Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mid-Week Ride

Wednesday, 19th February 2014: One of the reasons my riding has gotten stuck in a rut is the rain/soggy conditions.  When I go for a ride I also like to avoid going there and back on the same route.

There are some rather nice rides around Cambridge, such as along the Roman Road to Balsham or on the CGB Cycleway (CGB – Cambridge Guided Busway) and various of the bridleways that run parallel to it, to name but two.  However they bridleways can be unpredictably soggy and the CGN cycleway has been flooded along at the St Ives end.

Several times I have considered cycling at least part-way up the CGB Cycleway but frankly the flooding has put me off. Well according to the Cambridge News the flooding closure is now reaching the eight week.  Apparently it has been flooded for 51 days so far, compared with 48 days last year. The claim was that it would flood 29 days per year on average. I am not sure I ever saw a prediction for what the likely spread of days flooded. The article also quotes a council spokesman:

“There are readily available alternative routes which are signposted, but we apologise for any inconvenience.”

You can’t really base a prediction on two points, but this raises three points in my mind:

  1. Why is it that from the start were cycling facilities constructed with high (1 month in 12 on average) levels of unavailability.  Let’s face when new facilities are built it tends to attract users – which is a good thing, so why is there surprise when cyclists walk up the baking to get past the flooded areas.
  2. Do we still believe the original predictions?  I can’t say that I have much faith in them.
  3. A Council that understood cycling as transport would not make an inane comment about signposted available alternative routes.  When I cycle somewhere when commuting I don’t have hours to waste on some whimsical detour. Just because I like cycling doesn’t mean I want to add another few miles to my journey.
    The motoring equivalent would be to tell all the A14 whingers to stop whining about how bad it is and tell them that there are plenty of other signposted available routes through Cambridgeshire.

Too often alternative forms of transport to the car are the poor relations – which isn’t good enough if we really want to cut congestion, pollution and improve public health.

Talking about facilities attracting people and being second-class. Well much as I like the NCN11 route through Wicken Fen I think it is a victim of its own success. Over the last couple of years the Lodes Way  has definitely increase the number of visitors to the area and Wicken Fen plays an important part of that attraction.

The trouble is the path alongside Wicken Lode and Monk’s Lode is too narrow. Wicken Fen is a good place to take kids to help them burn of a bit of energy and get out into the “wilds”.  The increase in the area car park shows that it is popular.  This document suggests that the place has 50,000 visitors per year, which I assume is pretty recent, whereas this spreadsheet on Tourism suggests that there were 32,522 in 2004 and 36,135 in 2008.  The old adage build the facilities and they will come  rings true and you then need to re-invest in those facilities.

It can be a nightmare getting through by bicycle on a sunny weekend afternoon. As it was a half-term February Wednesday afternoon was tricky.  The drainage isn’t the best along the path and so in places the path and verges are getting pretty chewed up.

As it happened I just cycled slowly behind the group in this picture and passed them near the cattle grids – I was not commuting and was in no hurry.

Normally I ting my bell as I approach walkers, most step to the side of the path and I slow down to pass and say thank you. this time one couple with a dog or two ,looked round at me and grimaced and stood their ground and let their dog dart in front of my wheel. The inference was clear – they felt I was a nasty cyclist on their path and they were not wanting to share it. Fortunately for the dog although I had to ride on the muddy grass I was ready with hands on both brakes and avoided skidding. However I wouldn’t have wanted to cycle through that sort of route with my kids when they were young.

The Narrow Shared-Use paths though Wicken Fen

As it happens once you are are few 100m away from Wicken Fen the numbers of walkers you encounter drops off considerably – so I am not arguing that the entire path needs to be re-worked. Although a note for cyclists with young kids – the cattle grid areas can be a bit dodgy on a bike, especially for young kids so warn them.

However for those driving into Wicken Fen with their bikes in the car and then wanting to cycle into the countryside your options are limited for alternative, signposted routes.

 Winking smile

This is the bit of Lodes Way passing through Burwell Fen. A couple of times I have seen a (Short-Eared) Owl perched on a fence post. Although I only notice it as I pass, we stare at each other and then before I can get my camera out it flies off. So this time, I stopped early with my long lens – but no Owl.

Lodes Way – Burwell Fen – Sometimes an Owl perches on one of these posts

Reach Lode Bridge (taken at the Newnham Drove/Lodes Way Cross Roads

Burwell Fen Farm

A Birder + Telescope + Dogs walking along Mill Road (Burwell Fen)

Burwell Fen – a nice piece of wetland

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