Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nothing could be finer than cycling to a meeting

Tuesday, 9th April 2013: A quick post to make up for the fact I have been struggling to find much spare time recently. This has eaten into my cycling and blogging time!

The good news is that I am cycling every day still, after all 30 days of biking is in it fourth year. This post is a bit late for the Guided Busway Cycle Ride, which was yet to happen when I went on this ride, but has now happened. The River Cam clean-up has also taken place.

I have been meaning to comment on the 50th anniversary of the Beeching Report which saw the closure of many picturesque railway lines and stations.  Mind you there is pressure to bring some of them back – such as the Norfolk Orbital Railway or the Bramley Line Heritage Trust and the  East West Rail link (which includes the Oxford – Cambridge Rail Campaign). Whilst on the subject of railways – How the Underground Map evolved.

I was also going to mention all those non-law abiding Cambridgeshire citizens caught in a recent seatbelt clamp down (755 in March – not the place, the month) and 107 in Suffolk in one week. Whilst on the subject of driving and trains – a woman caught reversing off a level crossing after driving through the barriers. Apparently the number of speeding tickets has rocketed in Cambridgeshire this year – by almost 90%. The article indicates that 2,869 were handed out in 2011 and 5,401 in 2012.  This compares with 37,589 speed camera activations in 2011 versus 36,941 in 2012. Given the margin allowed before a driver is considered to be “speeding” that is a fair number of speeders. I wonder what proportion of speeders get caught.

When it comes to poor driver or cyclist behaviour I rather like the approach that seeks to correct the driving/cycling behaviour rather than just impose a fine. I do think that the Cambridgeshire Lights Instead of Tickets (LIT) scheme makes sense.  Mind you this cyclist ended up with a bailiffs demand for £330 because of a bureaucratic problem.

The Guided Busway has also had a lorry drive on it – not intentionally though. It makes you realise just how easy it is to be distracted. After all lorry drivers to have to drive to a higher standard than car drivers, but apparently this one might have been confused by the SatNav instructions.  It is no excuse, but it is a reminder of how, despite all the signage around the CGB you can still expect the unexpected. 

The trouble is the roads were designed quite a long time ago and struggle to cope with current levels of traffic and types of traffic. Now that isn’t an argument for asking for more and bigger roads. I would like to see more care and attention given to designing the road system for all users. Apparently we in Cambridge are set for a cycling safety overhaul. I am not overwhelmed with the results of the Catholic Church junction changes. It seems that the Council is using Government money for more general purposes.

It seems to me that the approach taken to provide cycling infrastructure is somewhat piecemeal and without taking a long-term view. Many of the “cycle routes” through Cambridge are a patchwork, grafted onto roads and pavements – almost wily-nily. Then when cyclists use the shared-use paths there are complaints and when they use the roads there are complaints.

I was due to attend meetings in the city centre and for a change the weather was actually not bad. My route took me along the Riverside. A pleasant route alongside the River Cam, but one littered with various poles and barriers along the way. Now some might say that the poles are there for the benefit of the pedestrians and cyclists as they prevent motor vehicles (apart from motor cyclers and scooters) from using the road as a through route. That is true, however they are also barriers that would be dangerous to clip and night and don’t do anything to help pedestrians and cyclists co-exist.

Barriered Permeability on Riverside

One of these days I will be a bit more systematic in my photography in order to illustrate a point. I keep meaning to spend some time along Newmarket Road taking pictures of the myriad cars and vans using the bus lanes illegally – but life’s too short.

The trouble is there is a long history  of designing roads and a short history of designing cycling infrastructure. So cycling routes tend to be rather weird. This is where you go from Riverside onto Midsummer Common.  There has been little attempt to design a cycle system. I would prefer to see cycle routes design rather like roads, with clear indications as to where to cycle and with separation between the two directions of cycle traffic.

I stopped though, not to take a picture of this odd blob on the cycle route, but of the bike up on Elizabeth Way Bridge. They are not an uncommon sight around Cambridge – carrying both deliveries and children.

The point is, if we want to encourage cycling as part of our transport system then we have to consider a bicycle in the wider sense of its design, from tricycles and tandems to load-carrying bikes.  We should be looking at the long-term goals of connecting areas where people live to areas were people learn or work or play with direct traffic-free routes that don’t create conflict with pedestrians.

Mind you cycling facilities are the only odd facilities in Cambridge, we might also have the shortest double yellow lines in the country.

Load-carrying cyclist on Elizabeth Way Bridge

This is the route from Riverside onto Midsummer Common. Narrow Cattle Grids are not much fun, especially at night. Don’t try cycling along here at night after a pint or two with no lights.

Cattle Grids – Midsummer Common

As it happened I wasn’t the only one who cycled to the meeting and I cycled back part way with one of the other attendees. The good news is that we were able to have a pleasant ride and conversation some of the way. If you want to encourage cycling as a general form of transport then designing facilities that make it easy to cycle two-abreast and chat is not bad thing.

Talking about sociable cycling the Reach Fair ride is coming up.

Don’t get me wrong – cycling isn’t all that bad, even in Cambridge. Even the red-light jumpers are not all reckless hooligans (myth three).

The good news, well if you are female and plan on cycling in Saudi Arabia is that the ban on women riding bicycles has been lifted.

And finally some images,  an area the size of the Isle of Wight devoted to Spanish greenhouses to feed the UK! Apparently it lowers the average temperature of the area. Some images of what America’s cities might look like in five centuries if sea levels rise as predicted (and we carry on with our heads in the sand). Some rather interesting pictures after being Photoshopped, I must give it a go.

And finally a celeb, not cycling but wearing bicycle-print pants. Before some of you get too excited, remember, despite the Daily Mail being British, it sometimes adopts an American affectation.

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