Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A little night riding in the frigid air of Cambridge

Wednesday, 16th January 2013: A mid-week ride and despite the cold I really enjoyed it. Because of stuff I have less time to cycle at the moment, or so it seems. So having to go to a dinner at a not quite Cambridge College gave me an excuse to pop out on my bicycle and get in a bit of night photography. I also forgot to add this link to my last post – The Wicken Fen Vision Warden’s post – Winter is here.

Before I rabbit on about that though – the UK Parliamentary Cycling inquiry starts this week and Cyclists in the City gives some interesting food for thought. The Highway Code assumes that some cyclists will be scared on some road features such as roundabouts and that motorists may not easily see you. (Does that mean if I get knocked off on a roundabout that the motorist has a defence?) As the Post suggests this is an acknowledgement in the Highway Code that roads are scary places along with the implication  that it is the status quo.  I guess the issue is that the Highway Code is just that a code, which sometimes creates implications for the law.

One thing that I have noticed this winter (and notice every winter) is that quite a few of the cycle paths are yet to be cleared. Unfortunately I have been driving more than cycling (with a car full) and as as cyclist first and motorist second I look out for cyclists. We talk about how effective lights are and where cyclists should cycle when on the road. The drivers in my family do like to point out red-light jumping cyclists (almost blaming me for it) so I point out the red light jumping drivers – it is not hard there are loads of motorists who go through the lights at red and very late amber. Isn’t that strange?  Cyclists are invisible and come out of nowhere, except they become hyper-visible jumping a red light.

The other thing is that there are also more pedestrians forced into the road as the paths are so dangerous. (My mother won’t go out until the snow and ice clears where she lives. I think her biggest fear isn’t so much breaking something as being hospitalised. She was not terribly impressed by the standard of nursing she saw when my father was in hospital.)

I am lucky enough (or foolish enough) to have a car, although I really do prefer cycling, However there are some cyclists who have to cycle otherwise they wouldn’t get to work – spare a thought for them as they struggle along paths that highlight their second-class citizenship – as defined by by the Great Gods of Gritting. Also remember Highway Code Rule 163, If you don’t remember it look it up – it will help you remember it more than if I link to it.

This cyclist has had the misfortune of having had a fall this winter – I rather like the idea of using zip-ties to increase the traction of bicycle tyres in the snow! It would be interesting to know how many winter cyclists have unexpectedly fallen from their bikes because of black ice. It happened to me last winter, one minute I was cycling the next minute I was rolling on the ground. Now Cambridge is probably better than some areas we have two quad bikes that are used and the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway has a multihog. Reports suggest that the buses are running on time and that the cycle track has now been cleared of snow. It can be done with the right planning. Perhaps cyclists are in a minority – but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored (or demonised as an easy target).

The other thing I have noticed in my motorised travels is that there are loads of motorists with x-ray vision, they can see through snow – well judging from the state of their cars that can. Motorists this is an offense, IMHO far more serious than a cyclist jumping a red light. Cambridge Cyclist has a rather nice picture on one such driver.

There seems to have been a lot of hoo-hah about school closures recently.  One view is that we have become too risk averse and it is setting a bad example for kids. You often hear the “in my day” we trudged over field and pond (covered with ice) in the face of a raging gale to get to school…  Well yes, I did. However things were a little different then. The main difference is that both kids and teachers tended to live closer to the schools. There was also better provision to get kids to school en-masse. Society has also become more risk averse. Also when I finally did get to school we didn’t really do that much – I seem to remember that the first thing was that we got a hot mug of drinking chocolate. We also used to spend out playtimes making slides out of the ice- great fun, only the occasional bone was broken

 Winking smile

Mind you with all the reported delays the roads were dangerous – why make them more dangerous – kids can miss a day or two of school.

The schools snow-closures reflect changes in  society as much as anything. In my day there was more of an extended family capable of looking after kids whilst parents worked. With the nuclear family with two working parents  and increasingly the charged family (a poor joke about single-parent families – I did Physics remember – we can’t tell jokes) the issue of child-care becomes much more difficult.

You want kids to get to school in bad weather – shorten the routes and make them routes more reliable.

I can’t end without some reference to the Police and Crime Commissioner of Cambridge – the Cottenham Cyclist (CC) has posed a question (by email) to the PCC suggesting that the Police should target issues that have serious implications. The response does have the whiff of a politician about it – avoids answering the question, justifies his actions on the basis of the perceptions of the electorate (rather than the data (collected by the Police). I guess that is what you get from a political process. The CC also refers to press release put out by Sir Graham (PCC) “You can’t cherry pick the law”. It references the 2011 Joint Road Casualty Report Data for Cambridge. He is right – we can’t cherry pick the law – although  those in power can cherry-pick whether and how they choose to enforce it.

The law is that if you drive at more than the published limit then you have committed an offence, you’d have to look long and hard to find any driver who wouldn’t feel aggrieved for say getting caught speeding at say 32mph in a 30mph zone. It is speeding though. There are enough communities worried about both the safety and social implications to mount Speedwatch operations. In the last link you  will see that Sir Graham visited on at Ramsey Heights. Here are some results for the Cambridgeshire activity run by the police.

The data for Maid’s Causeway suggests that on the 2nd May 2012 nearly 30% (10,060) exceeded the limit eastbound and just over 40% (16,009) westbound. Where the limit is not the legal limit but following the ACPO guidelines – (10% + 2) – 24mph. Are the ACPO cherry-picking?

Now speeding vehicles aren’t just a danger, they also blight residential areas and  intimidate the vulnerable – so we end up with fewer pedestrians, old people, cyclists families with kids on those streets. I am not arguing for a bunch of fines to be handed round as a cash-cow. What should happen is we encourage a change in behaviour – I reckon that transgressors should have GPS trackers (as used by some Insurance companies) that report on the drivers behaviour and they get it regularly reviewed. Failure requires review and training. I believe that getting around should be a right – but being able to drive around is a privilege.

Apparently four out of five young drivers can’t read a map – so they will be well used to SatNavs in any case?

If you want to see the PCC he holds surgeries – one is coming up on the 24th January (tomorrow). It is in Cambourne so not that easy to get to, unless you have a car.

A frosty spiders web on the rear rack of my bike – nature’s way of telling me I ought to ride more. Now I set out in the evening – it was lovely – I was wearing (fairly) smart clothes as I had to sing for my supper – although not literally. I did layer up a bit and took a scarf and hat as well. From the Cambridge DTG website you can see that at around 18:30 it was –4oC and when I returned around 22:30 it was –5.2oC. Fortunately there was no wind. As a reminder even when roads are gritted there are limits (physical) on the melting effect of the grit. According to this website it will work down to about –8oC – so below that it will be icy.

Also spare a thought for those who “live on the street” – it is easy to blame then – but we as a society allow it to happen. There is a quote at the bottom from Councillor Smart (Executive councillor for housing) that:

“However, we now understand that the solution to rough sleeping can never be just building more and bigger hostels. Indeed, there is some evidence that hostels and other services may actually attract rough sleepers to a place.”

So take that to its logical conclusion, by not proving any provision then some other council gets the responsibility. Care in someone else’s community – or passing the buck. (This is what happens in Las Vegas – living in the storm drains.

A frosty spider web on the rear rack of my bike – nature’s way of telling me I ought to ride more. (That was in the morning).

Spider's Web on my rear cycle rack

It was a very still night but since I was providing the engine it to keep me moving it kept me warm enough. For the layers I was wearing – yellow waterproof jacket, jumper and thick shirt along with corduroy trousers and moderate waterproof gloves I was fine for anything up to an hour. When cycling further I tend to add a layer or two and use thicker gloves along with inner gloves. It was pretty misty and unlike the sticks the lights around here are still orange – I don’t know whether this is because they haven’t gotten around to replacing them or what. This is the view from Jesus Lock Bridge. There were still cyclists around.

The River Cam from Jesus Lock Bridge

On my way back I also took pictures – it did feel colder so I left my gloves on to take pictures which made me even more ham-fisted than I usually am. The is the view looking east under Victoria Bridge.

I left my cycle lights on – which is why the post to the right of the picture seems to stand out – it was much closer. I was hoping my white light would show up in the mist a bit more as well.

The River Cam under Victoria Bridge

And finally the Riverside Bridge – this got more picture take because it had multi-coloured lighting. It was still pretty misty.  I was glad to be wearing a hat. I didn’t need to wrap the scarf around my face though. There isn’t much wind chill at the somewhat cautious speed I was going at. I wasn’t quite sure how treacherous the route was going to be.

Riverside Bridge – River Cam

The bridge has two routes – one for cyclists and one for pedestrians. Here in the UK I find that even where there are segregated cycling and walking areas most pedestrians don’t seem to take any notice. The presumption on shared use paths is to give way to pedestrians and most pedestrians use that presumption when walking along cycle paths.

Riverside Bridge – River Cam

AI took pictures from both side – you might have noticed. You could also hear the gentle throb of generators and smell wood smoke in the air.

Riverside Bridge – River Cam

And finally a bit about Lance Armstrong – first an interesting library sign concerning his books. It seems that whilst those particular librarians had a sense of humour that chap from Manly Council who was quoted had a bit of a sense of humour failure. Apparently there might be a film about the “Cycle of Lies”.

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