrive by bike. None of these bikes seemed to fit the stand provided very well. Regular readers will recognised my Silver-coloured Marin. The positive is that it wasn’t tucked away – it was quite close to the front door of the hotel. Although the smokers corner was nearby.

As you can see none of the cyclists actually used the rack as perhaps you think it should be used. These racks are sometimes known as wheel benders. By slightly subverting the approach this way you can lock the frame to the flimsy rack. Those at the end enjoy the benefits of the thicker angle iron. Still it wasn’t as if I was going to be leaving my bike overnight and it was in plain sight.

As it was so pleasant we had out meeting in the Courtyard. But after an hour or so it started to get quite chilly. When it came to finishing I was quite pleased to put my gloves and  wind-proof jacket on. A bit of cycling then soon warmed me up. For a change I cycled back over the A14 on Bridge Road/Cambridge Road and down the Histon Road.

Although there is a shared-use path around the A14 roundabout there is no specific provision to assist cyclists in crossing the on-ramps to the A14. As you can see the sun was quite low in the sky, and the A14 was busy but not “congestingly” so.

This is the view the other way, look how close the cars are to each other. Especially the bunch overtaking the lorries coming towards us and the group of three leading the pack.

This picture was taken two seconds after the last one, according the to time-stamp provided by my camera.  Now the white dashed lines separating the lanes seem to have have a gap twice as large as the dash.  Now according to Chapter 5 of the Traffic Signs manual (2003) figure 3-4 indicates the markings for high-speed dual-carriageway. The dashed lines separating the lanes are marked as Diagram 1005.1, Table 4-2 Lane lines indicates that for roads with a speed limit in excess of 40mph then the mark is 2m in length and the gap should be 7m long.

I think that the leading blue car has travelled 6 x 9m between the two pictures. Which implies the that car is travelling at 56m in two seconds or 28m/s – this equates to 62mph. So it sounds about right, perhaps an underestimate even. Now  we are told about the ”two-second rule” as a good rule of thumb for the spacing we should allow when following another vehicle. By my reckoning from the front of the blue car to the front of the third car is 5 x 9m or 45m.

So for the three cars to obey the two second rule and assuming the lengths of the cars as 4.0m  then the gap should be 2 x ( the length of  the car plus the distance travelled in 2 seconds). This works out as 2 x (4m + 28m) or 64m.  Now to me it is obvious those cars are too close together and the maths does suggest that their spacing on the road is only 45m and yet it should be 64m. So the cars are 4.5m closer together than the suggested minimum distance. Is that dangerous driving or careless driving?  In my book it is – yet just cast you eye along the road and see how many cars are doing it. The trouble is when accidents do occur on high-speed roads they can have severe consequences as we saw in Somerset last year.

It seems to me that whilst we often see “crackdowns” on cyclists without lights or illegally parked cars there is little focus on the issues that cause serious accidents.  In fact I reckon that tailgating has gotten worse over the years. Yet we don’t see crackdowns on tailgating.  What I would like to see is a crackdown and those caught given tailgating awareness courses. It does top the motorists list of bad driving behaviours apparently.

I had a pleasant cycle down Histon Road – although the cycle lanes there do seem to give cars “permission” to pass cyclists (well me anyway) pretty damn close.

As I cycled along Riverside I also remembered to take a picture of this boat , it had caught my eye on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday but somehow slipped my mind to take a picture.

Although I couldn’t claim mileage for these trips and I do begrudge companies that don’t pay decent cycling mileage (HMRC allows 20p per mile for a bicycle)  every cloud has a silver lining – I enjoyed my trips around town on my bike.

And finally – Parker’s Piece may be getting sunken lights because of safety concerns and it is not just bicycles that cause problems on shared-use paths – so do mobility scooters. Yet more pictures of cycling celebrities – Pink and family.

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