Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No pedals squeaking only Pipsqueak!

Monday 25th March 2013: My daughter has been home on holiday for the last couple of weeks, so last Monday I cycled into the city centre to meet up with her for lunch, along with my wife as they had been shopping! It was a bit of an excuse to get out on my bicycle really.

They had suggested a place to have lunch, gbk (gourmet burger kitchen) but it was closed for a major refurbishment so I suggested they text me when they had agreed on somewhere. So I headed to what we call the Round Church car park, better known as Park Street Car Park to park my bicycle. A car park with 392 spaces, 7 blue badge spaces, 15 free motorcycle bays and 1 zipcar bay and more  importantly (to me) covered space for more than 200 bikes. I figured that wouldn’t be a bad place to be when I got the call (txt) to lunch.

I went via Jesus Lane where collapsed sewers were being repaired causing misery for motorists. Apparently we have the wrong sort of ground – and so have more collapses than other places. Fortunately motoring misery does not mean cycling misery, indeed it can mean cycling cheeriness as fewer cars are about.

You will be pleased to hear that although the pavement was a bit wet I didn’t find that the student streets of Cambridge were “awash with cannabis”, or perhaps I have lost my sense of smell.

As I walked along the pavement with my bicycle, which requires more width than cycling on a pavement, but is safer and more law-abiding I couldn’t help thinking about these bicycles parked along the railings. A lot of these houses are student accommodation for Jesus College. It would seem that there is insufficient provision for the inhabitants to park their bicycles. Before you go berating students, these are (I think) multiple occupancy houses and so quite a few students will be sharing a limited amount of space. I would imagine that as the college is opposite the college feels that there is no need, however the evidence would suggest otherwise.

“Misery” on Jesus Lane – Sewer work closed the road

Although the quality of some of these bikes might not suggest it apparently “Britons spent record £1.5bn on bicycles in switch to pedal power” in 2012.  Research also indicates that cyclists spends more in  city centres than motorists, we also are more prone to impulse buys. Surely not. Hang on I just need to make it quick buy on Amazon.

So it is certainly good that consideration is being given to replacing car spaces with cycle racks in Cambridge. This is not for shoppers but for residents. There are people who live in some areas of the city who do not have cars and see the streets given over to car parking with little or no provision for cycle parking.

From a national point of view cars burn imported fuel and contribute to the imbalance of trade, as well as pollution. Whilst cycling, amongst other things encourages a healthier lifestyle, which councils are being urged to invest in. I accept that cycles are not for all, however electric bikes are an alternative. I see them around Cambridge, it always worries me when I struggle to overtake a granny on her bike ahead, especially when they don’t seem to be putting much effort in. It is a relief when I discover they are on an electric bicycle.

Mind you this chap is an example to us all – he cycles a tricycle and is 100 years old. This cyclist from March uses his bike to advertise after finding it impossible to find work.

There is also “good news” for cyclists in Cambridge twenty new, extra-wide cycle lanes will have to be constructed in the city for the Tour de France next year.

Winking smile

Here is the parking provision for cycles in Park Street Car park – not completely full, but well used and well lit. Can you spot Maisie.

Cycle Parking – Park Street Car Park

At the moment the A14 is getting a lot of attention with the Government requiring £100m to £150m to be put up locally as a contribution to the cost of the A14 upgrade. Apparently Business Leaders have called on Cambridge City Council to do its bit.  However the City Council has deliberated and said it won’t pay a share.  Which seems logical to me, after all a better road will only bring more traffic into Cambridge and so create even more congestion and increase the need for more car parking. (Whilst burning more money petrol).

The situation has gotten emotive with “Council faces A14 ‘sabotage’ charge”. It still seems to me that some of our business leaders are driving by looking in their rear-view mirrors. What are we trying to achieve? Better roads increase the distances people travel, they spend more money on fuel as a result and house prices rise in the catchment areas. There are always consequences to actions, no-one seems to consider the consequences, except perhaps the City Council.

Now I am not saying that there should be no roads – but building roads willy-nilly doesn’t seem to be the answer either. The other elephant in the room is that these roads are probably going to be toll roads (e.g. M4 relief road: Chancellor ‘to approve toll plan’). So we are going to end up with all sorts of charging complexities. I seem to remember (but can’t find) a quite from a famous economist along the lines that a tax that is hard to collect is a bad tax. Well I think that taxation systems that get evermore complex are bad systems.  Why do so many large corporations seem to pay so little tax?  Why is their a business in “tax minimisation”? (All that happens is that money is wasted on bureaucracy IMHO.)

Anyways when I got my bike parked and locked I checked my phone. (But only one lock and I left the wheels and saddle behind, but did take my Knog lights with me.) Very conveniently the location was to be Byron, a new burger place on Bridge Street.

The food was delicious, the burgers were great and my tip is to try the courgette chips – they are scrumptious. The only problem we had was that we ate far too much with made the ride home a difficult one.

Talking of scrumpy, I like cider and so had a bottle of cider with my lunch.  This one – Pipsqueak from Oz. That too was delicious and I could easily have quaffed more. Although the idea of drinking cider that has come so far does seem wrong to me (and I was full). I rather liked the picture of the bicycle on the label though. The pear cider also has a bike on the label.

Pipsqueak Cider

And finally talking about roads – there are exceptional hardships that mean some drivers manage to continue driver after reaching the number of points to be banned. I reckon they ought to be made to switch to a GPS insurance system when that happens and their driving monitored with regular lessons if it fails to improve. Mind you whilst we have seen an increase in road accidents for vulnerable users they are going to scrap 304 speed cameras in the West Midlands.  they can’t afford £580,000 cost of upgrading them to digital. To put that into perspective the Department for Transport has suggested that the average cost of a road accident is £71,885 with a fatal accident costing £1,877,583.

I am pleased that UK’s top police chief seems consider the situation as more serious with road deaths and causalities having increased in London for the first time in 20 years.  (He is advocating stiffer penalties for (illegal) mobile phone user when driving.

And finally some cycling transport news -  St Ives Thicket path is getting a £300,000 improvement. It connects Houghton and St Ives via the Thicket. It is funded from various slush special funds. A cycle path from Buckingway Business Part to Swavesey is also under consideration.  Not terribly wide and not joined up (you have to cross the road twice heading back to Swavesey I think).

Oops I lied, some more links. It was flipping freezing riding home, partly due to my slower pace and partly due to the wind. I was glad to get home. I didn’t have to cycle through snow drifts though or get my skies out (on the CGB). Some might think that the cold suggests that global warming isn’t happening – well the unusual weather extremes around the world does point to changes in our weather system and we humans are certainly (IMHO) having an effect.

And really finally – some pictures of unusual churches, some “breath-taking landscapes” and an amateur photographer beats the professionals.

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