Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Task Management

Wednesday, 6th March 2013: In my experience  when working for larger companies you tend to get sent, or should that be you get the opportunity to attend various training course. Some are are about improving your skills and some are more general. One such course I went on was a Time Management Course. The only piece of advice I can remember was to start a task, complete it and then move onto the next task. As opposed to hopping from one task to the next never quite completing anything. In computer terms you want to be single threaded and non-interruptible. Of course life isn’t always like that. If a delivery turned up right now I would stop typing and answer the door, it might be for me after all.

(There are pictures down there somewhere!)

Nowadays we live in a world of hyper communication. I take for granted that despite my daughter living 400 odd miles away I can share pictures with her at a whim by MMS, talk to her by what used to be called video conferencing, but the rest of us now call Skypeing. – (other systems exist!)  Not to mention Faceboook, Txting and even good old-fashioned email. In fact with Mother’s day the archaic snail mail also got in on the act. So we live in a world where we are more interruptible than ever, it takes real focus to minimise those interruptions.

I still believe in the idea that you do one task at a time, finish it and then move onto the next task though. So during the #Boycott CN various cycle related stuff passed me by. However I did notice that the Council was going to finish the Cycle way between Impington and Milton along Butt Lane – or so I thought.

A brief recap. Butt Lane is a small country road, connecting Impington and Milton, very roughly it is parallel to the Cambridge Northern Bypass (A14). Impington has a secondary school attended by children from Milton (Impington Village College). A long time ago, well 1996 there was a proposal to join Milton and Impington in a way that would facilitate cycling access to/from the school for Milton children.  Although looking at that last link the CCyC view seemed to be that the road was ok and it only needed some speed cushions on the outskirts of Impington.

I am not sure my interpretation is correct though as a little later this article appears  (Nov 1996) which mentioned a 2m-wide shared use pavement along Butt Lane.So I think the previous suggestion was in addition to the shared-use pavement. It all floundered it would appear as by October 1997 the CCyC reports – “Whatever happened to Butt Lane?”. There was fierce opposition from Milton Parish Council because it was felt that the cycle way would spell the end of a subsidised school bus! (Although Milton is less than three miles away the route was considered unsafe and therefore worthy of a subsidised bus.) It also saved several hundred thousand pounds.

The scheme however re-surfaced, perhaps because of fat-kid syndrome and the council promised to keep the subsidised bus – maybe. There was still opposition though. Politics are compromise – never. To add further to the compromise half was paid for by the Cycle Cambridge Program and half by a developer. I still struggle to get my head around the costs of such schemes – but the link implies that half would cost £230,000. The distance is 2Km so has it cost £230,000 for 1Km of shared-use path – phew. I must look for a breakdown of costs to see where it all goes – manpower, materials …

I decided to check out the press release – only to find that I had mis-remembered it – this one as a New dual use path on Landbeach road between Landbeach and Milton Cemetery. The cost £240,000 (or £250,000), the distance well less than 1km. There has been consultation  - check this thread out on Cyclescape.

Now I am not suggesting that the Landbeach shared-path be stopped, but it seems mighty odd that the Butt lane path has yet to be finished and there is already work on another one that doesn’t seem to serve a very large population. I reckon I would make the road through Landbeach from the North to the South one-way and then use half of it as a cycleway.

The trouble is that half-built cycleway along Butt lane is rather like a bridge that goes half-way over a river – bl**dy useless. If I lived in Milton and my kids were smaller I wouldn’t be that happy about them cycling along Butt lane – especially since the Milton half is the more dangerous bit, IMHO.

Some of those Council chappies could do with a Time management course – whilst waiting for the developer? Over £200,000 has been sunk into the ground for no real benefit. In fact it seems scandalous to me.

Just to make it clear – I don’t really think they should stop the Landbeach dual-use path, I think they should close the road to motor traffic.

It interests me how Councils operate, what with the ebb and flow of different parties at local and government level it provides the ideal excuse for non-delivery of programs – just blame it on someone else. It doesn’t really seem to encourage joined-up thinking.

Just to point out that there is good stuff here is a link to the Cambridgeshire County Council cycle maps. They give good food for thought when looking for a route to use. Mind you they don’t show all of the shared-use (or dual use) paths. There really ought to be a definitive map of the shared-use (dual-use paths) as the local signage doesn’t always get maintained.(Mind you the OSM Cycle map seems to have the same omissions, perhaps they have changed the status and are trying to catch me out cycling on a pavement!)

In other Council News the cycleway alongside the Guided Busway has been getting lit up. I must get out and try it one evening – although forgive me if I wait until it gets a bit warmer. Interestingly the work was carried out at night as well, I wonder why?

Whilst on the subject of the Busway it has now carried more than 4,000,000 passengers. That sounds impressive to me. Apparently during 2013 they expect to provide 3,000,000 passenger trips which a little over 8,000 a day.  According to this report (Page 41) typically 2,500 – 3,000 HGVs use the A14 per day with flows of 5,000 HGS per direction per day  between Cambridge and Huntingdon.  HGVs account for 15-17% of all vehicles. So the Guided Busway is taking a meaningful number of vehicles off the A14. (The numbers imply that there are 60,000 vehicles per day on the A14 and assuming 8,000 bus trips removes 6,000 vehicles then the saving is around 10% – good but an incremental improvement.

Here is a report about the use of the Busway that looks at who uses it and why. This suggests that the plan was to cope with 20,000 trips per day by the 10th anniversary (Page 12). Rather disappointingly the same attention is not give to attracting other modes of transport – eg cycling Which given the high percentage of people who cycle to work in Cambridge is a major oversight.

Talking of cycling I had a meeting in Cambridge and had to be reasonably smart – which meant a jacket  (but no tie). Although it was cold it was pretty sunny at one stage and I found myself over-dressed – not for the meeting but for the cycling. That was partly because I was a bit late leaving and so had to take a more direct and fast route.. This involved a bit of Newmarket Road and Maids’ Causeway. I really don’t like the Newmarket Road in Cambridge for cycling (or driving either for that matter).  You would be amazed at how many cars break the law along that stretch of road – by using the bus lanes illegally.

The problem is that the bus lane going into town is on the left side of the road and because there are so many turns then it has to have interruptions for the left-turning traffic. Most car drivers don’t wait until the bus lane stops they use it as a normal piece of road. So why does it matter – surely it is only a minor “offense” it only occasionally causes delay for buses and helps to cut the congestion by allowing cars to clear the road.

Well for one I think it is dangerous for other road users when large speeding vehicles don’t behave as they ought – that creates danger for others particularly vulnerable users. The second issue is that if all cars did it then it would no longer be a bus lane and significantly reduce the benefits of using park and ride. It does cause hold-ups for buses, all to often. It can also win up the bus drivers which is not a good thing as they are responsible for many passengers.

If it were up to me I would install bus lane cameras along Newmarket Road – or perhaps have a clamp-down on such anti-social driving.  Although they seem a little over-zealous in Glasgow and issued a ticket because a bus used a bus lane!

At this point I ought to mention that as I was cycling along the bus lane on Newmarket Road there was a bus behind me – the driver’s behaviour was exemplary he maintained a decent gap so as not to intimidate me.

Part of the problem is that the Newmarket Road scheme is a lot of bits and pieces, with stop-start bus lanes, bus-lane traffic lights, stop start cycle lanes and then where it joins  Coldhams Lane the bus lane and cycle lane stop early. Then when you get to the East Road/Newmarket Road roundabout cyclists and pedestrians seem to be expected to sink down under the road.  A classic case of cars are king. Whoever designed it must have thought “stuff the rest of you poor people who walk or cycle, or push prams”.

I also cycled along Maid's’ Causeway, whereas I would normally cycle in from Midsummer Common and Butt Green. Even with a faux 20MPH limit Maids’ Causeway isn’t the most pleasant of roads to cycle along.

This is the road that the Police said “20mph limit must be clear before we act, police warn”. Although that didn’t seem to stop the Police crackdown on pavement cyclists on Arbury Road.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “Shared use footpaths are clearly marked and our advice to cyclists would be that unless the footpath is clearly signed as such they should not use it as a cycleway.”

What a naive spokesperson to believe that shared-use paths in Cambridge are all clearly marked.  He can’t have read this Blog. Strangely enough (that is three different studies I have used in one post!) there is a study of interactions between Cyclists and pedestrians on shared-use paths – Atkins again. The Department for Transport makes work for idle consultants it seems – do they get aid by the word?

Still back to the Causeway – good news “20mph limit signage to be improved – clearing way for Police checks”. Although as Richard Taylor pointed out – the councillors opted for the low key signage of 20mph limits in the first place. CCyC also pointed out the error our our Councillors ways with respect to 20mph limits.

Where did I start this post - do the job properly then do the next job properly.

Back again to Maids’ Causeway – how thoughtful of this van driver to park on the pavement and not to block the road or cycle lane. Although he has also created his own dooring zone. Almost 600 cyclists a year injured after being knocked off by open car doors. The number of door-zone accidents has increased up from around 400 in 2009.

Van Parking on the Pavement – Maids’ Causeway

As you can see there are quite a few bicycles locked to the railings along the road. Those old-folk can just about squeeze through. I think that this might not be illegal as there are no yellow lines. The CCC publish a helpful guide on “Don’t get a parking ticket” – which doesn’t answer the question.

Van Parking on the Pavement – Maids’ Causeway

On my way back I took a more scenic route alongside Riverside – where there is some conflict between those who live on the river and those who live on the land. The first issue is working out who owns the the land alongside the river and so controls the mooring of boats.  It would seem that the river-dwellers are under pressure from both the rowing fraternity and those living in the houses and flats.  The City Council is now running consultations. (The area has its own Association – Riverside Areas Residents (RAR) with a website as well.)

Riverside – A mooring mystery turns into a consultation

I guess the concern from the rowers is when there are two boats passing each other? There seems to be quite a bit of space on this bit of the river.

Good news for the rowers though – Cambridge Sport Lakes £25m complex a ‘step closer’. planning permission has been granted. although there are conditions relating to flooding and drainage. Strangely the step forward does not get reported on Cambridge Sport Lakes website. (There is something similar – camToo – although this also focuses on transport issues in the area.)

Riverside – A mooring mystery turns into a consultation

As I was in the area I had a go over the new bumps on the old wooden bridge under the railway line alongside the River Cam. They don’t look much they do rattle your teeth though.

New Plastic Strips on bridge – NCN51 under the Kings Lynn Cambridge Railway Line

I am not sure why they were put there – whether it was because the old wooden surface was get slippery or they are intended to slow cyclists down or perhaps provide an acoustic warning. They seem a little rattly already though. They have been screwed into place – lets hope the screws don’t lift and snag cyclists tyres and dogs paws.

New Plastic Strips on bridge – NCN51 under the Kings Lynn Cambridge Railway Line

I wouldn’t know where to look on the CCC website to find out where this sort of thing gets discussed and sanctioned.

And finally – a cycle helmet with built-in indicator lights – sorry but it doesn’t work for me. The designer reckons that recreational cyclists consider weight a secondary consideration – not the “all the gear and no idea brigade”. It becomes yet another thing that needs charging. However my main concern is that motorists wouldn’t actually be able to work out which way you were turning – even if they noticed you.

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