Thursday, January 24, 2013

I am a cyclist but I also cycle

Thursday, 17th January 2013: I had meetings in London and what with getting home quite late and then getting up to catch an early train into London I was in two minds about whether to drive or cycle to the station. Common sense prevailed and I cycled, what tipped the issue was that I would be able to use Station Cycles to look after my bike as I was due back mid-afternoon.

It is funny, I am keen on cycling, albeit a lot more slowly than in the days of my youth. Distance doesn’t phase me, it is still easy for the balance to tip from cycling to driving if I am not careful. In the case of Cambridge Railway Station cycle parking there is pretty awful, and my heart sinks when I think about having to find a space. I have to add time onto my journey to scour the various parking locations. There is talk of a new 3,000 space cycle park for the station, I will believe it when I see it. It has had its ups and downs although. So far the building has reached the virtual stage – here is the video.

The trouble is I reckon the powers that be (and some motorists) tend to view bicycles as poor-mans’ cars.  You often see the twaddle about “road tax” and how cyclists should pay it. Oblivious to the fact it doesn’t exist and given bicycles are zero-emission cyclists wouldn’t pay it under the current system anyway.

So what happens is that nothing has been done about the cycle parking at Cambridge Railway Station for a long time. You hear/read that:

Apparently it is all students (school and university and language) – so they don’t matter. Also 95% of the bikes there have been abandoned anyway and should be chucked away and then there would be plenty of space. Anyway all cyclists jump red lights and until they start behaving properly they should be treat like naughty children….

The trouble is it ignores the bigger issues of congestion, and that bicycles are much less dangerous to the other road users and less polluting and quieter and take up much less space and provide healthy exercise for their riders and less damaging for the economy (they don’t burn imported money fuel) and… and…

Things are changing, due in no small part to the Cambridge Cycle Campaign. What isn’t taken into account, or doesn't seem to be anyway, is that by having a decent rail service and a nice place to live then it imports wealth into the region. People live in Cambridgeshire and get paid in London and spend it back here. In the overall scheme of things that might not be questionable since it creates demand for limited housing stock and puts the price of houses up

For the record I am not a student I have lived in the area for nearly thirty years doing my bit for the local economy. I want money spent on better cycling provision not for my car – it is socially and economically better that way around.

Whilst, for a long time cyclists have had third-rate parking facilities with people complaining about bikes being abandoned we take for granted that we should be allowed to clog up our streets (and pavements)  with car/van parking. Check out this link from cyclestreets – cars parked without moving for weeks.

The trouble is land gets devoted to housing because we need housing, the government has said so. Those that own the land, not unreasonably want to get the best price for the land, so then the developers need to cram as much housing as they can. The result can be places that aren’t really very nice to live. Any spare space is taken up by the “necessary” cars. So what then has happened is that planning laws require added rules about “affordable” housing and slush money S106 money – this is from Wikipedia:

It relates to monies paid by developers to Local Planning Authorities in order to offset the costs of the external effects of development. For example, if a developer were to build 100 new houses, there would be effects on local schools, roads etc., which the Local Authority would have to deal with. In that situation, there might be a Section 106 agreement as part of the granting of planning permission. The developer might agree to make a contribution towards the provision of new schools or traffic calming on local roads.

The trouble is it ends up as a negotiation and it would appear that in the case of Northstowe there might be a shortfall with the S106 money being £40 million instead of £65 million.  I wonder what infrastructure will get the chop.

It always amazes me how difficult it is to get to Bar Hill, except by car, the place is a road-locked Island I reckon. There is a cycle route to Dry Drayton, which is not too useful if you want to head towards Cambridge (the Science park for instance). The same is true for those wanting to head to/from places like Royston down the A10 corridor. So much so that a Councillor (Susan van der Cen) is campaigning for improvements for cyclists along that stretch.

There is a Blog written by  a Cambridgeshire Traffic Officer – he cites the “fatal four” traffic offences as: excess alcohol, speeding, mobiles phones and seat belts. Apparently in the last 9 months of 2012 here in the Cambs areas there were 1,971 seat belt offences, 807 arrests for drink-drive related offences, 1,978 mobile phone offences and over 27,000 speed offences. Well let me remind all those drivers who complain about cyclists not being law-abiding – the speed limit is the law. Although there is some leeway offered by ACPO on how much you can exceed the limit before getting fined (speeds limit + 10% plus 2 – although this might change at any time so don’t rely on it).

I almost never take the shortest route to the Railway Station – partly to avoid motor traffic and partly because I like it. This ride was no exception and my route took me through Coldham’s Common.  At around 8am it was –8oC, I wore moderate gloves, corduroy trousers, normal shoes, thick, but normal shirt, a thin jumper, a jacket, hat and scarf. (By jacket I mean a business jacket, not a coat.) My point you ask – well normal cycling isn’t about Lycra or special high-vis tailored cycling wear. If I go to London for meetings I don’t carry spare clothes and stop off on the way for a shower.

I am a cyclist – but I also cycle as a means of transport – end of. So it was interesting to read – “Cyclists, you have an image problem” (which I found from Magnatom’s blog). Well I am not sure that cyclists have ever set out to cultivate an image as such. However I do reckon that the goal to be to encourage more people to use bicycles to get around. Some of them might turn into cyclists and do the stuff that cyclists do – race or tour or wear Lycra. However I reckon the issue is that cycling should be safe and perceived as safe without the need for cyclist gear. The challenge is that the bar has been raised in terms of how people want to be safe when cycling – more segregation and more visible priority over motor vehicles.

The thing is try cycling around Cambridge – not a lot of Lycra about – people are cycling to get from A to B. Switch to the Guided Busway and you will see more Lycra and gear.  I do think it prudent to have cycle lights in the dark whether you are a cyclist or just cycling.

A Frigid Coldham’s Common

Life is about compromise – especially when it comes to cycling facilities it seems to me. There is barely enough passing room, let alone space for cyclists and pedestrian and dog walkers. I suppose I ought to be grateful it has some lampposts. There are some cracks opening up as well. The other thing I noticed was that it didn’t seem to have any black ice.

Coldham’s Common – shared-use path

I also cycled over the Carter Bridge, where a car driver unwittingly attempted to drive over it. I noticed that the ramp at one end was looking dodgy when I returned there were cones as a gap had opened up.

This time I cycled up to Station Cycles – walked in with my bike, handed it over and £1.50 and walked out again. No crappy parking. Mind you there were spaces to be seen – which is unusual. Normally the only spaces are where the two space stands have only 3 and not 4 bikes locked up.

I am not sure quite how many bicycles have been stolen from the station recently. I have had one stolen from the Station a few years ago. However given the way the bikes all get banged around you wouldn’t really want to bring anything other than an old clunker here.

Cycle Parking Cambridge Railway Station

It must be the cold weather putting off people cycling – or more likely not everyone has returned to work or college?

Cycle Parking Cambridge Railway Station

And finally. I look at other photographers’ work for inspiration – check out these firework pictures – rather neat I reckon – I must give it a try next November. Here is a wonderful Hockney-esque picture of snow on trees.

And definitely finally – Lance Armstrong sued for fraud after two men claim they were ‘betrayed’ by his best-selling memoirs after he confessed to cheating. I reckon there are quite a few others, ahead of them who might claim to have suffered rather more than that.


  1. "Things are changing, due in no small part to the Cambridge Cycle Campaign."

    Is this a case of the good Adam contemplating his own virtue, I wonder? What have they done?

    1. I am a member - but take no part in the activities (shamefully). I reckon they had done some good stuff and put in a lot of effort. The results speak for themselves.

    2. The results speak for themselves only if you know what the results are. What have they done? How are things changing?

    3. Nothing you can put your finger on?