Friday, January 4, 2013

20 is plenty–Mr PCC

Saturday, 15th December 2012: I forgot to mention that I did go out for a ride before heading off to the Anglesey Abbey Winter Lights Festival.

Although before I mention the ride – perhaps this is what the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner should be concerning himself with – “Police hunt hit-and-run driver after pedestrian, 31, seriously injured in Wisbech crash”. This is just one example, but the evidence is there – the main risk to pedestrians comes from motor vehicles. So if we want to be safe there has to be a focus on making the motorists drive more safely.

I agree that cyclists should not break the law – however over the years I have only had a small number of knocks with other cyclists, none caused me to fall off or injure myself. The same is not true for accidents caused by poor roads and motor vehicles. I have been a KSI statistic – although fortunately it was a straightforward broken collar bone when a car SMISYd me. Mind you there is a view amongst some cyclists that perhaps we ought to get our cycling house in order  otherwise we will always be classed as the “silent menace”.

To be fair the Police appear to have been targeting drink-drivers over Christmas and more than 100 were arrested for drink-driving over Christmas in Cambridgeshire. (They increased the number checked and there was still a decrease in those arrested.)

According to a survey for Brake and insurers Direct Line “professional drivers” are the worst txt offenders.  They article also reports that more than three quarters of “professional drivers”  speed at over 35mph in built up areas.  A reminder on the Government advice

“You must not drive faster than the speed limit for the type of road and your type of vehicle. The speed limit is the absolute maximum and it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive at this speed in all conditions”

The speed at which a vehicle is driven increases the probability of a collision and then in the event of a collision  the potential for a serious or fatal injury to a pedestrian increases with speed, particularly at speeds over 30.

So why is it so difficult to get an acceptance of 20mph speed limits and to get the Police to, well, police them? Mind you apparently one third of councils have or plan to introduce restrictions. Some see this as a “cultural shift”  in that it signals a reversal in the decades of policy which prioritised motor vehicles over the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. I think that is perhaps too optimistic a view.

Although the latter article in the Independent did suggest that more than 60% support a blanket 20mph limit in built-up areas, with support particularly strong among women, younger people and pensioners. (Those that drive less?) Mind you the same newspaper follows up with another article “Drivers predicted to lash out at 20mph slowdown zones” with a quote from a former traffic policeman and spokesperson of the Alliance of British Drivers suggesting “20mph zones will be counter productive and create more accidents”. Although no evidence for this view was published!

Here in Cambridge we have a significant student body with two Universities, language schools, crammers, public schools and state schools. I feel that this is used to marginalise cycling. My cynical view is that Politicians tend to focus on voters needs not those of the ephemeral students.  Mind you  the push to get more students cycling to schools has resulted in a some mediocre cycleways. Why do I call them mediocre – well of a few that that spring to mind – Babraham – Sawston, Horningsea – Fen Ditton, Swaffham Bulbeck – Bottisham and Milton to Impington none of them are segregated. The make extensive use of shared-use paths. They are getting better – but shared-use is hardly best practice.

It is perhaps not as bad as in Richmond if this article is anything to go by. A bunch of school kids are improving their bikes skills at a Bike Club – but not one cycles to school “it is not safe”

Another piece that caught my eye was by the CTC that indicates that the number of driving licence holders n Britain has fallen for the first time in decades. Driving is no longer a fun, aspirational activity but rather a boring, tiring, costly, polluting thing to do. It might also get more costly with Road pricing (possible for the A14 upgrade) and parking costs.  As a car owner, personally I don’t feel that car parking should be subsidised – here in Cambridge I prefer to use the Park and Ride or cycle. The strange thing is the Councils are criticised for increasing parking costs whilst at the same time the Government is supporting the increase in rail fares – although not all MPs support it.

Part of the argument is that the “High Street” will suffer if shoppers can’t drive – well the world is changing with on-line shopping, high-price real estate in city centres – perhaps the provision of car parking should be part of the cost of having a High Street shop. Out of town shopping centres presumably have to bear the cost.

My ride

This was another grey day on Lodes Way.

Gloves lost on White Fen Droveway

Drain repairs – in this case it looks as if the vegetation along the sides of the drain was being cut – sensible since the vegetation can impede the water flow – not something you want when it gets wet.

Commissioners’ Drain – clearing vegetation

Freshly Ploughed field – too wet for drilling or has it been drilled?

A little further along near Split Drove – looking back along Commissioners’ Drain.

Commissioners’ Drain

Another tractor cutting the vegetation back a  little further along the drain.

Commissioners’ Drain

the ground works for the planned but unfunded Lodes Way bridge over Burwell Lode were quiet – this side of the Lode. The ground was pretty muddy.

Burwell Bridge ground works

One of the nice things about the ride – it was not windy – as you can see from the surface of the lode.

Burwell Lode

There was a welcome sight on the other side of the foot bridge – the old muddy path is being replaced by a new path – I avoided walking on it whilst they were still rolling it.

New path between Priory Drove and Burwell Lode Footbridge

this time around I took a Wicken Fen circle route – out along the Maltings Path and back by the main entrance.

Monk’s Lode, Wicken

I headed back via Burwell and NCN51, for a change.  There was a great beet clamp on Factory Road.

Beet Clamp – near Burwell

And finally – some amazing “rooftopper photography”, “bicycle taxidermy”, “bike-eating trees” and for a change some pictures of North Korea.  I used to visit South Korea for business and so got interested in the history.

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