Monday, April 23, 2012

Drip, drip, drip quite big April showers

Thursday, 19th April 2012: Well here we are in April, no sooner have they announced that there is a drought than the April showers start up. We do need the rain – although it seems that we are getting lots of small showers rather than a good soaking. As a result it seems to rain every day. Thursday was no exception and I had a lunchtime meeting at the Carpenter’s Arms in Wilbraham. It was touch and go for some time as to whether I was going to cycle or not. In the end I did.

I wanted to cycle because I wanted to check out the bridge over the A14 between Bottisham and Little Wilbraham. A cyclist was knocked off her bike by a car whilst cycling over this bridge. He apparently met the cyclist on the brow and tried to overtake her bur “touched the cyclist with my mirror and she fell” because a “white van came flying over the top of the A14 bridge”. Whilst looking for the link I also came across the CTC Stop SMIDSY web site. they have used the this accident as a case study. Their conclusion is that the driver should have been charged with dangerous driving.

this is the approach to the bridge from the Bottisham side. I would agree, I have driven and cycled over here and if you can’t see the road is clear then you shouldn’t overtake. The trouble is that too often motorists treat cyclists as inconsequential and fail to take proper notice of them. Little wonder that many people feel that cycling on the roads is dangerous.

The situation isn’t helped when you get views such as  this one from the Chairman of Addison Lee, to quote Cyclists in the City – “Simply unbelievable”. Fortunately it has stirred up a lot of protest.

The bottom line is that cyclists are vulnerable road users and yet, in my view, there are far too many motorists who don’t pay any attention to Road Users requiring extra care (204-235).  the point is that the cyclist is the one that gets hurt by a motorist’s “mistake”. I cycle quite a bit, but frankly I nowadays almost always use a sub-standard cycle path rather than certain types of road. Strangely enough I tend to be less concerned about roads in towns and villages, although it was in a village that I was knocked off my bike by a car.

The trouble people who might like to cycle but don’t will see lots of news items such as these – “Teenager charged with setting off 12 speed cameras” or “Station lights dodger banned” or “Lorry driver ‘texting wife’ when crash happened” or “Learner driver jailed after drunken crash” or “Trio of crashes causes chaos” and finally “Oh dear what can the matter be, this poor motorist got stuck and was cut free”. It doesn’t make for reassuring reading. (The last one looks like the car failed to “obey” the principle that big vehicles have right of way whatever – something that cyclists will be all too familiar with.)

At the same time those non-but-potential-cyclists will see how cyclists are treated with headlines such as these: “Is this the most pointless bike lane in Britain? City centre cycling path is just 8ft long” and “Critics still railing against ‘useless’ bridge bike guides” and “Fine cyclists who jump lights, says campaign” to see that there appears to be little interest in dealing with the real issues problems on the roads. Rather the feeling is let’s persecute the cyclists even more. Don’t get me wrong I am not happy with cyclists jumping red lights – but being hit by a car jumping a red light or texting or on the phone is a far more serious problem.

One of the quotes in the last piece by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign:

Detailed studies in London of failures to obey junction priority, including lights, show that far more people on foot or on bike are injured by drivers of motor vehicles than by those on bikes.

I am also not in favour of road rage – and so was shocked to read this headline “Cyclist attacks motorist in Cambridge road rage incident” and would not condone such behaviour at all. It does no-one any favour. I would say though that when you are on a bicycle and you have a near miss with a car and it is not your fault  it is a visceral experience that I am sure triggers the “fight or flight” response. Certainly in my case, leading a fairly normal and quiet life as I do – the closest I ever get to a real and physical threat to my safety is when cycling. Near misses when I am in my car just don’t compare at all. (I had a near miss today when as I approached a bend a car came whizzing the other way on my side of the road. Mind you I was in a Landrover and he was in a small hatchback.)

I had not realised that the accident happened at the brow so neither of these two pictures show the precise area. However the view of the road ahead is fairly obscured and should suggest prudence I would have thought.

You might be able to pick out the beige “thing” on the left hand side of the road. It is a dead badger. Apparently, according to this Post Office press release “One million animals and ten million birds killed on UK roads each year.  This link suggests up to 100,000 foxes and this link suggests 50,000 badgers.

Animals have also been an issue on the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway) as “Services halted as horses make tracks for busway” and “Campaigner’s dog is run down on busway”. I am not a great dog lover – my last encounters have ended up with me getting bitten. However when my Mum’s dog died (of natural causes) she said it felt like losing a child such is the relationship that develops.

I managed to dodge the rain despite taking a longer route than necessary and in Great Wilbraham saw this purple flower which if I read my trusty Collins Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers is Honesty or Lunaria annua I must look out for the seeds which give the plant one of its nicknames “silver dollars”. This one might well be a garden escape.

I can’t recall which beer I had at the Pub but it was not one I knew and was rather nice and it was good to see the bar quite busy. Life is tough for village pubs at the moment. In fact life is also difficult for city pubs – a major study has been launched in Cambridge to see what can be done.

When I was in the pub I did pick up some propaganda a leaflet about the Wadlow Wind Farm coming to the area. Here is a slightly better map. It is going to be pretty close to a couple of byways I cycle along – I must get out there for a visit.- the components will start arriving over a 10 week period from the end of April. Already 5 miles (7.7 Km) of on-site tracks have been created. I wonder if anyone suggested making an MTB track through the area?

Apparently there is some royal wind-turbine– “Royals’£1m wind farm hypocrisy: 45 wind turbines described by Charles as a ‘horrendous blot’ to be built on Crown land”. I certainly will be interested in the noise generated. There are already are too few truly quiet places to go in England and whilst I can see that siting the Turbines away from population centres makes sense it also uses up quiet countryside resource – all to precious here in the Flatlands.

Mind you “Pollution from traffic, planes and power stations ‘killing 13,000 Britons a year’” suggests that  noise pollution will perhaps not feature on the radar. If you look at the emissions map we get more than our fair share in the Flatlands (IMHO). What might you ask is the biggest emitter of pollutants – car and lorry exhaust. It is responsible for 3,300 premature deaths annually. (More than those killed on the roads).

So perhaps the high cost of fuel might actually make us use petrol more efficiently.

Also perhaps that is”Why France beats England for cycling holidays every time” – sacré bleu. Apparently the motorists treat cyclists with respect and get it back in return. Chapeau!

Oh and before I forget it started raining almost as soon as I set off home – I got soaked, fortunately I was wearing shorts and a waterproof rain jacket (and gloves). The shower stopped before I got home – but the dry patch was not long enough for my shorts to have dried out though.

And no there was no sun unlike in this picture of a double rainbow over Dartmouth.

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