Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Cycling cash–What about Ely?

Sunday, 21st July 2013: Sometimes you have to cycle in the suburbs – well what counts for suburbs in Cambridge anyway. As I headed out for Wicken Fen yet again I decided to do a bit of hill climbing and then some almost city cycling. Although it was a Sunday so I didn’t except it to be too bad.

Mind you there has been some dodgy behaviour, apparently cycle thieves in Cambridge have been driven out to new hunting groundsNewtown of Trumpington Road. Although it is not so surprising that Cambridge Rail Station in in the top five postcodes in Britain for bike theft.  The current cycle parking at the rail station is atrocious and there are lots of bikes parked all around the area. Apparently there will be plainclothes patrols.

One solution would be to build an underground automatic cycle park – like this one in Tokyo.

It is common to consider all of Cambridge's traffic problems to stem from cyclists and their blatant disregard for the rules – now I reckon that is to ignore the elephant in the room – there are too many motor vehicles trying to get in and out of Cambridge in a chaotic manner. Still it can’t hurt that Language students and overseas visitors to Cambridge are being given cycle safety leaflets.  Although it does depend upon what type of advice is given.  “no hitching a lift from cars perhaps?”  Will it also include advice on the benefits of cycling. The significant benefits to motorists and society as well as to the individual.  

It will include a map for cycle routes around the city and to popular destinations such as Ely. Talking of which, it seems that Cambridge is to benefit from a government grant to boost cyclingMP Andrew Lansley welcomes £300k boost for cycling in South Cambridgeshire – but what about East Cambs.  Why don’t they get any dosh?

One of the weird things about the way in which we chop up our country into Counties and regional counties and MPs seats is the way in which the money seems to be allocated almost at random.  What has Ely done to not deserve any cycling support? They have an active (pro-active) Cycle Campaign, a healthy number of  cyclists seem to use the railway station and the station seems to be keeping up with demand.  Read their take on the money give to promote cycle – and how £500million is for electric cars and £28billion on the road network. (And read this to see why electric cars don’t solve the problem.)

It seems that East Cambs is also not part of the City tax deal worth up to £1bn. Apparently Cambridge and South Cambs are in the second wave!  The comment at the bottom of the article – Cllr Marin Curtis – “no easy answers” to the public transport issue, saying there is a “shrinking pot” of funds. That sounds as if they don’t really care about public transport. Or maybe it is because the MP for East Cambs has a new role (only one day a week though)!

Or maybe it is because the drivers of Ely can’t even recognise a low bridge when they wedge their vehicles under it.

I do wonder how bad other cities are when it comes to cycling provision when Cambridge is seen as one of the bright hopes. There are plans to build a second railway station in Cambridge, but it would seem than nothing has been learned from how the railway station at the other end of the town is already so popular for cyclists. Bicycles are am ideal way for commuters to get to the railway station, for a whole variety of reasons. Yet the Council don’t seem to get it. Cycle routes should not had ninety degree turns, should not have long waits at lights. They should plan for and encourage cycle use.

Here is the CyCC objection letter – there are a lot of issues that need sorting – far too many really for a Council that has just gotten more money for the support of cycling.  Mind you there are many who would say that is to be expected – look at the Catholic Church Junction. Where the work is being part-funded by the Department of Transport as a cycle safety scheme and yet  The Chair of CCyC, Martin Lucas-Smith comments:

“This scheme is a classic test of whether the County Council really cares about cycle safety and convenience. At present, stuffing ever-more traffic through this accident-prone junction clearly remains the priority. We think this is totally inappropriate for a ‘cycling city’, and against its own policy to favour cycling and walking. The scheme is better than the current junction design, but it would be hard to make it otherwise. It will slightly improve things for those cycling towards the junction from Hills Road.”

As a cyclist I feel cheated that the DoT money for safer cycling has been used more as a slush fund. One good thing is that, according to the Cambridge News it will be Britain’s first traffic lights which allow cyclists to move off before motorists.

Talking about slush funds – this piece caught my eye - £150k project to tackle Fen Road racers. Apparently some of that money, £30,000 could come from a cycleway budget. It leaves me wondering what the real issue is and whether  it is another example of cobbling something together – that ends up wasting money and satisfying no-one. (Like the Butt lane cycleway) Although I will be the first to hold my hand up and say I don’t know what the issue is on Fen Road.  I have cycled up to the end once to see whether it was possible to get through to the Halingway via a path that is visible on the OSM map. There were a group of loose horses being rounded up so I never got to the end to find out. (I did have to whizz by a dog that chased me going up and going back down!)

Still on with the ride. Here is the Bike Route Toaster map link. I wasn’t quite sure where I was heading when I set off. However on my first few kilometres it felt good so I headed for a hill. Which is why I loop back and went through to Fulbourn and up the Shelford Road and down Wort’s Causeway. It passes what appears on the map as Limepit Hill and the Gog Magog Hills.  (No tunnels through them at the mo’ tho’). The hill isn’t that long and only climbs up to just under 70m from 18m at the bottom.

In a strange way, it is actually quite nice to climb a hill at a reasonable (for me) pace.

At the moment the hills to the South of Cambridge are looking rather brown although the woods and hedgerows still provide some green.  The is the view of Wadlow Wind Farm, just up from Quy on NCN51.

Wadlow Wind Farm on the brown hills of Cambridgeshire

Here is the map, it is a bit higgledy piggledy because I didn’t have a plan for my ride. I started out, then though, how about a hill and then looped around Cambridge.

A Loop around Cambridge

As you might be able to tell my photo stops were quite sparse. I did take a few pictures from the Long Road Bridge over the Guided Busway. Here we have the two sides of Cambridge cycling in one picture. In the background, jeans, sandals and hair flying in the wind. In the foreground a MAMIL and a MAWIL – with Lycra and helmets.  A good cycle route caters for all types of cycling.

Two faces of Cycling on the Cambridgeshire Busway Cycleway

Disk brakes on the second bike. No cleats – but toe-straps on the front bike.

Cycling on the Cambridgeshire Busway Cycleway

Although I reckon on this stretch of the CGB you get more cyclists dressed casually than in Lycra. Which shows that cycling in Cambridge is really not about MAMILS, but “just” another form of transport.

Cycling on the Cambridgeshire Busway Cycleway

The tarmac along the outer edge looks new to me and the track does not have the same infill. Here is an excellent history of how the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway came to Trumpington.

Guided Busway – Trumpington end

The last time I came this way on my bike there were a fence along here with bikes chained up to it. Someone had the common sense to realise that more parking was needed – although even in this picture you can see a bike chained to a lamppost. I can’t easily find a reference to it on the net though. Someone is also hiding their light under a bushel!

The fact is we have a cycle parking facility that is full to bursting – there is still an unmet need and of course more cycles mean fewer motor vehicles, which means less congestion.

It goes to show – although I would hope the Loos are open – the Babraham Road P&R had some problems in that department.

Perhaps the Hills Road closures have had an effect? More motorists drive here and ride (their bikes).

Extra Cycle Parking – Trumpington Park and Ride

I then headed out towards Coton – a nice path – but cracks are appearing. I then looped around the Coton Countryside Reserve. I would definitely recommend a visit.

So fingers crossed that the Lib Dems go for the £1.2Bn cycling fund.

And finally some cycling celebs – Leonardo DiCaprio and Sophie Okonedo – but not in the same article.

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