Sunday, July 21, 2013


Tuesday, 25th June 2013: I had arranged to meet a couple of friends for lunch to catch up and frankly to give me an excuse/reason to get out on my bike for a ride.

We planned to meet up at the Six Bells in Fulbourn.  I am in no doubt that running a successful pub is hard work.  I am well aware that as you I get older you can become I am tending to become an old fart, always rambling on about how it used to be. Well the British “Pub” has certainly gone through a fair bit of change over the years. They used to be somewhat male-dominated places, a place to get away from ‘er indoors and have a pint and a game of darts. When I lived in Northampton I happened to be in my local and the darts team were short of a couple of regulars so I got co-opted in. Generally the only food on offer tended to be crisps (chips for US readers) and peanuts. Although when I lived in Somerset I was rather partial (as they say) to a pint accompanied by a pickled egg in a packet of salt and vinegar crisps.

In some ways change is inevitable, life moves on. we can’t pick and choose through rose-tinted spectacles. I guess if you are in the service industry then you have to give people what they want, or what they think they want. We have had many changes from communications to transport, even the types of jobs available have changed and our mobility patterns.

The world population has more than doubled in my life from 3bn to over 7bn people and is expected to be over 9bn by 2050. Here in the UK over the same time frame the population has increased from 50million in 1950 to 65million by 2015. (An increase of ~30%).

It is funny how life seems the same, but when you look back there have been huge changes. I suppose the changes creep up a little at a time and then feel as if they have been around for ever. This leads us to presume that it is the natural order, until the order goes in a direction we are unhappy with.

An interesting case in point is the building around the Cambridge area – based upon who knows what Plans. It seems that there is a hodge-podge of forecasting and planning. It would seem that the Social Fabric is funded from S106 money which seems an odd way to deliver such amenities. In the case of Cambourne it seems to have resulted in poor transport. There is pressure on the green belt with between 31,000 and 48,000 houses more houses being considered around Cambridge.. Yet in this rush to build, build build – what are we going to do about social infrastructure. – join up all the blobs of S106 money. Instead the hosepipe that is the A14 will be expanded to deliver yet more cars into the area.

There is talk of the need for affordable housing, although it is unclear to me how it works despite the pages of info on the link. Is the rentable housing like council housing, what about the buyable housing can it be sold on. It seems to me that the problem is that in general house prices are too high, but if they come down then the politicians have a problem – voters don’t like it. Why are they too high, well I guess there it comes down to supply and demand. People complain that it is to do with the affordability of mortgages, although all that really happens is that whilst supply and demand is out of kilter then if money gets cheaper house prices go up (and vice versa).

There are complications in that there can be local hotspots where housing is more expensive, perhaps because of proximity to railway stations. Rural housing can suffer from poor public transport and lack of amenities.

So where are we heading? Well it seems to be more of the same with more traffic under all scenarios (Page 5 of Road Transport Forecasts 2013). So more noise, accidents, roads.  There are some slightly more positive steps – more City Centre Cycle Parking in Cambridge – and about bl**dy time. I have tried to fill in the survey, but I reckon it is almost useless. It doesn’t really make the information easy to view and I have no idea what effect my filling in the survey will have.

The trouble is we have spent a long time thinking that growth and cars and housing is the only way. It seems that despite “consultations” the results are more expensive houses built with the presumption that multi-car ownership will be the way for our society. Even if the Fracking means more oil reserves we still have to deal with pollution from motor vehicles and the inefficiency inherent in burning stuff for one person to get around in a tin box whilst as a nation we are getting less fit and fatter. Yet the presumption is that cars we need a car, perhaps “to keep up with the Jones”, to help Britain’s economy. Then we get told how Londoners are moving away form car ownership and how much time is lost in traffic jams.

I reckon that underlying this is a presumption that cycling is not a real form of transport. Therefore it is never really taken seriously. Yet read this post form the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain: “Cycling is not practical for most people's transportation or commuting needs”. The reality is that cars are not suitable for most peoples transportation or commuting needs.

Why don’t people want to cycle – well having lived in the Flatlands for q few years, I tend to find myself taking indirect routes away from traffic more and more, the near misses seem to occur more frequently. Yet such indirect routes take longer, often require frequent slow downs and are more tiring. Most non-cyclists don’t realise that there are significant energy losses incurred each time to have to get your bicycle back up to speed after stopping.

A while back I worked out that it took the same energy to cycle 100m as it did to get back up to speed (I used 12mph in my example which was based upon a no longer available Times article – sorry - paywalls!).  So If you have a 5Km cycle to/from work and have to stop 10 times then it has the effect of seeming like another 1Km (or 10% onto the journey).  Once your route starts meandering along shared-use paths and cattle grids and the like then you can easily find yourself stopping  or slowing down.

So a quick check on the BikeRouteToaster map shows the journey from Newmarket Road P&R to Park Street as 5.4Km. A visual check and I reckon you will find yourself stopping 16 times and and slowing 20 times, roughly. So since a slow-down is less wasteful of energy than stopping I will assume that a stop feels like 100m and a slow-down feels like 25m.  This means the 5.4Km journey feels more like 8.24Km – or 53% further.  Now perhaps pedestrians and dog walkers might realise why cyclists get a little annoyed an being needlessly delayed. It costs time and energy.  Not to mention light-controlled crossings.  

Enough of this – although I must think about it a bit more, it might explain why some cyclists feel the urge to jump red lights, perhaps cycle couriers are worse?

Now another way of looking at the issue is by cycling along free-flowing routes you get to go further for the same expenditure of energy. So I took a circle route out of Cambridge along NCN51 and then via Wilbraham Road through the Wilbrahams. I must have been conscious of my energy levels as I didn’t stop to take that many pictures.

In the Eastern field adjacent to Little Wilbraham Road and Wilbraham Road there was one path of poppies showing. Was this a failure of some treatment being applied?

Poppies amongst the crops – Little Wilbraham

As I cycled through Great Wilbraham I had to take a picture of some real work being done.

Thatching – Great Wilbraham

A little further on a few pictures of the Graveyard in Fulbourn – alongside St Vigor’s Church.

St Vigor’s Churchyard, Fulbourn

I took a few pictures – in order to reduce the energy expended per picture – few stops.

St Vigor’s Churchyard, Fulbourn

St Vigor’s Churchyard, Fulbourn

We found that there was a whole large chunk of garden at the Six Bells that had been hitherto secluded. I have been to the pub a few times, but one of our group is a regular on first-name terms.

We also got to talking about marketing as we ordered our food and drink. The food there is good and they always have some interesting beers. But as a lad who grew up in Somerset – well my slightly under-age years I first started drinking Scrumpy. So I couldn’t resist the Scrumpy they had – it was quite strong, but absolutely delicious and worked well with my food. I hope they have it in the next time I am there.


  1. Great shot of the tilting gravestones. Fine weather, a cycle and a pint with friends. Sounds like a perfect day.

    1. Thank you - it's a life I aspire to :-)