Monday, January 21, 2013

A Snow Day in the Fens (Reach Lode Bridge)

Monday, 14th January 2013: In one feel swoop I am catching up on my Posts – Post-time is now only about a week behind real-time.

There has been a bit of argy-bargy about whether 20mph speed limits will be enforced reported in the press. I have been critical of the PCC’s focus on “dangerous cyclists” since the real danger to vulnerable road users is motor vehicles. However I am pleased to see that he is willing to support the 20mph speed limits and has already raised it with the Cambridgeshire Chief Constable. (He also appears here saying speeds over 20mph in Cambridge city are unsafe and here talking about the use of his speed limiter in his car to help him keep to the relevant speed limits. That is a very good point and I personally would like to see more use of electronics in cars to improve driving rather than mitigate the effects of accidents. Anti-lock brakes help you once you have gotten into trouble, whereas speed limiting would help stop you getting into trouble.

The other factor that loads of motorists moan about when discussing speed limits is that they don’t need to drive any more slowly to  be safe – well whilst I would disagree, certainly where some drivers are concerned, it isn’t just about safety. We ought to be improving the streets for the people who live in them and want to be able to go about without cars. Unpleasant roads stop kids getting out and about - which contributes (IMHO) to obesity. (Fenland’s shocking record of obesity in 11-year olds.)

I would also point out that speed bumps might somewhat reduce the overall speed along a road – but they can increase the conflict between different road users. I cycled to the railway station last week along Cornwall Road cars would speed up to the speed cushions as they are quaintly called then swerve to straddle them – oblivious to the cyclists alongside them, well so it seemed to me.

It would appear that the DfT is changing the guidance to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles on roads. About time – as the appalling number of cyclist deaths  on the roads last year. (The Times – 122 a five year high, with five already in 2013.)

The trouble is that to build better places to live the roads are but one part of the equation. In my mind better means – not just safer for walking and cycling, but attractive and encouraging. This means not just reducing the dominance of the motor vehicle but increasing the dominance of cyclists and pedestrians. There is talk of massive home-building planning here in Cambridge. If only they were also better places to live. the dominance of motor vehicles will take time to shake off though – it is endemic in our thinking and even with the new railway station being planned in North Cambridge whilst it is good that there will be 1,000 bike parking spaces there will also be 450 car bays – why that many?

Here is a picture showing that one car parking space can provide eight cycle spaces. Which implies that even with space for that number of cycles there will be almost 4 times as much space devoted to cars as bicycles – shocking in a cycle city.

So when these were taken it was the first snow of the year. We tend not to get that much snow – the elevation of the Fens is around sea-level – which of course is why it needs draining.

We do get a fair few accidents reported though – because we don’t get much practise are driving on snow and ice I guess. When I was a young driver (and lived in the Mendips) we used to get a reasonable amount of snow higher up and we would sometimes go and find either an empty car park or a snow covered country road and practise our skidding car control. That was in the days before there was anti-lock braking. Our cars were old and one friend was a little hesitant. We were all sitting in the his car and he would barely build up ant speed before braking – the resultant skid was pathetic. So we encouraged him to go faster – he did, applied the brakes, then bottled out lifted his foot of the brakes and the front wheels stopping skidding and started steering again. Unfortunately he had turned the steering wheel and we bounced over the verge into a hedge – nothing was hurt except his pride.

I rather like cycling on snow – as along as I don’t fall off – but this time around my daughter came along with me – so we went in the car into the Fens. We joined the Lodes Way along Headlake Drove/Split Drove and I took some pictures near Reach Lode Bridge. It was flippin’ cold, which might have been because I was wearing shorts.

It was good fun, driving on snow is not too bad as long as you keep you speed under control and don’t make any sudden movements. Also being a Land Rover my car has “special programs” which makes it even easier to drive on bumpy roads covered with snow.

Lodes Way – Portrait Bench – in the snow

It was still snowing when we walked up to the bridge.

Lodes Way – Portrait Bench – in the snow

This is Reach Lode – the interesting thing about snow is it tend to dampen the sound and reduce the colours you see. I suppose the last one is obvious. I like the way the water looks greener amongst the snow.

Reach Lode in the snow

The is the view of Lodes Way from the top of the bridge – looking back towards Split Drove. Our footprints were the only sign of civilisation, along with my car just down and to the right.

Reach Lode Bridge – Lodes Way in the Snow

The snow had coated everything – gates always look picturesque on the snow, well that’s what I reckon.

The Path alongside Reach Lode, seen from Lodes Way

And the same scene, but with less zoom.

The Path alongside Reach Lode, seen from Lodes Way

It really was cold, maybe shorts weren’t such a good idea. The good thing about these roads is that there wasn’t much traffic around as we headed home.

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