Sunday, July 1, 2012

The pleasures of cycling home from a meeting

Wednesday, 27th June 2012: It was a long day Wednesday in meetings for most of the day and up until nearly sunset. It was a good job it wasn’t sunset as I didn’t have a front light with me. The last meeting went on for longer than I had planned, I must remember that the days are now getting shorter again. (As of 27th June – Sunrise:05:14 to Sunset:20:59 – a length of 15h 44 min. It was after 8pm when I set off. After spending a fair bit of time I took a slightly scenic route back around Cambridge Airport.

When I did get home I was just in time for supper with my family, who had decided to take advantage of the weather and eat in the garden.

A driver is being sought by police after cyclist suffers serious injuries in Cambridge. The news item suggests that the car driver didn’t realise he had collided. Many drivers will probably rad that and so decide well it can’t have been much of a collision. I have been hit by a car with the driver unaware, fortunately it didn’t knock me off. It worries me that a driver can get so close to a cyclist and be so unaware. When it happened to me the driver seemed bewildered when I shouted at him. I stopped to gather my wits and to provide a bit of separation between us. It is frightening, your heart races and you think about what might have been.

The second time I was hit by a car it was with a bit more force and it knocked me off – there was that awful moment when I lay on the ground in pain wondering just what damage had been done to me. After a mental checklist of bits of my body I got up carefully and with some relief realised it was only my collar bone that had been broken.

I used to be dead set on the view that cyclists belonged on roads, because if we gave ground then we would be forced onto inadequate cycle paths. I used to believe that more cyclists on the roads would mean that motorists would become more attentive to cyclists and drive more safely. I don’t believe that now – I do think that whilst cycling is treated as an afterthought – with so little resource spent on proper and plentiful cycling routes it sends a signal to motorists that we are second –class citizens.

Although there has been talk of spending £15m to improve the cycle-safety of dangerous junctions outside of London, what worries me is that it isn’t enough and is a very tactical approach to the issues cyclists face and even worse seems unlikely to get would-be cyclists on their bikes. I wonder if the Hills Road, Gonville Place, Lensfield Road and Regent Street crossroads will bid for the money? A redesign has been unveiled… It is a rather unpleasant junction and one I try to avoid whether cycling or driving for that matter.  The trouble is, it is once again a tactical solution – where is the overall strategy that should be guiding these developments. Especially for a city that has aligned with The Times Cities fit for Cycling Campaign. (So far 42 cyclists in Britaon have been killed in 2012.)

It was disappointing to see that there “almost 100 arrests during the drink-drive campaign”. These are a danger to all road users – but of course it is the vulnerable road-users who are, well the most vulnerable. It was good to see the campaign – I wonder if anyone ever researches the effectiveness of such campaigns or crack-downs. Is this a cost-effective way of stretching the thin blue line or does it keep the public quiet?It would seem that “intelligence” forms a bigger part of general policing though and is referred to in the article.

The Cambridge Guided Busway also features in the news – “Guided bus may pick up top award”, although it actually refers to the whole concept, not just one of the buses – the headline is the product of an over-witty editor I would imagine, I could also imagine doing the same thing though. I think that there ought to be recognition of the importance of integrating transportation modes. Cycling plays an important role in making such approaches work and has to be recognised as such. The puns don’t stop there though – “Guided brushway” is an article on the 4ft tall weeds along near Orchard Park. where the council also seem to have tried out nocturnal grass-cutting! Personally I would like to see more use made of such spaces for wild-flower planting – like the largest ‘green’ roof referred to in the link.

The trouble is cars as a form of transport are so engrained in our thinking, along with lack of longer-term planning that we just seem to push the problems around. Parking Permits have been introduced near De Freville Avenue and surprise, surprise the residents now have somewhere to park, but the residents nearby without a parking Permit scheme now struggle to find places to park.

Similarly in Ely there have been complaints that “motorists “clogging” a layby make it difficult for mums to drop their kids of at school”. This apparently comes from the ShapeYourPlace website (and here is that comment). I liked the comment after it about the elephant in the room being too many people driving their kids to school. Where I live the school-runners seem to randomly stop, turn, open doors and whizz along. The elephant is really one of making getting to school by foot and bicycle much safer (not just perceived safety) and that takes a lot more than calling a few pavements shared-use paths. I think.

Ely also gets in the news with the Ely North rail Junction being a priority upgrade – a no-brainer to me – but what do I know I am a cyclist.

Talking about lack of long-term vision I find the the recent report that the “Exxon CEO blames ‘illiterate’ public for ‘overreacting’ to global warming” distasteful. Apparently humans will be able to adapt. The cynical view might be that the rich countries might be able to adapt – but what about those countries without the resources?

I have to say though on my way home none of these things entered my mind. I was enjoying a wonderful and relaxing cycle ride home on a pleasantly warm evening. Whilst the meetings had not been difficult, indeed they had been interesting nothing beats a pleasant ride home at the end of the day. The rush hour traffic was long gone. It might sound selfish, but I didn’t have to share the shared-use cycleway and it was comfortable warm.

The sun setting over Cambridge Airport

It wasn’t quite as dark as it looks in the last picture – taking a shot into the sun tends to darken everything else, even when using HDR techniques. This one looking down the airfield and not directly into the sun is a more accurate view of how it looked as I was cycling. Mind you I couldn’t hag around without lights.

The sun setting over Cambridge Airport

As I cycled along the sun seemed to get visibly lower in the sky.

The sun setting over Cambridge Airport

When I got home it was a very pleasant end to the evening to sit out in the garden with a cold glass of cider and eat supper with my family. (They don’t usually wait for me when I am late – they were late as well.)

It is weather like this that makes me want to live somewhere with similar weather all-year round – just for the cycling.

To finish and underwater cyclist and some young actress cyclists and last but not least some celebratory images of wildlife taken by 20 photographers over 20 months include the Konik ponies of Wicken Fen.

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