Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First ride of the month

Saturday, 1st September 2012: In a fit of good intention, somewhat tampered by the fact I knew I wouldn’t be riding quite so much over the next week or so I started the month of September in the way I finished August with a ride.

Although as you might realise my posts are somewhat adrift of real time – in real time it is the 19th of September 2012. I picked up my copy of The Times after cycling to the local shop and was somewhat horrified to read “Cycle deaths on course to exceed last year’s toll”.  According to The Times “at least 87 cyclists have been killed so far this year” with “five of those victims aged 12 or under”.  Whilst there has been only a 2% increase in the number of bikes on the road there has been a 16% increase in killed or seriously injured cyclists.

This is not reassuring for parents whose children might want to cycle to school. This is not reassuring for those inspired by the feats of the paralympians and olympians. It is a complete and utter disgrace. Despite all the fine words we might hear in support of cycling – it is getting worse – because the roads are getting more dangerous for cyclists. Our Politicians are failing us – how can Mr Hammond describe cycling safety as a “top priority”  whilst presiding over such failure. He mentions £30m being made available to fix dangerous junctions across the country in the meantime one bypass costs £31m – 550 yards long and 33ft high (Or should that be blight-pass).

You only have to look at the anger and issues when councils make routes safe and withdraw school buses for those living closer than three miles. Since Cambridgeshire County Council  deemed the Oakington to Impington route safe and withdrew free bus passes they have no invited parents to pay £150 to get a seat on the double decker bus than runs along that school route.  Why are parents so cross – well perhaps because they “perceive” the danger to be higher. Given the roads are getting more dangerous who can blame them.

However the downside is that Children driven 500yds to school – a survey suggested that one in 10 parents living less the 500 yards from school drive their kids to school. It just doesn’t seem right – although it would be far too simplistic to just blame the parents. As a society we imbue way too much importance in the car as a form of transportation. The result is that it blights other forms of transportation. Apparently capitalism is failing us when it comes to the price of petrol and diesel – the Government has ordered a watchdog to probe.

Mind you in the land of the car – America, were else, here is a mother who used pedal power to carry all six of her children. Of course this shouldn’t be news, should be seen as a little unusual and I shouldn’t feel the need to refer to it.

Mind you in a recent “week-long crackdown in Cambridgeshire” there were 252 drivers issued with tickets for not wearing seatbelts which included 7 children under 14.  I reckon that as cars have been made safer and safer for the occupants it has changed driver (and passenger) behaviour.  (900 motorists have been caught using their mobiles phones over the last two and a half years in Cambridge – “tip of the iceberg”).

Motorists witter on about pedestrians and cyclists listening to MP3 players  - yet the car has become far more insulated.  Look at this accident in which a car flew up and damaged a first floor bedroom – the car occupants only suffered minor injuries. Or this example of a man being thrown into the air after being hit by a car  in a petrol station. Or this example of a woman pulling out in front of a motorcycle – she didn’t see it.

In the meantime we have “Damaged car sought after hit and run left cyclist dying at roadside”, a small in Lincoln where I was cycling less than two weeks ago. At the same time “A school plagued by speeding drivers to get flashing signs” – hum is that really going to slow drivers who speed past at up to 70mph. If I had children at that school I would consider that an insulting response to the need to make it safer for the parents and children.

The trouble is you get the motorist bleating brigade about how there is a war on motorists and the “Big brother” network of roadside cameras. well I’m sorry but we motorists have brought it on ourselves. Apparently there are talks about fitting cameras to buses to enforce the rules of the road here in Cambridgeshire.

Meanwhile it would appear that Petronella Wyatt is suffering greatly from hit-and-run Lycra louts (8th September 2012). and “Beware the rogue bicycles” (19th February 2012). This CTC Forum link compares the articles – some interesting coincidences.

Personally I believe that just as motorists have a duty of care to vulnerable road users so do cyclists. However some of the blame has to go to the various councils that seem to think that a cycle path can be made by taking a pavement and sticking up shared-use signs. This sends out the message that cycling on pavements is actually ok and certainly better than cycling on roads. Which confuses our poor motorists who think the roads were built for them. In this interview of Ian Walker, he comments on the paucity of research on the psychology surrounding the cyclist as a road user and that as cyclists are neither one thing or the other they become an outgroup.

He also noted that white van drivers tend to pass cyclists more closely than red van drivers – read the interview to see why that might be – it makes sense.

What does this all boil down to, well for me I more and more stick to away from road cycle wherever possible, especially for pleasure cycling.

Which brings me onto my Saturday ride – which despite my own advice to avoid cycling along NCN11  (aka The Halingway) alongside the River Cam at the weekend was exactly what I did. It wasn’t too bad – but it was noticeable slower – even for me a slow rider).

Not long after passing under the A14 I noticed some cyclists on the opposite bank. So I stopped, not to shop them for cycling along a footpath, but rather to remind myself to check it out.  I reckon that country footpaths, without parking near them, tend not to get used  very much, people just aren’t prepared to walk more than a mile or two. The result is more cars parked in odd laybys and a drop off in use of footpaths. The solution make it easier for people to cycle out to them – let’s make less accessible countryside footpaths shared-use – after all if it is good enough for pavements in Cities.

The footpath they were on leads down from Baits Bite Lock, under the A14 and reaches Fen Ditton (Green End).

Cyclist on the other bank of the River Cam, near the A14 bridge

A bit further up I stopped to admire this interesting boat moored in Horningsea – Alie. You can also see how still the river was.

A boat called Alie on the River Cam

pretty soon I reached the end of the cycle-able part of the Halingway and pretty near the dead-end of this part of NCN11. It won’t easily get you to Ely – unless you have planned the route.

There is a pub called The  Bridge at Clayhithe (near to Waterbeach) and a bridge over the River Cam. It must be a good meeting point for landlubbers to catch up with friends on boats – either on holiday or as a way of life. There were a bunch of people on the bridge waving goodbye to this boat heading towards Ely. The pub is on the left behind the Willow.

Waving goodbye from the bridge over the River Cam, Clayhithe

And this is the view down towards Cambridge there is mooring for a few boats here.

The view from the bridge over the River Cam, Clayhithe

As it is many years since my Latin lessons and most of what I was taught didn’t seem to stick I took a picture of this shield attached to the railings of the bridge so I could check it out later. As you might expect is related to Cambridgeshire County Council (which has three) and means “By water and land” – which seems apt for a road bridge over water. (It also appears as “Through waves, through fields”.

By water and Land – crest on the bridge over the River Cam, Clayhithe

And in case you were wondering the bridge is over 70 years old and still going strong, hopefully.

Clayhithe Bridge – erected in 1939

After that I cycled back down the road and just before Horningsea turned off at a layby along a bridleway. This layby can get quite busy with people out spotting nudists in Quy Fen or walking their dogs or both…

Just ahead were two cyclists – showing how it should be done – getting out and about that is.

Cyclists on a bridleway to Quy Fen

You could also see tractors busy ploughing and drilling fields – there were three tractors in this field – and signs of the Lodestar Festival.  Which reminds me, as I cycled home between the Missing Sock and Quy is was stopped by a cyclist and asked the way to the Lodestar Festival. I gave him two choices he too the cycle friendly route through Bottisham and then to Lode rather than along the main road from Quy to Lode. Mind you I could have sent him through Lode and then along the old railway line.

Lodestar Festival and ploughing the fields

My speed was just a little faster than the two cyclists I had spotted earlier. So I tended to catch them up and then stop to take a picture and then catch them up… I hope they don’t think I was a cyclist-stalker. Here they are on The Drove Way.

Now isn’t that so much more pleasant than cycling along a road, or even alongside a busy road. They carried along back through Quy.

Cyclists on The Drove Way – near Quy

I cycled towards Lode along the old track bed – there were kites up in the air at the Lodestar Festival.

Kites over the Fens – near Lode

As i cycled up to White Fen – there were still cars driving up into the Festival (and cyclists). The weather was kind.

Lodestar Festival – near Lode (where else)


After that I ploughed on up through towards Wicken – this time via Upware. There was an oniony smell – the locusts had descended on this field, stripping it bare. Actually probably farm wrokers who perform back-breaking work for not a lot of pay so that we can get our veg delivered as fresh as possible.

Onions (or leeks?) being harvested near Upware

I circled Wicken Fen, with one more stop to take a picture of these round straw bales in a field.

Straw bales awaiting collection – Lodes Way

You just don’t get the solitude and safety on the roads as you do cycling out the in countryside. Whilst the solitude on city roads might be impossible we should be aiming for increasing the safety – and it won’t be by more training of cyclists.

And finally some celebs on bikes – Matthew Broderick and son on a Tandem! Jamie Bell and Evan Rachel not on a Tandem. Finally, finally the power of nature – a typhoon hitting South Korea.

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