Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cambridge and Ely

Monday, 2nd July 2012: Still behind on my posting – but as there was less cycling this week I ought to be able to catch up!

Before I do though there is some positive news in terms of cycling being more mainstream – it is now being supported by Google Maps here in the UK. As you might imagine, despite the power of Google is has some foibles  High Ditch Road is shown as a cycle friendly road, well it is not the worst road out there – but I wouldn’t call it cycle friendly. It is a bit of a rat-run with a steep bridge at one end and uneven roadside edges and cars still whizz along it. Some bits of NCN 11 around Barway are also missing – but it is yet more evidence that cycling is being taken a little more seriously. Burwell gets a reasonable chunk of green (Google’s chosen colour) including Howlem Balk.

I have also joined Pinterest as PushingPedals (Jamie)  as I like images and it is an interesting way of displaying them and “curating” them.

Although I would expect Sustrans to  positively promote cycling it is still good news that “there were 40 million extra journeys made on a bike in 2011 than in the previous year, the biggest ever increase at 18 per cent”. (Here is the report – The real cycling revolution (pdf)). Mind you I do wonder if for some councils “cycling” is the new “green”. Something to hook onto all activities to increase the PR.

It was reported that up to £500,000 has been allocated to build a shortcut between the guided busway bridleway under Hills Road bridge – this would allow pedestrians and cyclists to drop down under the bridge and so avoid having to cross the busy road to the Station. It will not be a ramp though – so it will be of limited value to cyclists (IMHO) and no value to wheelchairs users and people pushing prams and pushchairs. The Tins gets more widening though. Some money has also been allocated to the feasibility of the Chisholm Trail. It seems to me that the £500,000 does not seem to give much value for money. it either ought to be fit for purpose is is not worth building.

The railway station area is also going to be “improved”  - here is my tip the more people who cycle the fewer will drive cars – improve cycle access and cycle parking. The congestion around the station leads to poor driver behaviour and conflict. mid you it appears that Yorkshire is the worst place for congestion, drivers spend 86 hours a year stuck in traffic jams there. Predictably the DM moans about the war on motorists – apparently there are even more speed cameras. There is no war, only a right for all road users to be safe, people are dying on the roads though and there has been an increase in road deaths and serious injuries or cyclists.

Disturbingly cyclists are still being killed – Croydon, Trafford and Gloucester. Do I believe that cycling is still an enjoyable, healthy and safe activity yes – but it is getting less safe and that is unacceptable.

Unfortunately it seems to take a lot to fight against the inertia built into the current traffic planning system. Motorists seem to resent any expenditure on cycle infrastructure, despite the fact that cars cause n congestion not bike, more cycles means less cars – simples.

Finally one of Cambridge’s most dangerous roundabouts for cyclists is being modified apparently to stop motorists from taking the racing line. There have been 17 personal injury crashes in the last six years and 16 cyclists have been hurt. What is the budget? £180,000. How much is being spent on a short-cut under Hills Road that is of limited benefit (IMHO)? £500,000. What worries me is whether there is any real evidence on which to base any proposed change?

I was disturbed to read that a young lad was injured when cycling over bridge (part of NCN 47) because someone strung a rope across it at neck heightMatthew Parris suggested  that this might be a festive custom in a “joke” in an article in the Times in 2008. I never read any of his articles in The Times.

Now I had an early morning meeting in Cambridge and then had to get up to Manchester that evening. I would have liked to take my bike, but was staying in a hotel I had not used before and to be honest haven’t quite mastered travelling with a bicycle for business and pleasure. (I have taken my Brompton by train to Bath via London – the worst bit is carrying a bag for my cycling stuff and a bag with my computer and smart (ish) clothes and the Brompton on an off trains and through the ticket gates.

I did manage to cycle into Cambridge in the morning though wearing “meeting” clothes. I did end up with some oil off the chain on my trousers unfortunately -  but it was not too visible. When I left mid-morning to go home it was raining and I had not got my rain jacket or cape with me.

One wet bike just before setting off home in the rain

What you have to do is just lump it really, once you know you are going to get wet then it seems to matter less. Anyway I was going home and so would be able to change in any case before setting off for the station.

Here we have a common sight on the streets of Cambridge. A large chunk of the road dedicated to car parking – fair enough some might say. A cycle lane, again fair enough. However what isn’t fair enough is why a car and a van should be blocking the cycle lane. What’s more they are blocking it just by an island. They are also blocking the pavement.

The other observation is that whilst there is provision for car parking the same is not true of cycle parking. Personally I am not a fan of leaving my bike locked up on the pavement – well I assume they are locked – it does show how cyclists are treated as second-class – yet they take up so much less space and don’t cause congestion. Here is the Google Streetview link for Bateman Street it looks no different and there is a car parked in the cycle lane as well. Although there are loads of spaces in the parking area?

I believe that the parking requires a permit and on the left the houses tend to be bedroom plus communal kitchen lets for students. Mind you I would expect there to be some Pay and Display spaces available.

Whilst it might not seem like much – “Price hike for disabled parking badges ‘to cover costs’” approved (from £2 to £9) it would seem to be yet another kick for people whose lives are already disadvantaged. Why does it cost so much to administer the scheme?

Bateman Street, Cambridge – look at all that lovely cycle lane for parking your car

I didn’t see the Street knitter’s latest work on bike racks on Chesterton Road though.

I generally head to Manchester via Ely I rather like the somewhat slow but picturesque route across the country through places like March, Grantham, Nottingham and Chesterfield.

I often moan about cycle parking at Cambridge – or rather the diabolical lack of provision of even half decent cycle parking.  Well here is the in-station cycle parking at Ely – well used but not totally packed out. (There is also cycle parking in the station car park.) You also don’t have to negotiate ticket barriers when bringing your bike into the station.

Apparently there are 10 racks in the car park and 89 racks on platform 1.

Cycle Parking – inside the Railway Station at Ely

And finally just as not all cyclists are sinners (red light jumpers) they are not all saints – this chap who is raising money for charity had his stolen from a locked summerhouse. So he was obeying the “Lock it or lose it” Police warning. It surprises me that bicycles seem to fit a certain profile as ideal targets for thieving and presumably making money from.

Although whilst I am mentioning Ely – “Southern bypass ‘most effective way to beat congestion’” according to an “Options Appraisal Report”. Mind you it seems that it will also drive more commercial development as well – which according to one of the comments is how it is going to be paid for. Yet another blight on the countryside visited upon us by roads and congestion. (the Ely bypass also gets a mention on Unclog Cambridge.

The good news is that a Breakthrough made on funding for key rail bottleneck at Ely. What people don’t always appreciate is that more roads often leads to more congestion a little further along. If we are to make a real difference then there needs to be a long term planning. We need to consider how to improve transport efficiency. Lots of people in their own tin cans is not efficient. This might actually help to shift freight traffic (“officials say 750,000 fewer lorry journeys by 2030”!)

And really finally – whilst I try not to be sexist when referring to celebrities on their bicycles – here is some top-pulchritude Keira Knightley.


  1. Google Maps (bike version)

    I've been poking at it today, trying the routes around here of course. Try Cambridge - Ely. Would you take the A10 for most of the way? I wouldn't. Cambridge - Wicken goes over Bottisham Lock, over two gates, through three fields, and past a "No Cyclists" sign. OK, I do go that way sometimes, but only if I'm headed to the villages well north of Cambridge. I've sent an email to my Sustrans contacts about taking their "aspirational" routes out of the data they give Google.

    And, as you've already noted, lots of NCN 11 around Barway is missing, so the proposals for Burwell - Ely are rather silly. Soham bypass anyone?

    However, I've been in the software development business since 1972, and for a Beta it's not bad. Except that the feedback crashes with a 414 error. First I've ever seen. So we Beta testers can't report bugs. Oh well.

    1. Hi Mike,

      As you say for a Beta it is actually pretty good. Feedback is what they want. I have reported the failure to show the NCN 11 route around Barway. They do seem to have fixed the feedback system now.

  2. A reply from Google

    Hi Mike,

    Your Google Maps problem report has been reviewed, and you were right!

    "This is an example of a general problem. The suggested route is a
    single-carriagway with 20,000 vehicles a day on it at 60mph. No cycle-track
    or footway alongside it for most of its length. Very cycle and walking
    unfriendly. Any cycle route planner has got to take car and truck volume
    and speed into account."

    We'll update the map soon and email you when you can see the change.
    Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps!

    Well done Google!


    1. Interesting - I wonder how much of the data they will tap into is proprietary and whether the other cycle-specific route planners have access to similar data.

      I have not received any further response to my report.