Thursday, October 4, 2012

A little trip or two on the bike

Monday, 10th September 2012: So in my last Post I had a little moan about motoring costs. Now don’t get me wrong – I am not asking for sympathy.  I believe that we motorists should and must pay for the full costs of our folly.  Those costs are more than just the costs of roads and policing, they include the costs of the accidents, the pollution and the nuisance. 

There are other costs that are incurred but perhaps hidden. As we all get fatter and fatter, there are health consequences. As we get stressed and angry because of the congestion we flood our bodies with adrenalin, for fight or flight.Amongst other things this gets fats and sugars into the blood to provide the energy to respond.  The trouble is we just sit there – so all that energy does bad things to us.

As I said there are consequences.  If you are a cyclist, have you noticed when you have close encounter with a motorist that you tend to cycle faster – that’s the fight or flight effect, doing what it should and the exertion uses up the nutrients. I also cycle faster when listening to heavy metal – I am not sure how that works though.

The trouble is many of the problems are cumulative, whilst the advantages are immediate. Cars are faster, drier, more comfortable, capable of carrying loads of stuff, several people and so on.  Mind you we rarely enjoy all of these advantages. It doesn’t rain that often, we rarely carry loads of stuff, we often drive on our own, we get stuck in traffic jams and spend ages looking for a place to park.

It seems to me that the issue is that we humans are not programmed to go and waste our hard-earned energy – our programming dates back to times when food was scarce and so when faced with the choice of driving or cycling we are inclined to take the lazy option. There I’ve said it – drivers don’t like cyclists because it reminds them of their laziness.

I cycle quite a lot, I know it always feels good but I also know that if the car parking at Cambridge Railway Station was more available then I would find it very hard not to drive to the station. I am just as lazy, but I have worked out strategies to help me overcome the urge not to cycle. It probably sounds a little crazy, but there you are. My trip to The Deepings was really enjoyable – exploring pastures new is just on of my strategies.

Funnily enough one of the other excuses I have to cycle is when I need to take my car in for its service and MOT. I must admit I was a little worried that it would let me down over the weekend – driving up and back from Scotland – I’ve certainly lost some faith in the car’s reliability that’s for sure. The trouble is I couldn’t easily fit in the service before going away. So I was feeling pretty good as I loaded my bike into the back of the car – the car had been fine over the 1,000 odd miles I’d driven over the weekend and I had an excuse to cycle – most welcome after sitting in a car for what seemed like an eternity.

So when my wife offered to pick me up it was easy to say no – I was going to take my bicycle along. It was so pleasant that I think I smiled as my made my way (the long way) home and didn’t even stop to take pictures.

I did get an update that there was some routine stuff to do on my car -  like front tyres that were getting near to the limit. Now I could have left them – but Disco’s aren’t well known for their short-stopping distance I prefer to be safe not sorry. So all-in-all it was a pretty large bill when I did pick it up.

However the euphoria of the early morning cycle ride was still with me when it was time to pick my car up and so I once again declined a lift from my wife. Even with some rain around. (If you follow this Cambridge DTG link there was rain around 5pm) I think I was perhaps a little stupid rather than euphoric though as I didn’t think about taking a rain jacket with me.

So I did take a slightly roundabout route – but I didn’t hang around to take pictures until I was practically at the garage. This is the shared-used obstacle course cycle path along Newmarket road after passing the Shell Garage opposite the airport.

As you can see the Cambridge street lighting has redundancy built-in – if one light fails well there is another right next door. It turns out that there is a five year plan to replace or upgrade every one of Cambridgeshire’s street lights.  It is being undertaken as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which seems to be a combination of bringing private companies in to do stuff more efficiently for the public and a way of pretending that this is nor part of the UK’s balance sheet of public liabilities.

It is being sold as a more efficient lighting scheme that will shed even more light on our pavements, when we want it. It will apparently save 8.5 million kilowatts of electricity per year and reduce the county’s carbon emissions by more than 4,500 tonnes per year. The websites don’t seem to be so upfront about the cost-benefit analysis though.

My personal view is it is a way of digging the County out of the hole of failing to reduce carbon emissions, which they had difficulties adding up.  The lights are brighter and in some cases taller than the ones they are replacing. In some villages they also seem to be further apart. So inevitably there are concerns about the lights being so bright they disturb wildlife and because the lights are taller and further apart they are failing to illuminate the pavements where there are trees along the road.

When the work is undertaken they seem to have broken it down into tasks, first a group come by and leave behind sets of barriers. Later holes get dug, then new lights gat put up and then the old ones are taken away.

This part of Newmarket Road is at the stage of there being two street lights and fences and holes and in some places pavement detours.

New Street Lights on Newmarket Road, Cambridge

This is what the road looks like a little bit further up – the street lights are sometimes set back on the pavement and sometimes between the pavement and the road – depending upon where the verge and any bits of grass are.  All down this stretch there are detours – which seem to  have been built a bit as a fait accompli. As you can see in places the barriers have fallen over and  there are ramps to cycle over.

The goal seems to be replace the street lights – all other considerations take second place. Maybe that is how you get things done?

Shared-used obstacle course – Newmarket Road Cambridge

I only got a few drips of rain on me and the car was nice and clean and there was nothing wrong with it so it passed its MOT – which it bl**dy well ought to with such a low mileage. Ho hum, it is my own fault for owning it. It also got a nice clean as well. I might not have cycled for miles but I did get a couple of rides.

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