Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer over for another year?

Tuesday, 24th July 2012: I have managed out get out and cycle and take advantage of the short spell of glorious Summer weather. (There are five sets of pictures stacked up behind this one waiting to get written about.)

(Updated – all roads don’t lead to Reach!!! – Thanks MikeC)

Despite being somewhat negative about the commercialisation of the Olympics I will also admit to having been distracted by the drama – especially from the cycling.  The Olympics are also being blamed for longer holdups at the Ely rail crossing.

There have also been cyclists arrested after taking part in the monthly Critical Mass ride in London. It is ironic that one of the main points used to “sell” the Olympics is that it encourages more of us to take up “sport”.  For me the drama of the Olympics is certainly pretty good but just as when I watch Silent Witness on television I don’t suddenly want to become a pathologist – when I watch Olympic cycling it doesn’t affect my day to day cycling one jot. There is no doubt in my mind that British Sports Cycling has been transformed and that there is real strength in depth and that more children will be brought into the sport as a result – good, but not enough. (Bradley Wiggins got an interesting “tribute” from Great Bradley, a village in Cambridgeshire.)

There was also a Police swoop and a ninja cyclist – the ninja’s employers were having a superhero fun day and so he dressed as a ninja with a plastic sword. The Police are damned if they do and damned if they don’t – but it is a bit of a shame that we have ended up in this predicament.

We also need to see lots and lots more people switching to cycling as an every day means of getting around. Yes it will help them to be healthier, it will help to reduce pollution, it is cheaper, it is convenient, however the issue is that it is not perceived as “as safe” as it should be. 

Tragically there have been more cyclists killed on the road, with a 14-year old boy the victim of a hit-and-run crash and a cyclist killed after a collision with a London 2012 Olympic Games media bus. The media storm was whipped up further by comments attributed to Bradley Wiggins regarding helmets. We then had The Times reporting the story along with a rather balanced piece in the Daily Mail on the issue of cycling helmets and their uncertain safety benefits.

Now I still believe the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks and that it is totally possible to raise the level of safety for cyclists. How should we do this  - well not by requiring all sorts protection that don’t reduce the numbers of accidents, but rather mitigate (or attempt to mitigate) the consequences of such accidents.

So why is there such reluctance to improve the lot of cyclists?  We worry about the “obesity epidemic” – we justify the Olympics and the cost (Guardian - £9bnDM £24Bn) because it will “inspire a generation”. Yet 52% of parents won't allow their child to cycle unsupervised one they reach 12. According to this blog up to 50% of children would like to travel to school by bicycle but less than 1% actually do. Even worse such is the fear parents are threatened with being report to Social Services for allowing their children to cycle to school along (July 2010). Apparently over the last two years 20 school sports pitches have been approved for sale buy the Government. Mixed messages or what?

The trouble is too many cycle paths tend to be a shoe-horn of cyclists onto pavements – the so called shared us approach. It is an approach which might be cheap in the short-run, but does none of us any favours in the long term. Here the Cottenham Cyclist discusses the Histon Road and the need for proper facilities, not just “useless paint solutions” and reminds us that whilst the press might create sides – pedestrians, motorists and cyclists,  life is not that simple. We could all do with being a bit more considerate.

What is interesting is that more and more villages around the flatlands are mounting Speedwatch activities – there is a growing appreciation that speeding is both a safety issue and a blight on the places we live. They use Dambuster technology to improve their hit rate.

The trouble is we have a love-hate relationship with motor-transport. We love the freedom, we hate the personal cost and congestion and we ignore the social costs – deaths and accidents and pollution. The trouble is we assume our scientists will work something out, but ignore their warnings.  We are due for Asian levels of smog in the UK unless we slash our carbon emissions – but does that change our view – no. I still own a car and use it, although as a family we could easily “do without” one of our cars.

It is now official that my car is the most unreliable (Land Rover), whilst my wife’s car is the most reliable (Honda). Perhaps that is what makes me bitter towards cars? The trouble is that there is such an outcry whenever questions are asked bout how to improve our towns and villages. Whilst I wouldn’t blame the demise of the pub on cars they have had an effect and probably made it much harder for local pubs to occupy the social role they once used to play. The trouble is when pubs do struggle there is then a rear-guard action – but we don’t really consider the root causes. In Cambridge the Penny Ferry has been saved from the bulldozers, for now, but whilst you can lead a horse to water you can’t make it drink. Similarly you can’t make a brewery run a pub. (I am also not convinced using taxpayers money is the right solution either.)

One small step in terms of changing behaviour is the Cambridge Guided Busway – which has just had its first birthday and celebrated 2.5m journeys.

Still onto better things – I cycle for several reasons – and when I cycle for pleasure my goal is to get away from traffic – it is noisy, unpredictable and smelly – and a bit dangerous. Which is why I head to the hills Fens – yes – yet another ride around and about Wicken Fen using the Lodes Way.

First stop, near White Fen – some wildflowers Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus). At this time of year they stick to your socks or leggings when you brush past them. Which is one good reason for cycling in sandals and shorts. Wild flowers are under threat as farmers are under more and more pressure to control their costs.

Mind you having said that bees seem to have featured more this year – we’ve had two swarms in the garden and they have featured more in the news. Here is a story about the Internet failing because of a swarm in bees in Huntingdon and another swarm of bees on a bicycle in Cambridge.

Lesser Burdock – White Fen

For a change I carried on up Lodes Way and stopped at the Newnham Drove “crossroads”. as you can see it was a glorious day, which is why I sneaked out for a ride. These next few pictures are taken looking along each leg of the crossroads.

This is the view looking back towards Reach Lode – although it isn’t far you really do feel you are out in the countryside, despite the fencing and pylons around. (West)

Newnham Drove / Lodes Way – looking towards Reach Lode

This is the view back towards Burwell along Newnham Drove. In this case the Drove has a tarmac surface – well in places anyway. It is a pretty bumpy and straight road which passes close to the Burwell Electricity Substation. (South)

Newnham Drove / Lodes Way – looking towards Burwell

This is the view looking up to the remains of Burwell Fen Farm through what is labelled Adventurers Fen on the OS map. (North)

Newnham Drove / Lodes Way – looking towards Burwell Fen Farm 

A close up of Burwell Fen Farm.

Newnham Drove / Lodes Way – looking towards Burwell Fen Farm 

And finally looking East towards Wicken. This is the view to one side of Lodes Way – which passes through two cattle grids to the right of the picture. his allows the cows to move around a larger area.

Newnham Drove / Lodes Way – looking towards Wicken Fen

After that I circled Wicken Fen – out round the Maltings path and then back through the entrance. There were some fish at the point where Monk’s Lode becomes New River. On the OSM map Monk’s Lode is shown as a wide strip of blue and New River is barely visible under the Wicken CP boundary.

Fish – Monk’s Lode meets New River

I returned through Burwell and along NCN51, between Burwell and Reach there were white things flicking in and out of visibility. There is a gliding competition being held over the week in the Cambridge area. In this case there were only two gliders spiralling around finding lift.

Gliders above Burwell

Earlier on in the week two gliders crashed in mid-air, although I am not sure it would have been news if it had been on the ground! Both pilots survived, one landed and the other parachuted out. They were treated for injuries but were ok apparently.

it looks as if the lower one in the first picture has gotten above the other glider in the second picture.

Gliders above Burwell

And finally – some cycling celebrities - Arnie and of course the DM had to mention no helmet, Geri Halliwell’s daughter on her bike, off to the park (it has stabilisers).

The Niagara Falls lit by neon (well that is what is says, lightning hitting the Toronto CN Tower and finally for people who want to live in a glass house – a glass house – which looks stunning, if a little impractical. And finally the Decline and fall of the Italian villa – some interesting images.

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