Friday, August 9, 2013

Butt Lane–butt cycleway

Thursday, 11th July 2013: I’ve decided I need to roam a bit further afield again and get in a few more kilometres on my bike. I reckon that is the way to shake of aches and pains as well as get a little bit fitter. Also it would be rude not to take advantage of the fine weather that we seem to be getting.

Now I have said in the past that cycling provides some good thinking time. Well it was as I was heading out of Cambridge thinking, as I was cycling out and round Wicken Fen that perhaps I ought to ring the changes. It occurred to me that I hadn’t been out along the cycleway along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway (CGB) for a while so detoured back along the byways and bridleways from Lode through to Clayhithe, then down the path alongside the River Cam. I then cycled through Milton, along the apply named Butt Lane to Histon and then along the delightful tracks – Gun’s Lane, Rampton Drift, Cuckoo Lane and Reynold’s Drove to the CGB and back.

On the way along Butt Lane I did get cross. There has been a plan to build a cycle route between the villages of Impington and Histon to make it easier and safer for schoolchildren to get to  and from school in Impington. Half of it got built and half was waiting for S106 money. Even as it was proposed there was an outcry for the good citizens of Milton who were concerned that their school free bus service might get stopped. Normally a free bus service would only be available if the distance was greater. However in the case of Milton/Impington the route between the two places – Butt Lane is deemed dangerous – hence the free bus service.

Apparently one complaint was that 200 cars would replaces the 3 or 4 buses and so it would be less green. In my mind half the problem is we are being over-protective with our kids. yet strangely at the same time we are worried about the “dangers” of the Internet and should be “spying” on their Internet usage.  What a strange world we live in – “No freedom to play or explore outside for children”. I used to think that the parents were missing the point after cycling along the route I realised that I’d missed the point.  (This seems to suggest we are only safe in our houses, cars of the place were are going to. No wonder that “Third of young unemployed ‘rarely leave house’” That how we train them.

Possibly what the parents had realised and that I had not realised is that the Cycleway was going to be a half-hearted affair and, in my view dangerous to boot.  The “planning” has been going on a long time – here is a note dated January 2011 – “New cycle lane work”. As part of the Cycle Cambridge project a 2.5m path will be built. Even then there were concerns about and the design settled upon was a 1.5m path set back 0.5m. How is it possible to spend so much on so little. The cost is reported to be £230,000 for half the cycleway.

It seems that the rest of the cycleway is now being “built” – unfortunately this is both too narrow and there is no separation from the road. As I cycled along it I felt exposed and unsafe. When you cycle on a shared-use path next to the road you have to cycle in from the edge of the path otherwise your handlebars extend beyond the edge of the path. There is a 50mph limit but some cars seemed to speed by somewhat faster than that.

Someone ought to be answerable for this mess – it is even shown on the Cambridgeshire Cycle map for Milton as a shared-use path. I lived in Milton and wanted my kids to cycle to school in Impington then I wouldn’t be happy with that route. I reckon I would suggest cycling down towards the CGB and up from there. (The route does not feature on the larger county cycle map.)

On a positive note, the weather was wonderful and the off-road bits of the ride were a delight. They do say that small is one of the more evocative senses. We as I was cycling near Allicky Farm there was a tremendous smell of hay which transported me back to my childhood. I lived near a Dutch Barn that was used to store hay in the summer. Despite being told how dangerous it is to play in such things we did.

It turned out that reason the smell was so strong was that the hay was being aerated – presumably it was not dry enough. A tractor was used to drive the fan in this case.

I forgot to mention that I did pass two people walking with some dogs, not on leads. They called them to heel – unfortunately one of them was not well trained and chased my back wheel. At this point I have a simple decision to make – stop or outrun them. It didn’t look like it was wanting to bite me but was jumping up at the back wheel so I sped up and outran it.

Apparently there are concerns over vicious dog attacks in Cambridge parks – another reason to keep you kids in! Strangely, IMHO, there has been a backlash on proposals to force dogs to be kept on leads in a Cambridgeshire graveyard. Strange – I would have thought that as a matter of respect dogs would be kept on leads in a Graveyard.

A Stack of Hay being aerated

Here is a map of my ride and here is the Bike Route Toaster link. It is a pretty flat ride, and just over 43Km long (about 27 miles). The tracks are pretty straightforward, although a bit of car is need on the loose gravel.

A Loop of Cambridge  - back along the CGB Cycleway

Look at that, lovely blue skies and the grass track has been nicely flattened by agricultural traffic without being 3D printed with a tractor tread. The wheat is combing along nicely as well.

A bridleway heading towards Hundred Acres Road

Once you reach Horningsea there is a brief ride along the road to Clayhithe where you cross the River Cam. That gravel path on the right is the NCN11 (one leg anyway). It is very pleasant and the surface is good. As you can see it isn’t very wide though. So it is very helpful to have a bell.

It can take a few tings to alert people though. I wouldn’t plan on using this as a fast route though. It is a great leisure route – but not such a great commuter route. (Although I guess the flow is tidal.)

River Cam from the Clayhithe Bridge

I got slightly lost in Milton – the early turning before I reached the road through the village was a detour – hence the loop towards Cambridge and back. Which brings me to Butt Lane. The road is not that wide, but it does seen to be fast made up of three straight bits. The first section takes you past the P&R site and then past the Recycling Centre on ordinary pavement, right next tot he road. A good shared use cycling path for schoolchildren it is not. In fact is is not a good shared-use path. Then you pass a few buildings with warnings to go slow and no pavement edge to protect you.

But fear not there is a new bit of tarmac – a new shared use pavement. It is not wide enough and it is right next to the road. Does no-one care that crap facilities are wasting money. The only thing the new bit has got going for it is that it is flat.

Butt Lane – Butt Cycling Facilities

The “new bit” and the old bit are still in a state of disconnection. This seems to be a work in progress though. Although there is yet another entrance to cross where the schoolchildren do not have priority. (Or Strict Liability).

Butt Lane – Butt Cycling Facilities

Is it any wonder that parents are not happy with their kids cycling along here!

Butt Lane – Butt Cycling Facilities

As it happened I cycled along Impington Lane at around the time a junior school was kicking out. Well judging from the Mum’s on bikes with the tiny followers that was the case.

Impington Lane is blessed with speed cushions so as I cycled down into Histon I cringed each time I approached a pillow as cars routinely “nip” past and then swerve in front of you and slow down to ensure they position their wheels to minimise the pillow’s disruptive effects.  Speed pillows are terrible for cyclists.

Which is perhaps why the mums were cycling along the pavements – they have more sense than to risk their lives and the lives of their children on the road. You really don’t want to be on a bicycle on road, near a school with speed pillows, at any age.  So snooty drivers who whinge about cyclists on the paths, or even snooty pedestrians, those mothers were doing it for self-preservation. Who can blame them,

It was a pleasure to head out of Histon on Gun’s Lane. Although the first bit is a little tricky as the house owner alongside has spread a load of small pea gravel down to make it look nice. My bike squirms a bit on it.

The weather was fantastic and I didn’t even stop to take a picture of Gun’s Drove. I crossed Lambs Cross up Rampton Drift, stopping at the top of a very small hill to take this picture of the open blue skies of the flatlands.

Rampton drift

The track crosses Cottenham Lode by way of Cuckoo Bridge and I suppose this is also where the route becomes Cuckoo Lane.  You don’t  seem that many people around here – but the odd one or two is not uncommon.

A walker on Cuckoo Lane alongside Cottenham Lode

Then I turned off down Reynold’s Drove, although it is called Reynold’ Drove on the OS map and the drain is called Reynolds’. Then I turned back to head towards Cambridge on the CGB cycleway.

The CGB has been in the news a bit recently, with a bus getting stuck on the rising bollards in Cambridge.(But the headline writer obviously though it would get more attention if the bus was a Guided Bus – albeit on ordinary road. Here is a good place to look for the CGB news – Travelling the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway – including stuff about the flowers along the busway and  the dispute about the construction costs.

At this time of year it looks pretty brown. I didn’t notice them at the time – but on the bottom left you can also see one of the solar lights that has been used to make the busway safer at night! I can also see the one on the left of the cycleway by zooming in on the original picture. The overgrown grass hides it at the moment.

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway Cycleway in the Summer

And here is the same picture zoomed in on the cyclist – plenty of width (the track not the cyclist). He/she is not heading into a flooded section of the track – that is caused by hot air refracting the light.

Now this is a pretty good cycleway – flat. smooth, straight,  good sight lines, not noisy, and only a few junctions to cross. A pretty good cycleway, except that the bl**dy thing floods so much. Why, oh why does all cycling infrastructure in the UK be so flawed. People who want to use a bike for transport deserve better.

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway Cycleway in the Summer

Is the CGB putting in a speed limit for cyclists – not really. Although they are quite happily sticking in random obstructions for cyclists to crash into. The problem is that a dip has opened up on the track because a spacer shifted an inch.  Precision technology tends to get nobbled by even small shifts.  They actually shut the cycleway when they allegedly repaired it.

Speed Limit on the Cambridge Guided Busway

Still a few criticisms aside – this cycleway is the best we’ve go here in the flatlands for regular cycling, as long as it goes where you want to travel.

I forget to mention Ministers will shift all sorts of objections to build roads – for motorists – Cyclists don’t get the same consideration. A new railway station is being built in Cambridge at Chesterton and there are issues with creating appropriate cycle access from Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows. It will need something, especially if they go ahead with the urban village east of Cambridge. (Now there is a bit of marketing spin for you – urban village – a Cambridge suburb.

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