Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Getting around

Monday, 28th August 2013: When you are young you tend to live in the moment, as you get older you find there are quite a few moments that have passed by and they form quite a sequence.

When I was young I aspired to a bike with 3 gears and then later on a racing bike with 10 gears. I did get both. The first was because I would be cycling to my secondary school and needed some transport, I also had to pass my cycling proficiency test, training was down at the local police station. In those days getting a lift to school in the car was rare.  As I got older and wanted to venture a bit further afield my brother and I both got “racing bikes” one Christmas.  We knew they were coming because we had chosen them (and made sure they were the right size). 

I do remember having an accident on my three-speed bike when I got neutral rather than a gear which was not uncommon I seem to remember.  The bad news was that I was out of the saddle at the time, the good news was that I managed not to damage myself on the crossbar, instead I scraped my face up the road a bit.  The derailleur gears were safer in that you tended not to go from a gear to nothing at all, they were a real fiddle though. I guess that they were the lowest of the range of Campag gears and we probably didn’t look after our bikes as well as we might have.

Mind you as I approached by 17th birthday my thoughts switched to how to acquire motorised transport. Although my focus remained on two wheels and I got a small motorbike. I am impressed that my Mum and Dad agreed, they knew how dangerous motorbikes could be and yet did not create too much stress over the choice. I am not so sure that I would have been so keen if my kids wanted motorbikes at 17.  Part of the deal was that I pass my motorbike test, which I did.

At the same time I did also pass my driving test, I am not sure my Dad was cut out for being a passenger when I was learning to drive – I think he found it pretty stressful. I did have proper lessons as well though. After passing my test the only time I got to drive the car was when I wouldn’t start in the morning and so my job was to clean the spark plugs start it and then deliver it to my Dad at work.

In those days I worked on the motorbike myself and then when I got my first car I also did many of my own repairs. Things changed when I started working and I resumed cycling, party to get fit and partly because it was more fun to cycle to the pub to meet with friends in the evening.  There was a large chunk of time when I drove more miles than I cycled. Nowadays I tend to cycle more than I drive, or at least I try to.

One of the improvements in motoring has been the increase in interval between services. For me it is the sooner of 12 months or 12,000 miles, which is always 12 months, because I don’t drive that many miles any more. However what doesn’t seem to have improved is the cost of a service. It does tend to be eye-wateringly expensive – although that might well be a function of the car – but hey it is no-one’s fault but my own.

My car’s service fits in with my part-time job as a removals man – I get it serviced before taking my daughter (and her stuff) up to Scotland for the new academic year. The round trip is a 1,000 or so miles so it seems sensible.

Of course what goes around comes around and for me the bicycle is an ideal tool for the processing of getting my car to and from the garage. It goes to Marshalls on Newmarket Road and I take my (a) bike with me to get back after dropping it off and then to pick it up again in the evening.

When I go I tend not to take a direct route amble around a bit – if you can amble on a bicycle.

This is Wadloes Road, on the Cambridge City Cycle map it appears as a separated route – but using the same key as for a shared-use path.  the neat thing is that it is actually a separate path from the pavement – to the right. The odd thing is that there is very little paintwork or signage – it just is.

Wadloes Road – Cambridge – Segregated cycle path

As I headed down Wadloes Road towards the River you pass another segregated track connecting Howard Road with Wadloes Road.  The signage isn’t very clear though. That interesting path also appears to have a painted line along the middle.

The trouble is much of the road infrastructure tends to hang around for a long time, but the “strategy” is there ever was one gets lost in the mists of time. The result is a hodge-podge of inconsistency.  Which leads to confusion about which pavements are shared and what isn’t and situations like this poor chap taken to court for cycling on a pavement he thought was shared-use.

Another Segregated Cycle path – Heaford Close – Wadloes Road

Look at all that space on Ditton Meadows – lets route a main Sustrans cycle route along it (NCN51 This takes you through to Newmarket and Ipswich). But let’s make it rather narrow.

The trouble is whilst shared-use paths are cheap – if they are useful then people use them and then you end up with conflict and accidents happen like this one on Midsummer Common.  The mother of the child involved did suggest a segregated cycle path would be a solution.

The right solution, in my view is segregated paths. Let’s face it people cycle because they want to travel more quickly and probably further than you can walking.  Shared-use paths are a poor-man’s cycle infrastructure – if they are popular they cause conflict between different users. Or pedestrians become intimidated by cyclists.

It seems that our road/path infrastructure is one of a hierarchy of intimidation. Whilst large sums of money gets spent on roads to often rights of way across those roads get intimidated out of existence. If you have driven along the A14 you sometimes pass signs warning of pedestrians crossing. Now that part is a dual-carriageway and it would seem that some rights of way expect pedestrians to run across the road – examples here and here and here on my Blog.

NCN51 Through Ditton Meadows – fit for purpose?

Now it all depends upon the the usage of the path. The conflict occurs if you get different types of users. Paths that don’t get used much – well no-one minds. The problem is if we are trying to increase the use of sustainable transport in Cambridgeshire then we should expect important routes to be heavily used – otherwise they can’t be that important.

The trouble is the Cambridge Transport plan seems to be strategy-light – it is more of a reactive document. Of course times are hard – money is tight, but building cycle infrastructure needs a long-term plan and goals and finance.  Whilst at an every day level even spending £250,000 on a crossing seems bl**dy expensive in terms of the share of money for motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians it isn’t really.

The good news is that the Horningsea A14 junction is finally getting sorted  and the Fen Ditton to Horningsea path will get a bit closer to being Ok (yes just ok).

The good news was my car was ready and the sun was shining went I cycled off via Lode to get it.

Cycle to Newmarket Road to pick up my Car at Marshalls (no I wasn’t lost)

Talking about conflict a cyclist was barged of his bike on the Guided Busway and suffered a broken arm -  I hope they catch the person who did it and they get a meaningful punishment.

Talking about the lack of strategy when it comes to dealing with congestion in Cambridge I have bemoaned the fact that the County Council is planning on a £1 charge for all users of the Park and Ride sites, whereas currently the only charge is for people who use the bus service. I do wonder whether it was the County Council punishing the City Council for not putting money into the A14 “improvement” fund.  There are times when I think that the way councils work is just broken. Well the charge has been approved, but Stagecoach has suggested they could run the sites for no extra charge.

Apparently a report on the plan indicated that there would be a 5% drop in park and ride usage (250 cars a day). So presumably those drivers would be back parking in the streets around Cambridge. That sound’s like quite a bit of extra congestion. Although the report says the drop would be short-lived.  It seems that one of Stagecoach’s concerns is that once the Council charges for the P&R then whenever there was a shortfall they would up the cost to cover the shortfall – it would become a cash cow.

What a mess!

No comments:

Post a Comment