Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A cycle trip up the Guided Busway

Wednesday, 26th February 2014: Some of these pictures have already made it out into the world via Twitter. I have been doing a bit of moaning about the flooding of the shared-use path alongside (but not quite as far above sea level as) the concrete tracks of the busway. So I thought I ought to go and look for myself.

The fact that it was sunny and quite warm and reached around 100C between 12::00 and 16:00 didn’t have anything to do with it, honest. I am also getting the need to be a bit more adventurous. All I can say is roll on some dryer weather there are byways and bridleways waiting to be explored.

This is one ride on my day-list from Thetford to Hunstanton, mainly on the Pedder’s Way (select Cycling Info) .  I will catch the train to Thetford and back from King’s Lynn. I am waiting for a bit of dry weather first though. Tracks can be pretty claggy and thank you again to the guy that put this Pedder’s Way Route (cycle-legal) into the OSM Cycle map.

We all know that the Busway Cycleway floods, pretty atrociously in my view, for what is supposed to be a high-quality cycle route. What’s worse is it pretty difficult working out whether it is flooded or not from official channels. It gets occasional mentions on @Cambs_Traffic (Twitter), but not on the Cambridgeshire County Council Website, but you do get to learn how many bike spaces there are at various stops. – Swavesey 60. There has also been a request for alerts on Shape Your Place – the response promised daily alerts.

A good blog to follow regarding the fortunes of the Guided Busway is the Travelling the Guided Busway Blog and if you look at this series of comments a bunch of users are providing the best updates I can (easily) find on the flooding. A cyclist managed to cycle through from Swavesey to St Ives (March 1st). and by careful route planning was able to find a stretch that was less than 5cm deep. That is the first time in weeks. (A Google Groups forum has also been set up – but it is a closed group.)

Take care when cycling on the debris though – that is still there.

Talking about reporting issues a while back I almost fell off my bicycle because of gaps in paving slabs along this stretch of the CGB Cycleway in Histon. It had already been reported, but I added another report – here.  Well I was amazed to see that finally something has been done about it. The paving slabs have been replaced by tarmac. 

Considering you have to balance on two wheels, it is remarkably easy to maintain one’s balance on a bike, most of the time. What I particularly hate are ridges/slits of any kind that run along road/track in the direction of travel.  I can think of a couple of unplanned dismounts that have resulted from such problems. One was caused when I was caught by a gust of the wind along one of the Fen Roads with ridges at the edge cause by different layers of tarmac. Another was when I was caught ought when joining a shared-use path from the road and the kerb was a but steeper than I had realised.

What I particularly hate are the concrete paving slabs with horizontal and vertical ridges set into some shared use paths. One side is for pedestrians and the other side is for cyclists. They vertical ridges make the front wheel of my bike skit around very unpleasantly – particularly when it is wet. Somewhere or other I have a picture – but I can’t find it. Here is one with something similar – although the ridges have a rounded top. (Click here for a closer look.)

Whilst in this case the paving slabs looked ok when laid, unless they are laid on firm foundations they can tilt and separate (like well known bras?).  Thank you – the trouble is there is good cycle infrastructure depends upon getting the detail right.

Dangerous Slabs replaced by Tarmac alongside Cycle Parking on CGB – Histon

On the outskirts of Histon, or should that be Impington are a bunch of new houses, they were only at the foundation level the last time I looked. Now  the houses all look lived in.  There seems to be both houses for sale and some available on a shared-ownership basis.  Here is a site plan. There appear to be 70-odd plots. There is a warning about the footpath junction along here for cyclists – what was that I said about the detail being important!.

If you are interested here is the Bellway Design and Access Statement for the site.

Primrose Lane Housing Development

This one of the reasons that I like cycling on the CGB cycleway – you really feel that you are out in the countryside, with a safe4 and decent place to cycle without the incessant traffic noise that you can end up with.

I have always assumed that the lumps in the ground were designed to encourage rabbits to live adjacent to the concrete tracks rather than underneath – but it is only a guess.

The CGB Cycleway – one of the better cycle routes – when it isn’t flooded

We always used to refer to this tower as The Tripod when the kids were younger.

Communication Tower alongside the CGB

I hadn’t noticed it before, the CGB tracks dip under the bridge, presumably to ensure the Double Decker Buses fit with sufficient clearance. Now the bridge seems to be called Windmill Bridge but the road above is Gravel Bridge Road. I also note that I have mistakenly referred to the bridge as “Windmill Hill Bridge” in previous posts (although I got the map label correct).


CGB Tracks dip under Windmill Bridge

It is an old saying – which I roughly paraphrase as build the infrastructure and they will come. Well this is the Swavesey stop along the CGB.  Despite their being 60 cycle parking places it would appear that it is still insufficient.

Mixed-Mode transport systems can work – if you get the detail right. Also having spent the day working in the city – after a bus ride these people get a delightful ride home in the fresh air.

Still Insufficient Cycle Parking Swavesey Stop – CGB

The Parish and Priory Church of St Andrew, Swavesey

Another addition to the route – an information board about Swavesey Priory – the black and white picture shows the great Floods of 1950.

Swavesey Priory – Information Board

The floods might not be as bad – but they do afflict the cycle way on a regular basis – that yellow sign is the warning. It means the bridleway rather than the busway track in case you were wondering.

Track Ahead Flooded – CGB Cycleway

Evidence of how bad the flooding was alongside the CGB – there is a huge mound of debris. 

Flooded Cycleway – Alongside Trout Pond – 26th February 2014

I also tweeted a picture – but using my camera as a phone in bright sunlight is tricky. So I ended up with some yellow glove in the way.  You can see a cyclist has taken to the muddy track alongside the concrete track.  I didn’t bother going any further – I had seen enough and didn’t want to risk tumbling down the bank into the water.

As I stood taking pictures an old boy chatted with me. He had walked up from Swavesey to have a look. He and his wife walk the route and he reckoned it was better to walk on the concrete tracks  facing the oncoming buses and then to step off rather than risk walking on the mud.  He reckoned it was appalling how this situation had been allowed to happen.  This isn’t a cyclist issue this affects all who use this path – horse riders, families, walkers and birders.

Cyclist avoiding the Floods on the CGB

Another picture taken using my phone – I seem to have got the hang of it don't I?  The flooding has clearly subsided a fair bit from its worst.  I hope that the solar lights are appropriately water proof.  You can see one in the foreground to the right of the track. A bus is coming this time.

Flooded Cycleway - CGB

Flooding alongside the CGB

I turned around and headed back – it was too cold to risk getting wet.  I did feel cheated out of my cycle ride through, having had to cut it short. It was pretty good riding back the wind seemed more for me than against me.

A Tree Blown Down by the recent Gales
Between Histon  and Cambridge – alongside the CGB

Once back in Cambridge I popped up the Green Dragon Bridge to see how they were getting on -  the bridge is still closed and they seem to have found a load of concrete to dig up as well.

Green Dragon Bridge Spoils?

Before I forget, a quick mention of the erosion on the CGB caused by the waves – over  onthe TtCgb – Erosion of the Busway Embankment.  The buses will start carrying lifebelts in case they tip into the water.

Oh and one final bit of CGB news – apparently it looks like a road to quite a few car drivers!

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