Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Mid-Week Wicken W®ide

Wednesday, 4th March 2014: Well having gone from a bit of a cycling drought towards the end of last year, I am finding it hard to stay off my bicycle this year in order to get on with the other stuff I have to do.  I am not complaining though as temptations go, cycling is probably reasonably virtuous (although not getting stuff done is another matter).

I am pleased that the AA seems to be taking a more pro-active stance when it comes to cycling. “Motorists find cyclists hard to spot, AA survey shows” coincides with a national AA bike awareness campaign. The trouble is it is a bit like GPs doing a survey that reports that “95% of our patients scratch themselves” and then sending out plasters to all the people on their books.

Why do up to 93% of motorists say it is sometimes hard to see cyclists while driving and why are more than half (65%) surprised.  What is the root cause and how do we treat the disease and not the symptoms?

As a driver I do know that one issue is that the various pillars that support the car roof are pretty thick. When I switch from driving my car to driving my wife's car I have to mentally adjust to a very different view of the world. I also know that at junctions, cyclists exploit the permeability to get ahead in traffic. (Well I do!).  So I expect cyclists to swarm and therefore look for them.

However as a cyclist I am extremely worried that with so many motorists being “surprised by cyclists suddenly appearing” that the solutions seem to be sticker, high-viz and polystyrene helmets. Particularly where

What we should be thinking about are not sticking plaster solutions but cures. Cures that not only make those that cycle today safer, but deliver safety to all those people that don’t cycle.

We don’t really have to do the research since we have “experiments” that have done it all before – the Netherlands for instance.

Congestion is not going to go away and won’t be fixed by fiddling with the road system. Certainly not if Cambridge’s population grows from 640,000 today to a projected 770,000 by 2013.

At the moment one of the “fiddling around the edge” projects is “The Big Pedal Challenge”, in itself a laudable challenge and one in which a Cambridge School might be expected  to do well given the importance of cycling as a mode of transport (and one is).  However this type of “big society” activity needs the strong support and commitment to change from National and Local government (Big Society). Many of the schools I pass when cycling are nightmarish for a cyclist at the start and end of the school day. Today I passed a school close to the end of the school day and as I overtook what I presume was a parent parked at the side of the road waiting a car zoomed past me, certainly faster than the speed limit, desperate not to be held up by me as I passed the parked car. Of course the driver put themselves in little danger.

Why does it matter – well car congestion around schools puts young lives at risk, teaches bad habits and puts off parents from allowing their kids to cycle to school. As eloquently put by a child when schoolchildren questioned motorists on their behaviour after joining police officers to carry out speed checks in Haverhill.

Whilst I feel that the AA gets it – one more cyclist is one less motorist, means less congestion I am not so sure about the other motoring organisations. Some of whom treat the roads as theirs – “Motorist group brands London cycling plan ‘bonkers’”.  It would seem to be a very short-sighted attitude.

More cyclists = Less cars = Less congestion = Less Pollution = Less Obesity = Less Noise

Still – the really good thing is that I have managed a halfway decent mileage during January and February, despite the weather and now the weather is getting better – yaahayy.  Soon I will be back to the byways and bridleways.  The Pedders Way here I come.

Before then you’ll have to put up with yet more pictures of the Fens. Only this time I took a road less well travelled and not one I would do in a car (well yes I would in my 4x4 if I had to!).  I cycled along Lodes Way and instead of turning up to Upware via Great Drove and carried on Headlake Drove and then across to Harrison’s Drove. On old maps the point where Rand Drove and Headlake Drove meet is called Blinker’s Hill.

This barn was stuffed to the gunwales with sugar beet, presumably as a staging post for collection.

Blinkers Hill – on the less well-travelled road to Upware

You get a rather nice view of the Reach Lode Bridge on the Lodes Way when looking south. You (well I) also notice the hills in the background.

The bridge itself although not terribly visible makes for a good vantage point.

Reach Lode Bridge

When Commissioners’ Drain meets Straight Drove it makes a dogleg towards the Upware pumping station. This is the view looking south towards the dogleg.

Commissioners’ Drain

This the drain looking towards Upware – as you can see it has recently been tidied.

Commissioners’ Drain

The “culprit”. This guy seems to be sorting all of the ditches in the area at the moment.

Swaffham IDB – at work

Lots of the fields lie next to drains/ditches.  This is the view looking downs Harrison’s Drove.  The cables carry power to the carrot packing place just on the left of the picture and Blinkers Hill.

The edge of Harrison’s Drove

A “zoom” of the same view and you can more clearly see the windmill in Burwell down the middle of the poles.  In the previous picture you can also see church in Burwell – St Mary’s

The edge of Harrison’s Drove

A view of the Warren Hill Comms Tower just visible on the hill in the background to the left of the picture.

Reach Lode – Upware

Boats moored on Reach Lode – Upware

Burwell Fen

Burwell Fen

A Babble of Birders on Burwell Fen
(no disrespect intended – it was for alliterative purposes)

Sorry – not my finest picture of a short-sleeved short-eared owl sitting on a fence post. There were quite a few deer lounging around as well.

Short-eared Owl on Burwell Fen (from the Burwell Lode Footbridge)

Once I got a bit closer I honed my panning skills – well tried to.

Short-eared owl in flight – Burwell Fen

The fence poles were popular.

Short-eared owl in flight – Burwell Fen

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