Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cars = Congestion

Friday, 24th January 2014: The other day I was cycling up to a junction, the road I was on had a slight curve to it.  I heard a car behind me, I was about one metre from the kerb and expected the car to remain behind me so that I would reach the junction move away. The the car would do so and presumably overtake me safely when on a clear bit or road.

The driver had other things on her mind, although I am not quite sure what. She drove alongside me, giving me a metre or so of clearance and carried on around the  bend at my speed, say 12mph, in the middle of the road around the bend! I was now concerned that she panic if a car came the other way as we approached the give way markings and just pull across the road and knock me off. (Yes I have had a car do something very similar – apparently I was obscured by his door pillar  so he turned left  into me – that time I ended up with a broken collar bone.)

Fortunately there was noting coming and she braked to just behind me and allowed me to go first and clear the junction.  I am not sure whether she had realised there was a junction ahead and had decided to overtake me – slowly or had just misread the road situation.  Some drivers really don’t quite know what to do when there are cyclists around. Small wonder then that lots of parents drive their kids to school. It can be dangerous walking or cycling with so many distracted drivers around.

Of course, whether we like it or not, some motorists feel an entitlement to bend the rules of the road for their own selfish purposes.  Apparently this “school had to hire a security guard to protect their car park” .  Look around the next time you are out and see how many vehicles are badly parked – whether on double yellow lines or close to junctions or half on pavements or double-parked.

The trouble is society has gotten used to the convenience of personalised motor transport. It is convenient, especially when you have a mobility issue. Look at the language used about parking at Addenbrooke’s hospital in a recent Cambridge News article – “Addenbrooke’s ‘rubbing patients’ noses in it’ by issuing more than 3,000 parking fines since 2011 – and raking in £5.5 million from car park fees”.  The trouble is that it is a large hospital, so lots of staff and lots of patients. Land in the Cambridge area is in short-supply so the cost of land and building is higher than average.  The hospital is out of town and not that well connected to public transport (I think).

What the article doesn’t mention is that parking at Addenbrooke’s is much easier than it used to be now they have the multi-storey car park.  They also offer discounts for patients undergoing treatment. The car-parks are also covered by 24-hour security and pay for an on-site bus station (up to 60 buses an hour stop at the hospital – maybe it is better connected than I thought. So it is not the cash-cow claimed and would it be sensible to take money from patient care in order to pay for car parking?

The trouble is motoring is seen as an important economic driver – it makes the economy tick. Although London is seen as the booming driver of the economy look at this chart on the way in which people enter central London in the weekday morning peak taken from this article. Only around 10% use private transport. the bulk of commuting is by train! (Note how cycling is on the rise though!) Which suggests that motoring isn’t quite so important as we might like to think. Rather it is a political hot-potato, with the powers-that-be unwilling to grasp the nettle. The way our society has evolved we have moved from the freedom offered by having our own cars to being imprisoned by them. 

Given how many people commute into London I am amazed at how poor the service can be. Although, at least in Cambridge there is more focus on the railways, with a new station planned.  There is talk of new trains – Class 700 electric trains.  The stations also driving the development of building – the old station has been quite a focus – “a new landmark for the city?”. Note the provision of 250 spaces for cars and 900 for bicycles. That is still too many cars to encourage into the city centre I reckon. It is a pity that the Guided Busway wasn’t plumbed into the city better. If it had a continuous track it would have helped facilitate more traffic of the roads. As it is there are plans to increase the busway services.  The article reckons that they already carry 3,000,000 passengers a year. That is before the Northstowe development – which is starting later this year – finally.

I do feel that the fly in the ointment is the A14 upgrade. It takes the focus off properly investing in other means of transport – the Cambridgeshire goal should be make live easier without having to own a car.  As it is the concern is that the upgrade will take away investment in other road infrastructure.

Whilst I still think that the current cycle route investment in the Cambridgeshire area is too much of a compromise – too many shared-use paths, failure to connect the routes properly there are a few initiatives starting – Long Road cycleway widening.  This is partly driven by Great Kneighton and the need to connect it to the centre withou8t encouraging loads more cars. There are others – Swavesey to Buckingway Business parkA1096 St Ives – foot and cyclewayYaxley to Farcet cycleway and a possible A10 crossing near Milton.

I am more convinced that given the amount of housing development in the area there either needs to be a real push ti switch modes of transport away from the car – or Cambridge will become a congested nightmare.

I also think that some attention has to be paid to encouraging those commuting cyclists (and commuting non-cyclists) to get out and get more time in the fresh air. The CGB cycleway from Cambridge to St Ives and the Lodes Way are two cases in point. Although the Lodes Way is not the most user-friendly of routes as you have to lug you bike over a footbridge.

I like the route though and thank those still working on the area – there has recently been a tree care day at White Fen.

White Fen

I have noticed more helicopter activity around. at first I though it might be a Police Helicopter – but has an RAF roundel on the side.

RAF Helicopter above Burwell Fen

Clearance near Burwell Electricity Sub-station

And that’s it for now – it is a sunny Sunday afternoon, I am of for a ride and to listen to the week’s Archers.



  1. Hi Jamie,

    sorry I interrupted your Archers this afternoon....

    You asked had I seen SBC recently, and in fact he was standing on the Burwell Lode foot bridge when I got there, which must have been about a minute after we parted company. While SBC & I were talking on the bridge we spotted a couple of Short-eared Owls, which is a good score this winter.

    Today it seems is Candlemas Day (known as Groundhog Day in the USA), and the saying goes
    If Candlemas be fair and bright,
    Winter has another flight.
    If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
    Winter will not come again.

    Nice and sunny wasn't it? Better not put the long-johns away yet then.



    1. I was halfway through the last episode - but stopping for a chat doesn't reduce my cycling time - which is when I listen.

      I stopped on Reach Lode Bridge and had my long lens with me, so if only I had looked in that direction I would have seen you both and taken your pictures.

      The weather was lovely - but as you say, February and March are often when winter strikes.


  2. Swaffham Bulbeck CyclistFebruary 4, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Sorry I clearly just missed you on Sunday while out on a circuit via Upware and Wicken. It was a lovely day to be out cycling, though by the time I left Mike C at the end of Newnham Drove I was beginning to feel the wind chill. Probably my age catching up with me!

    Looks like you won't be needing those winter tyres for some while at least judging by the forecast. I really got a lot of use out of mine last year and they're great fun on fresh snow. The only thing is the studs can be rather loud - I noticed this particularly on the cycle bridge over the railway line by the station in Cambridge- got a few funny looks! I'm sure they slowed me down a bit too, but I'm pretty slow anyway so it dodn't really matter.

    1. It was a lovely day, but the wind was a bit keen. Although I tend to find that I wrap up too warm when heading out and then swelter until the end of my ride and as it gets darker my toes start to get colder and colder.

      My new Winter Tyres are sitting alongside my computer just waiting for the snow to come along. I can't wait to try them out. I did think about seeing what they were like in the mud. My wife thought that the studs were small LED lights when she first saw one of the tyres sitting in a beam of sunlight. Which would be an interesting idea. Although it would take the tyre more expensive to replace.

      The info I got reckoned that I should run them in a bit to avoid shedding studs and that they were best at high pressure on tarmac and low pressure on snow. Knowing my luck we probably won't get any snow this year, but they'll be ready for next year.