Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cycling through Congested Cambridge

Tuesday, 27th March 2012: Another meeting in London – the good news was that it was in the middle of the day so I would be able to get an off-peak fare and just as importantly be able to leave my bike at Station Cycles. It costs £1.50 for a day’s cycle parking – but as far as I am concerned it is worth it. Although I appreciate the extra security, having had a bicycle stolen from the station cycle park, I do it because finding a space can be a time-consuming nightmare.

Time for a few news items that caught my eye  - “Ely the rural idyll” or as the Cambridge News puts it  - “Cambridgeshire district is best place to live”. Although East Cambs came out on top South Cambs was in third place. Apparently a typical baby born in East Cambs will live for 82 years, compared to an average of 78 in the UK. It also indicates that domestic carbon dioxide emissions are the lowest of all rural districts. One component of a household’s CO2 emissions are those output from cars.  So perhaps that is one reason for living longer. The double whammy of less pollution and exercise from a healthier mode of transport?

Cambridge doesn’t feature, not being a rural place. Mind you it does have its highlights – this was the view across the River Cam on the Riverside – it was glorious and almost reached 20C.

As I’ve mentioned before even when I used to have to do a lot more driving for my living I l didn’t like using the same routes all the time. One of the disadvantages of some of the alternate routes was that although they might be very picturesque they were often slower. Although quite a few cycle routes are not that direct we do have a plentiful number running through Cambridge to choose from so they tend not to be slower because of going around the houses. And of course being cycle routes they don’t suffer form the congestion slow-down that afflicts those driving motor vehicles.

This time around I went up past Tesco on Newmarket Road and then through the Cambridge Retail park onto Coldhams Lane. Not the quietest route – but not actually a bad cut-through. Then I went up Coldham’s Lane over the railway line on the “new” bridge for cyclists and pedestrians. Which runs parallel with the road – and appears in this picture. 

The only snag for some is that you have to cross the road if you want to carry on up Coldham’s Lane. I didn’t I went down Cromwell Road and then around the roundabout and (narrow if you are driving a motor vehicle) gap onto Cromwell Road which then becomes Sedgwick Street.  This is one of the thinner Cambridge Streets – so thin that it is one-way. However it is so impossible to do without a car that the City Council had decided to say get stuffed” to those using the pavements and allow cars to park half on and half off them.

They can’t be the easiest pavements to negotiate with anything with width – wheelchair, double pram, toddler holding your hand.  Visual proof of the relative importance of cars versus people in Cambridge City.  Yes the same Cambridge where bus fares will increase by an average of 5%. The same county where they have to use volunteers to help combat fast drivers.

Here are some pictures taken to give a post-apocalyptic feel to some cities around the globe.  Ah so that’s what post-apocalyptic really means – no cars (lorries, buses). They’d better hurry up and make those electric-car thingies work otherwise peak-oil will be signalling the way to a post-apocalyptic world.

Or maybe not, there are no cars in these 19th Century pictures of city life in Britain. Anyway you can shift an awful lot by bicycle you know – perhaps the humble bicycle will save us from a post-apocalyptic future. Here is one chap, who, with a little help from his friends (9) moved house – 5 miles across town by bicycle. That is neat.

Now when a city is reduced to this sort of sell-out compromise things must be getting pretty bad. It will not get better with “147 homes plan for football ground set for go-ahead” (Cambridge City not United), a “Deal done to build 1,000 council houses” and strong concerns about “60% house building slump” then it can only get worse.  So clearly something needs to be done – “‘Pay to park in all city streets’ plan" is one such suggestion.  The uncomfortable reality is that there is no space for more and more cars (stationary or on the move) in Cambridge without either knocking down and remodelling the city along American lines or doing something about the cars.

Read the comments on the last link and it makes you wonder how a city with two Universities can generate so much lack of insight and denial. Not all of them though. Although HJones points out that perhaps one reason for so many cyclists is that congestion in Cambridge is awful. Whilst some commenters blame the congestion on cyclists and the various accommodations for cycling – have they never heard of cause and effect.

Maybe we should have a cycle free day and see what happens. I think we would find that congestion increased massively. (For some irony check out Bristol Traffic’s: “Evening Post; Why not a cycle free day?” post.

Having lived in the area for nearly 30 years (flip where did the time cycle) I have long observed how much faster motor traffic moves during the school holidays in Cambridge. I have looked for a more formal study but instead found this which refers to studies: “Cycling – Cambridge’s Decongestant”. Which suggests that:

“Studies have shown that during half-term and school holidays, almost all the traffic queues in Cambridge disappear. This is despite the fact that the volume of traffic only drops by 10%”

So the figures indicating that cycling is 22% of all traffic in Cambridge would suggest that if a cycle-free day were held during term-time then the congestion situation would instantly become unmanageable.  Food for thought. It would certainly make car parking at Cambridge Railway Station a nightmare.

It would also require political courage – or the ability to get the constituencies to think straight. I was pleased to see that our County Councillors have take the hint and the “Allowances freeze approved by county councillors”. It is just a shame it took then so long – not quite leadership but it is a start.

It is certainly better than the boss of Centrica who got a packet last year and yet seems to be presiding over Customer support chaos at British Gas if my experiences are anything to judge by. Cambridge Water also seem to be doing their bit for the drought – by not fixing a water leak in central Cambridge. Water people seem to speak with forked tongue – or do they really mean save water because we are wasting it.

After leaving my bike at Station Cycles an unfamiliar sight – look a free cycle stand (well half of), flip, I could have saves £1.50.

This is the roundabout at the end of Station Road – fortunately they have put in some cycle parking there, which is already full. They have also been able to get extra benefit by putting up some signs as well.

In a bizarre way it almost seemed calm and order in London – this time I used the tube – yet another meeting place I wasn’t quite sure of. we had some nice views though. Whilst I am probably seen as eccentric for cycling around it seems more people carry cameras. Three of us at the meeting took pictures. It won’t be long before the brown turns green.

Look at the sun’s rays beaming down.

Apparently March is on course to be the third warmest on record, but unfortunately Britain’s Easter freeze blows in”. Surely not snow.

No comments:

Post a Comment