Thursday, March 7, 2013

A visit to Bath–by car :-(

Friday, 1st March 2013: I used to enjoy driving, I would pop out for a drive sometimes just for the fun of it. When the kids were babies it was a good way of getting them to sleep.  I no longer get that same sense of fun and I am not sure why – it has just happened.

There are various possible reasons, I am getting older, driving is getting more expensive, the roads are too congested, you can look around when driving, been there done that… 

I have mentioned that I was preparing for a meeting in Bath the day before,when I, or rather my computer was bitten by a power glitch. Now I had to be in Bath by 8.45am and my first choice was to go by train.  A quick check and National Rail Enquiries showed me leaving Cambridge Station at 5.45, getting to London by 6:38 crossing town (50minutes)  and catching the 7:30 train from Paddington to arrive at bath Spa by 8:55am, a total journey time not including to/from the stations at either end of 3 hours and10 minutes.  Ten minutes late, although perhaps I could get across from Kings Cross to Paddington in less than 20 minutes (by bicycle for instance) and catch a train 30minutes earlier from Paddington to Bath.

Unfortunately Cyclestreets showed the journey as 23 minutes (fast) and 25 (quiet). Even with SatNav it would not be possible, and that’s without taking into account the possibilities of delays getting into Kings Cross and the need to be on the Paddington train a few minutes early.

That meant Plan B – drive.  Now that showed the door to door time of 3 hours and 8 minutes via the M25. The route via Oxford showed as 3 hours and 24 minutes. I chose the Oxford route, both because it was more scenic and because I reckon it is less prone to congestion. I also used the web to plan my parking strategy. I was going to be using a Public car park and in the end plumped for the Lansdown Road park and Ride, It cost £3 versus £12 for a car park in town, although I didn’t know that at the time. The buses ran every 15 minutes and took 15 minutes to get into the centre.

The reason I chose it, well the timings suited and it allowed me to have a short stroll in the centre of Bath. In the end, without speeding I left home at 5:10am and arrived in time to catch the 8:00am bus from Lansdown into Bath. At that time in the morning I found the Oxford route to be free-flowing. The speed limits are lower than the motorway route along the way, but that was no hassle and it was somewhat more scenic.

The downside is that it was more expensive, all things considered, but it got me there in plenty of time. I also reckon that the Oxford route was probably less prone to silly driver behaviour. The M25 seems to attract drivers who think it is compulsory to tail-gate the car in front, whatever speed they are driving at. Lets hope they don’t meet the “Punisher” driving his bus in Russia.

The trouble is the UK’s transport system seems to centre around London – well here in the South and East. Mind you given the current economy things will have to change. Apparently “Hard-up households now spend more than a QUARTER of their weekly budget on running a car”. The trouble is as a country we rely on external sources for our fuel and whilst we might be able to tweak the pricing, what is going to cause it to come down in price – nothing.  There are cries to cut (or freeze) fuel duty, but how will the roads and (all the knock-on effects – accidents, pollution etc) be paid for. I think we are seeing an inevitable long-term increase. We moan about the cost of insurance, but as our cars get more complex then the cost of repair will inevitably increase.  Again there might be some reductions in insurance to be had by cracking down on whiplash injuries (up to £118 per year).

However the roads have gotten more dangerous for vulnerable users, so there will be pressure to continue to put more electronics into cars. Like this Volvo that scans for cyclists and pedestrians – and slams on the brakes when a cyclist swerves into the path of the car.  My experience (anecdotal) of driving a car, motorbike and cycling is that its the cars wot do the serving.

Mind you I do think times they are a-changing, well with regard to the priority that cars have in the transport system and the economy. Apparently crims might have to have their cars sold to pay for their legal aid. It would also seem that “Pay as you drive is also getting more airtime”.

Even more excitingly is the news that “London to get network of bike routes as part of £913m plan for safer cycling”.  Maybe there is change afoot, even more interesting it would appear that these changes are due in part to the actions of London Bloggers.  Well done. As a cynic, I think that there is a lot more progress to be made, but that is not to bliettle the efforts

Meanwhile lets hope that we get some real change out in the sticks as well. I don’t think that our Councillors are as adventurous as Boris. There is still the old-fashioned view that cars are more important as a means of transport than cyclists in Cambridge – well that seems to be the situation with the Hill’s Road junction re-vamp. Whilst Cambridge might enjoy high levels of cycling – that just makes it all the harder to get more people out cycling.

We still enjoy old-fashioned motorists, who don’t seem to have caught up with the current law – “Tweets from Cambs Police – 302 vehicles checked, 49 going over limit and Seat-belt campaign for the month.”

One of the things you notice, well I notice when using my car as a means of transport is that it is easy to get caught out by the weather. I tend not to take a coat when I am in the car as it is just something to forget. It was quite cool waiting for the bus up at the Park and Ride, which arrived on time and got into Bath early. As I walked down Milsom Streeet taking pictures my hands got quite cold.

My first impressions were how sporadic the provision for cycle parking was and woe betide you if you walk out into the “road”/. I crossed the road between the pavements and a car didn’t slow down a jot and passed by with 10cm to spare. If you check out the OSM map here,  you’ll see that  Bath has quite a few pubs and a hodge-podge of pedestrian areas.

I wonder how that cycle rack got bent?

Milsom Street – part-pavement, part-road

Every now and then there were a couple of racks, I wonder what cycle theft is like.  That post has a town centre map on. Here is the Visit bath map link – it makes a big deal of all the car parking! A quick Google search throws up this awful case of a cyclist being caught by a clothes line across the Bristol & Bike path and having his bike stolen. Another old piece of news is about an organised gang stealing bike in Bath. Here is a more recent one, with a thief caught on Camera riding off on a bike in January of this year.  The picture is pretty awful, it amazes me that they seem to use such crappy technology.

New Bond Street – Bath – sporadic cycle racks

Oddly on the OSM map the pedestrian bits, which were once roads I seem to remember don’t have names. They do on the Google map though, this is Union Street I think.

Union Street – Bath

Bath is famous for its architecture – this is Bath Street, Bath, hey if you like a name use it until it wears out. The Roman Baths were behind me as I took the picture.

Bath Street – Bath Georgian Architecture

Bath Street – another view – with a Georgian trash can. I should have move a little and then the person in the previous would have been framed between two columns.

Bath Street, Bath

That’s more like it – a more serious amount of cycle parking. That’s a rather nice fruit stall as well.

Cycle Parking – Bath City Centre

As the pedestrian walk reaches St James’s Parade some more cycle parking. There is also an example of Cycle Advertising – the Bike Workshop. Now Google shows it as St James’s Parade and using Streetview confirms it.

Cycle Parking – Bath, off St James’s Parade

There were two partial bikes in that small patch of cycle parking. Some rather targeted thievery here. To me this looks like it would be a dodgy place to leave my bike for any length of time. Now from a civic point of view they probable blame the cycle owners for leaving the bikes, I think the issue is that it ain’t that safe.

Cycle Parking – Bath, off St James’s Parade

It surprised me how few people there were around, Bath must be a late starting sort of place. In hindsight I should have stood back a little so that the Cycling Prohibited sign appeared in shot as well. No matter how long I have been taking pictures I forget to look at the whole scene and just “focus” on what I was wanting to see – in this case the benches and lamp posts.

Bath City Centre – lots of benches

The return journey in the evening was fine as well. I just had to waste the time driving!

Whilst checking out stuff I came across this Transport for London  link on Cycling Revolution London, they want to increase cycling by 400% by 2026 from 2001 levels. Kind of weird numbers – they tell me nothing – but sound good – but not really. Here is Sustrans “The Real Cycling Revolution” (pdf). They reckon there was an 18% increase in cycling on the National Cycling network, with 1.3m trips every day. The TfL link seems a bit odd – the links on the page don’t work!

Actually there is an awful lot of babble – here is a DfT Pedestrian and Townscape Research Report – it looked interesting until I read it (will a small bit) – we pay for that!

The interesting thing is that all this cycling is saving the economy tens of millions of pounds

And finally some pictures – Christie Brinkley on her bike – must be doing her good. The Terminator - Arnold Schwarzenegger. A famous cycle basket – Andrew Mitchell’s. A model – Alessandra Ambrosio – sorry you’ll need to scroll past all of the pictures of her in her bikini – the cycle picture is near the bottom of the page.

And finally, finally, the meteorite that hit Russia and Stunning Pictures of North American back-country.

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