Monday, May 21, 2012

Pedalling to St Ives (Cambs), no paddling, only wheel-washing

Update: I missed this from Travelling the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: Flooding – apparently there is now a dry strip on the last flooded section.

Friday, 18th May 2012: After what was a stressful week of unexpected hospital visits and missed meetings followed by a normality again but no cycling I felt I deserved a stress-busting POETS day ride. Although I probably ought to mention (and then lose from my browser) a few links as well that have stacked up. I am not sure where they came from since time seems to have flown by.

Interestingly Ian Walker, the psychologist who conducted Bicycle overtaking studies (as reported by many including the BBC) and teaches statistic and traffic psychology at Bath University has popped a new post on his Blog after quite a hiatus – “Thinking out loud: Are cyclists the new weather? It is true that for good and bad reasons cycling and cyclists pop up far more in the press and general discussion than they used to. Indeed the furore against red-light jumping cyclists which is not born out by available facts in terms of either commission or consequence is discussed as an example of confirmation bias. When because we believe something to be true we tend to ignore anything that contradicts that view.

This has sprung from the shameful (IMHO)  IAM “survey” on red-light jumping cyclists. An important issue is that it fails to examine the issues and instead increase the potential animosity between “cyclists” and ”motorists”.  Although, of course, those that comment are not necessarily representative, just vocal.  Also many people fit into both camps. I prefer not to see inconsiderate road users and whilst they might dent my pride when driving they can do me serious harm when I am on my bicycle. I still don’t get why motorists in congested towns don’t realise that one more cyclist is one less driver.

Mind you there are sub-camps look how car drivers often resent lorry drivers to the point where they get them banned from overtaking on parts of the A14. Yet aren’t the lorry drivers working and many of the car drivers “selfishly” the single occupants in cars. Perhaps lorry drivers ought to propose extra taxes on single-occupancy cars on certain roads, or a ban on overtaking.

I was disappointed to see that the Sunday Times merely reported the headline figure associated with the IAM report although I was not surprised that the Daily Mail did.  However The Times has been far more thoughtful and has some interesting Statistics – “What #cyclesafe has taught us so far”.  Including:

“Of pedestrians injured by red-light jumping, 4 per cent are hurt by cyclists, 71 per cent by cars. In 2009, no pedestrians were killed by cyclists, while 426 were killed by motor vehicles.”


“No driver wants to hit a cyclist. The effect can be devastating for the driver too.”

I can’t help but feel that we have become inured to motor vehicles to such a degree that we forget they have a downside as well as an upside. They are convenient but they do create noise and pollution and take up space and make it harder for the young and old to go about their business.

I am pleased to see that there is “Momentum building for 20mph speed limits” though.There is an interesting note that the local NHS trust in Liverpool is funding a study/extension of the 20mph limits as it believed it will reduce treatment costs for both traffic casualties and for obesity related illnesses. Bizarrely it would seem that ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) will not support 20mph limits unless they were self-enforcing, ruling out their introduction where speeds are higher than 24mph. Although I wonder if that is perhaps also an issue of budgets and manpower.

I often witter on about parking and the fact is has a real cost. Well in New York a parking spot is up for $1million. It is a garage rather than a space on the road – but space costs in cities. Indeed here in Cambridge the Beehive Centre of Coldham’s Lane offers free parking for up to three hours, stay longer and you get penalised. Why, well presumably it costs money in terms of providing the space and they need to get a return.  If people don’t shop then why should they park?

Talking about space being at a premium there is a push to get permission to build office blocks with 7 and 8 storey towers on Station Road in Cambridge.  Apparently a previous application was rejected as the facades weren’t good enough as the first glimpse of Cambridge for people who visit by train. They don’t mind them seeing a crappy cycle parking area though.

Some bicycle news – the designer of the Raleigh Chopper has died.  When I was a lad I certainly wanted one, but my parents deemed it unsuitable. To be fair I did get a three-speed Sturmey Archer geared bicycle to go to school on and despite that I have still managed to produce two kids. They later got me and my brother a Falcon racing bike each one Christmas  – which was great. No more lurches into the cross-bar.

Apparently Audi have also produces an electric concept bike capable of 50mph, the first bike suggests that riders will struggle with somewhere to sit though. It has a range of 31-44 miles (probably originally specified in Km ‘cos those are strange numbers – 50Km – 70Km is my bet).

And almost finally, the Police do catch cycle thieves in Cambridge and have (had?) Stolen bikes on display. And whilst some might think all cyclists are reckless red-light jumpers they are not all such good Samaritans as this cyclist who offered to buy a homeless man some food after he saw him rummaging in a bin.

And finally – my ride – well I find that the run up to St Ives is a good leg-stretcher and relatively pleasant with the cycleway alongside the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB). The last time I went up (Monday, 7th May)  I ended up paddling through the flooded areas so would it be dry enough to cycle without getting wet feet just under two weeks later?

I prefer to take loop routes usually though and so rather than cycle up and down the CGB Cycleway and cycled out via the “old” NCN51 through villages such as Longstanton and Swavesey and back via the CGB Cycleway. That way my feet would be wet for quite so long.

That meant cycling along Girton Road in Cambridge – so much more pleasant. Now I have had a look for the map key used – but it is not appearing on my Chrome 19 browser and the one that appears in IE9 does not really suggest what the cycle markings are. The standalone OSM Cycle map has a separate Map Key and I assume that stripy lines are either planned or alternate routes. The old NCN51 route from Cambridge to St Ives appears as a stripy line with blue and pink stripes. At the end of the CGB NCN51 solid line there is also a stripy grey/pink line.

The Sustrans map however shows the old route as Regional Route 24 and the new CGB Cycleway as NCN51 so I think it is just a case of the OSM Cycle map being slightly out of date.  Mind you at the moment the Sustrans map shows the stretch between Swavesey and St Ives Park & Ride as closed for upgrading until late November – which is also out of date information.

Whilst mentioning the CGB Cycleway here is an interesting post from Radwagon on the Southern stretch and why if you want cycle routes to be used they also need planning.

The first picture of the ride is a rather predictable one – the rat run Airfield Road near Oakington and despite the restrictions against motor vehicles are car driving along it. It looks as if it might be opened up when (if) Northstowe gets built. I can’t say the cycling provision looks very inspiring and the current map shows two more roads heading off through countryside to the A14. It would be nice to think that this Regional Route would have priority over the roads, or at the very least underpasses – but I doubt it.

Oakington Airfield Road – time for a crackdown?
(or perhaps they can’t Police it until cars stop using it)

Although I have been this way before, for completeness here is a map. As you can see I followed the Regional Route 24 most of the way (not to be confused with National Route 24). I must admit I find the Sustrans numbering system a little ad-hoc sometimes.  Apparently Sustrans is embarking on a project to re-number and re-classify Regional routes and National routes, so the regional routes will become local branches of National routes.

In this case I detoured through Fen Drayton Lakes to see how they looked after the flooding – it is slightly further and definitely bumpier – but more picturesque. Here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map shown below.  The distance is around 50Km and flat. Both routes are very pleasant, the out route is a little more varied as the roads wiggle around. The only tricky part is crossing Harrison Way, by the roundabout, up at St Ives just after passing Jones Boatyard.

A Map of my cycle ride from Cambridge to St Ives and Back

As it was a bit of a grey day the pictures don’t come very thick and fast either. I wasn’t intending to cycle through the Fen Drayton Lakes nature reserve until I got there. Alongside the entrance I have seen Elephant grass growing (I think) – in the Summer it can reach 3m plus in height. Apparently it is left standing in the field over Winton and harvested in early Spring.

Miscanthus bales near Fen Drayton lakes

At the other end of the field is a somewhat larger stack of bales.

Miscanthus Haystack near Fen Drayton Lakes

And of course there is also a lot of Oil Seed Rape growing in the fields around and about. You can also see a Windmill next to Freisland Farm which according to Zoopla was sold for £875,000 in November 2006 (the Windmill that is) and is a Kennels and Cattery. Although both the OS and OSM maps show the farm as Freisland the address searches indicate is as Friesland Farm, actually on a different scale OS map is is Friesland Farm. Mind you the Google map shows Hale Road as Mill Way.

The Windmill, Hale Road, Swavesey


View Larger Map

After a while you come to an interesting bridge – that has a somewhat distant feel about it. It almost reminds me of the wooden bridges in Cambodia – 4th picture down.

Functional Bridge – Fen Drayton Lakes

And just over the bridge a panoramic shot of the lakes – which don’t look that full to me, considering how this all looked 12 days ago. The Trout Pond is to the right and Far Fen Lake to the left.

Fen Drayton Lakes

After that brief bit of excitement I got my head down and made my way across the A1096 (Harrison Way) without any problems at all. I then nipped through St Ives and re-crossed Harrison Way, this time with the benefit of traffic lights, triggered by a CGB bus.

I had a quick drink at the P&R and set off back. This bit of the track was quite flooded last time.

The dip Between St Ives P&R and the River Great Ouse (this time)

How it looked the last time.

The dip Between St Ives P&R and the River Great Ouse (two weeks ago)

As I cycled through I noticed a helicopter – too far away really for any sort of picture.  The thing above the rotors (Mast mounted sight?) made me wonder at first whether it was an Apache Longbow and it does seem to have a similar profile to the picture in the link.

Apache Longbow helicopter above Fen Drayton Lakes

This is where I expected the next bit of flooding – as you can see completely clear. The last time the field was also full of water. The way the chap is dressed gives it a slightly surreal quality as well.

A Clear Cycleway on the CGB May 21, 2012

The view last time – with the field also completely flooded. That really did get my feet wet.

A Flooded Cycleway on the CGB May 7, 2012

As I carried on down the Cycleway I was surprised to see that this bit had not dried out. Although judging from the way these two were going it didn’t look to be paddling depth.

Bike Dip still in action Cycleway CGB May 21, 2012

As you can see they made it out safely, you can also see how a path has become well-worn alongside the concrete bus tracks to the left.

I am not even sure I remember cycling along this bit the last time – well I did cycle along it, I just can’t find any pictures of it.

Two more bikes safely dipped on the CGB Cycleway

As you can see this chap is pushing his bike along the well-worn path high up on the bank. The reality of building a route like this is that despite what common sense might suggest if you become a regular cyclist you are not really going to want to detour around the floods. So I am not surprised that some walkers and cyclists are taking to the bank.

If the buses had bike racks on then it might allow cyclists to have a ride part of the way to avoid the floods, but they don’t so if you work a reasonable distance form the bus stops at the other end you’d need your bike.

A Cyclist taking the “High Road” past flooding on the CGB Cycleway May 21, 2012

And this is the same stretch of water looking back along the cycleway. Judging from the high-tide marks the water got pretty deep here.

I should also mention that the surface under the water is both muddy and there are a few stones in the water so if you do cycle through pay attention I got through without wetting my pedals, let alone my feet, however there were a few unexpected bumps as I ran over stones.

Flooding on the CGB Cycleway May 21, 2012

After that it as head down and head for home, I had a couple of calls arranged for early evening. I did stop to take some pictures of some of the flowers that had recently appeared. As I passed them I had them down as Red Campion or Silene dioica, the crushed seeds have been used to treat snakebites apparently.

Red Campion alongside the CGB Cycleway

A somewhat sportier cyclist zoomed by as I took pictures. I would imagine that for training with tri-bars the Cycleway is pretty ideal – not to  much to worry about in terms of steering and the track surface is nicely smooth. (and another Garmin GPS users I note).

A bit of training along the CGB Cycleway

After that brief interlude a picture of the Red Campion in the hedgerow.

Red Campion alongside the CGB Cycleway

And finally some excellent landscapes celebrating the UK’s best national park vistas. Along with some natural iceberg sculptures.

And here are some of mine.

Very Small Icebergs in Alaska

Very Small Icebergs in Alaska

Very Small Icebergs in Alaska



  1. Lovely route photos! Not quite sure about the icebergs, perhaps for the colder times along the CGB! When it appears in Game of Thrones.

    I've not gone north of Cambridge to much. But have done this south to Saffron Walden.

    Cambridge to Saffron Walden Circuit 2012 with video

  2. Oh, and the other thing. Whilst building the CGB across the fens, one of the major costly issues was sinking concrete beams. Surely having so much water in close proximity (i.e. all over the cyclepath) will do nothing for the longevity of the trackway? Just my thoughts!

  3. I enjoyed your video, the Roman Road is a good way out of Cambridge. For choice I'd like a cross between the Roman Road and the CGB - but cyclists can't be choosers!

    I have noticed rust stains on the edges of the CGB tracks and they seem to be getting bigger . I seem to remember reading on one of the Documents the estimates for longevity - but I'd not be surprised if it needed repairs sooner than planned.