Friday, April 6, 2012

As I was cycling to St Ives it rained when I got there–so I cycled back down the CGB cycleway

Tuesday, 3rd April 2012: As it is the hols I am taking some time off this week. which paradoxically makes it harder to cycle as I have family things to do. However I did have a bit of spare time on Tuesday afternoon and after reading about the new warning markings painted on the CGB cycleway on the Blog – “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway” in the post “Safety for cyclists” I thought I’d check them out with a ride out via the old NCN51 to St Ives and then back to Cambridge on the CGB (the new NCN51).

I mentioned that I was a bit concerned about a possible crack in my seat tube on my Marin hybrid bike. To cut a long story short I took it to Ben Hayward cycles (where I bought it) and they confirmed that it was cracked. They have checked with Marin and I am getting a replacement frame under warranty. That is good news and unexpected and why it is worth buying from a reputable cycle shop. However I did start thinking about buying a new bike and getting slightly excited by the idea – never mind.

So I have been riding around on my Longstaff instead (the picture was taken from Noodling around Norfolk.

The Oakington Airfield Road – closed to most motor traffic – supposedly

Here is the route and here is the Bike Route Toaster Link. The route is 53Km/33 miles long and flat. The only challenge it throws at you occasionally is the wind. Now my first rule of cycling is wherever possible cycle out against the wind and back with the wind. There is no scientific reason for that, it just makes a round trip seem more pleasant to me.

My second rule is try to avoid going there and back by the same route. Like all rules these get broken and my numbering system isn’t consistent either. This time around I obeyed both rules and had the wind behind me (more of less) on the way back to Cambridge.

For some strange reason, that I haven’t looked into Bike route Toaster won’t automatically route along the Airfield Road between Oakington and Longstanton. It will if you select the Google Data, but not if you select the OSM data. I did try out Cyclestreets and that will route along the road – which implies that it is not the underlying map data. (I turn off auto-routing at the appropriate point and then back on again to get around the problem).

Bike Route Toaster Map: Cambridge to St Ives and back

I have said this before, but it is worth saying, since the improvements were made to Gilbert Road it has become a noticeably better road to cycle along. Of course that might just be me knowing that changes have been made and that my perception of it being better is not necessarily backed up with any quantitative data. I should also point out that I don’t regularly use this road to commute on either.

However what I do sense is that motor vehicles take cyclists more seriously on this road.  Too often when cycle lanes are painted on roads they tend to be too narrow. In my opinion this give motor vehicles “permission” to pass a cyclist with very little clearance. On Gilbert Road the cycle lanes are wide enough that I can cycle away from the kerb – always a bad place to be for a cyclist and yet there is still a gap between me and the white cycle lane line. Here is an example of what I mean: this is Newmarket Road near the Park and Ride site. Narrow cycle lanes are worse than useless in my opinion as they permit drivers to ignore them. Unfortunately there are many examples of cycle lanes that are too narrow in Cambridge.

There are also many pictures of crazy cycle lanes – here the BBC feature some – check the fifth picture in. Some more from the Nutty Cyclist. Even more from Derek. There are standards and guidelines though and in this bureaucrapitalistic era every Council or Traffic organisation seems to have their own – TFL (which suggests 1.5-2.0m for the MCL.0, Nottinghamshire CC – (preferred width 1.5m, minimum width 1.2m and 2oh well if you really must 1.0m”). Conveniently the Cambridge Cycling campaign have summarised some more guidance.

The problem is that the rules say motorists should not encroach into an MCL, the practice is that motorists encroach all the time – result confusion. I also wonder why we taxpayers have coughed up for so many sets of guidelines?

Narrow Cycle Lane on the Newmarket Road, Cambridge near the Shell Garage

Another sign that poor motorists get confused by is the low-flying motorcyclist one. This theoretically excludes motor vehicles. This is the Oakington Airfield Road – although it is called something different and has featured in a few blogs – “Rules of the road are there to be ignored if you disagree” and “Oakington Airfield Road” being two examples.

The signs get ignored – I struggled to get a picture without any cars on the road they are so frequent. Most of them do not qualify as exceptions either – although oft-maligned taxis are allowed along here. Occasionally motorists get targeted and you only need look at the comments to see how the poor motorists suffer. Some even get fined. If this road were opened up then what would happen – it would become choked with traffic to the detriment of the local residents .

Oakington Airfield Road – is that a taxi?

No it didn’t look like a taxi to me. The strange thing is when I have my camera with me and am taking pictures the cars seem to be driven more sedately. A big bunch of cars went by me this time.

Oakington Airfield Road – is that a taxi – don’t think so!

Sometimes I follow the old NCN51 route to St Ives and sometimes I take a detour. This time I detoured up over Windmill Hill rather than take the Ramper Road route. Since I still had my long lens it was an opportunity to try it out from the bridge over the CGB.

I hate cycling along noisy roads – I am sure that a lot of non-walkers/cyclists just don’t realise how noisy motor vehicles have become. Let’s face it most cars are well sound-proofed and we tend to leave the radio/CD players on all the time, I do.

So I like to listen to music or radio podcasts when cycling – it protects my hearing. I don’t have them very loud – although there are some roads that are so noisy it drowns out anything I am listening to. There seems to be a lot of strong feeling along the lines that cyclists who listen to iPods/MP3 players should be shot. So I was interested in this article about Bike headphones that don’t distract from cycling safety.  (There are loads of comments).

I guess the question in my mind is why is it that cyclists shouldn't listen to music and motorists can? I think that it is a similar argument as that used to state that cyclists ought to wear cycle helmets yet motorists don’t need to. Whilst the idea is that it improves a cyclist’s safety (always difficult to argue against) the underlying implication is that we cyclists should scurry out of the way whenever we hear the sound of a mighty motor vehicle lest we impede the progress of progress.

Try cycling in a busy city – the noise does not help you think straight. So an alternative would be to stop the motor vehicles from being under the totally random control of the driver. Now that makes sense. How about some concrete tracks –and here’s one I made earlier. The other good thing about the CGB is that the buses aren’t as noisy as I thought they might be – I think that the concrete tracks helps to cut tyre noise.

Funnily enough “Bird song has got LOUDER in the last 30 years to compete with traffic”.  What is not funny is that traffic noise has gotten louder – that just seems wrong.

A Bus heading down the Cambridge Guided Busway after leaving Swavesey

How about that – the CGB attracts a better class of driver with a collar and tie. They do move pretty quickly along the concrete track. You would be mad to walk or cycle on that track and of course there is absolutely no need – there is some nice tarmac alongside.

Sartorial Elegance on the Cambridge Guided Busway

After the bus passed under the bridge, I turned around to take a picture of it heading down towards Longstanton.  This also gives a good idea of how the cycleway has attracted users. We have a cycling “racer”, someone walking and the lads on BMX bikes. You can also see a double decker bus coming up from Cambridge on the other side of the traffic lights.

Single Decker Bus heading down the CGB to Cambridge

The serious cyclist – Lycra and cycling shoes. He is having to cycle against the wind.

Serious Cyclist on the CGB Cycleway approaching Windmill Hill

I rather like long shots with a long lens they accentuate the undulations of both the tarmac and concrete. As you can see there are no lights along these stretches of the CGB. Personally that is how I prefer it. When I go out cycling at night I take lights and fairly powerful ones at that. On a decent straight route like this one I think it is perfectly reasonable not to have street lights, saving taxpayers money and reducing both light pollution and CO2 pollution from the generation of the power.

I can also understand that in towns and villages people feel insecure without decent street lighting. So it is not surprising that the Cambridgeshire project to replace four fifths of street lights and to remove one in 10 has incurred some complaints. Perhaps they should have laser lights like Weymouth.

One Walker, two Buses and three Cyclists on the CGB

That chap in Lycra is still keeping his head down and making good progress.Although I was cycling out against the wind I was using my Longstaff tourer with drop handlebars. Having not ridden it regularly for a while I did find the different position took a bit of getting used to. The lower wind resistance was noticeable though, even at my slow speeds. My Longstaff is also noticeably lighter and manoeuvrable – not always what you might expect from a tourer.

A “Serious Cyclist” heading towards Swavesey on the CGB Cycleway

I tend not to take so many pictures on gloomy days, so I can only blame the green of the buses – they made me take more pictures. You think that is a lame reason – what about this driver who when caught trying to evade the Police claimed “Police made me speed, says driver”. Strange how few comments this news item attracted compared to say items about cyclists.

Mind you I wonder what this cyclist said – “Cyclist leads police in 60mph chase on motorway”. Presumably the law in Czechoslovakia regarding cycling on Motorways is the same as in the UK, which is why they went after him. The Daily Mail helpfully explains that he was “drafting” and that any skilled cyclist would be capable of the trick. It takes guts as well as skill. The fastest cycling speed I have recorded is 74.3Km/h (46.4 mph) and whilst it doesn’t sound fast on a bicycle it felt it. You only need imagine your front wheel hitting a pothole and crumpling to get you reaching for the brakes

Double decker Bus on the CGB approaching Windmill Hill Bridge

As you can see it was quite full.  The CGB does seem to be quite popular and in use. Most of the cycle parking spaces are well used at the stops along the way. They have already passed the million passenger mark and are expecting more than 2.5 million passengers within the first year. To put that into context 65,000 to 85,000 vehicles per day use the A14 and 25% are HGVs.  That implies there are 25 million non HGVs using the A14 each year. So assuming that they could run say 10 times as many buses on the CGB they could take 25 million people. That ain’t bad when you consider the CGB cost estimate is £180m and the new A14 developments were estimated to cost £1.1Bn before being suspended. Having said that there is still some litigation to go up to ‘2015’. There are quite a few comments

A full Double Decker Bus heading to Huntingdon on the CGB

As I was taking pictures I did wonder whether I would get lucky with the weather.  When setting off the predictions were between 10% and 20% that there would be showers. The trouble was I seemed to be heading towards the rainy bits.

Rain Clouds over the A14 – seen from Windmill Hill Bridge

After that dithering a quick look to see how those BMX lads were doing – not as fast as the old boy on the racer. For a change there is a blue-assed bus. And in what must be one of my weaker links – did you know a bus-sized asteroid flew past the Earth under the moon. The article didn’t mention whether it was a single or double decker asteroid though.

Three BMX-ers on the CGB

As I carried on through Swavesey where I took a wrong turn and got slightly lost in one of the estates not only was the rain getting closer to me I was getting closer to the rain.At this point it started raining and resigned myself to a rather unpleasant trip through and thence home. As is often the case rain when cycling is worse in the mind than in reality. Yep I got damp but I was generating enough heat to stay warm.  The casualty in such circumstances though is I cut down on taking pictures.

I don’t really like taking my camera out when it is raining. The rain smudges the lens. However, when setting off I had done something I rarely do )except when cycle-touring) I had taken my small Sony along with me as well. I had taken it because it had a wide-angle lens and so made it easier to take pictures like this one than with my long lens.

This is the cycle parking at St Ives CGB P&R. Well used, but with sufficient capacity to encourage others to cycle and ride.  I would hope that as it approaches 100% utilization they will put in addition cycle parking before cyclists have to resort to the railings.

I wonder what the security is like on these cycle parks along the CGB?  I have seen mention of thefts. Perhaps some ‘Old-fashioned policing’ might be needed , it seems to have worked in Cambridge. The article does have a plea from the Police for cyclists to record their cycle identification numbers – that is another benefit of buying your bike from a reputable cycle dealer – Ben Hayward already have  mine on record –so even if I forget them.

Cycle Parking – St Ives CGB Park and Ride

As you can see there had been some quite strong showers. Here are some of the safety markings mentioned by “Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided busway”.  What was it I was saying earlier about not need lighting on the CGB. Well you don’t as long as some idiot doesn’t but random posts and barriers in the way. Those small patches of paint are very impressive either. So why is it that there can be so much focus on wearing helmets and high-vis and not listening to music whilst cycling – yet no-one sees a contradiction with this approach. Random unlit obstacles across the cycleway.

Mind you even Police cars can be impaled by rising Bollards (in Cambridge). That got almost as many comments as a cycling story. What are bollards for – well they are a cheap way of ensuring the motorists don’t break the law and drive where they aren’t supposed to. As we have seen on the Oakington Airfield Road trusting motorists just doesn’t work. So bollards are used to protect the motorists against their own lack of judgement. Putting a barrier in a road has implicit dangers though. So we have a solution where cyclists pay the price for enforcement of no entry to motorists. How fair is that. I suppose that you could argue that if cars were regular users then that would also be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

It is strange that sometimes the protection can cause more risk than the “crime” you are being protected against.  Like this classic Daily Mail story of a “Pensioner thrown off his beloved allotment by council in case he hurts his hip and sues”. Is this what happens in a society where there is so much blame and we expect  to be told what to do. surely him not gardening could be far more serious overall. A quick mention of the Government surveillance plans – they are the bollards of the internet – put there to stop crime but so easily can they cause problems for the innocent. Look how easy it was for the at least one reporter from the  News of the World to allegedly, get supposedly confidential information held by the Police. So why should we believe that it won’t happen again?

As it happens the ride home was pretty much dry despite the puddles. There were a few spits of rain as I approached Cambridge. I was also able to make good progress, partly with the wind behind me and partly because I was on my Longstaff Tourer. The trace from the GPS also shows my average speed holding over the stretches of the CGB coming back.  I was holding 29Km/h – any faster and I would have felt obliged to cycle at 32Km/h (20mph) which would have been too tiring.

I did have a few aches and pains from riding in a different position on my tourer – but after the first few miles it wasn’t really that bad. Strangely my little finger on my right hand was the main “casualty”. The way I hook it over the brake hood  caused it to ache, although not on my left hand.

Finally it looks as if the recent superb weather is but a memory. With snow in some areas from Scotland to Devon.

And really finally a picture of  bioluminescence on the beach and some beautiful macro pictures.

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