Monday, April 14, 2014

After the Smog Comes the Warnings

Tuesday, 25th March 2014: Normally when I have meetings around Cambridge I tend take pictures with my Samsung Galaxy S4. It saves on carrying too much.  However it was such a Spring-like day and because I had spare time between meetings I took my Panasonic GH1 as well. 

When cycling for/to work I try to maintain a relaxed pace to avoid turning up as a sweaty heap. The best solution is to leave plenty of time, the next best solution is to minimise the amount of stuff I am carrying – especially if it is slung round my body. Those hot sweaty patches catch up on you unawares.

The ideal cycling weather is sunny, but with not much wind and relatively cool air temperature. Then the trick is to make sure you don’t put on too much clothing. The trouble is it feels cols when you start cycling – but you warm up pretty quickly when cycling – even here in the flatlands.

In fact just at weather forecasters talk about wind-chill I reckon they ought to mention cycle-warmth.  “The temperature today will be in around 120C, and for those of you pedalling at a moderate speed the wind chill will knock off 20C, but the exercise warmth will add 100C! – It will feel like 180C”.

One thing to consider, all you residents of the Cambridge ever-growing Metropolis is that unless we do something about it air pollution will be coming our way.  Why does it matter – well apparently “Government urged to restrict use of cars as report says air pollution causes 30,000 premature deaths a year”. The report can be read here – “Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution”. The challenge is that effect of pollution is seen on populations rather than on individuals. Whilst a person's death might have been significantly hastened by pollution it will not be recorded as such – but perhaps a coronary problem (hastened by the pollution. So it is easy for us to dismiss the issue as individuals. Yet is has a very real impact on the population.

It wasn’t that long ago that petrol was sold with a lead additive (tetraethyl lead). It can make a petrol engine run more effectively (more power and higher compression).  This was despite the fact that lead has been known to be dangerous since the 19th Century.  Apparently there is evidence to suggest that lead poisoning could be a cause of violent crime.  It makes you wonder why lead in petrol took so long to phase out – known poison and all that.

As you might expect complex issues tend to get somewhat over-simplified when reported in the press and often what appears to be conflicting information gets reported. All of which allows us, the general population to stick our heads in the sand. A couple of years ago the BBC reported – “Traffic pollution kills 5,000 a year in UK, says study”. (by the way aeroplane exhaust gases killed another 2,000).

The trouble is it ignores the reduction in quality of health that far more people suffer from and leads to not much happening. even worse because some of the pollution comes from overseas then there is even less political will to combat the problem. Yet what do we do about it. Well cycling in Cambridge gets reasonable (relatively speaking) support. However there is a whole load of development planned in and around Cambridge over the next 15 years or so. Also there is pressure from the County to drive more motor traffic through the area by “upgrading” the A14.  (According to this Air Quality Action Plan for the Cambridgeshire Growth Areas: in 2009,  there are 47.500 new homes planned for the Cambridge sub-region and 10,0000 new homes were built between 1999 and 2004.)

That report seems to propose a heap of actions but avoids the elephant in the room – there need to be fewer motor journeys – despite the huge rise in people and jobs (50,000).  The A14 upgrade apparently will help because it will be further away from Huntingdon and so there will be more dispersal the air pollution. Although surely more motor vehicles in the area will mean more pollution – especially with the switch to more people buying and using diesel cars!

I can’t help but feel that whilst we have a step-change in terms of people living and working in the area the response has been one of fiddling around the edges when it comes to dealing with the issues that will be caused. Surely the recent smog episode must serve as a warning. The tendency was to report external factors – Saharan dust and EU pollution as significant contributors – as if, well there ain’t much we can do about it. Whereas the reality is that we need to control our own pollution even more rigidly – if we want decent air quality.

So putting it simply Cambridge needs to drive down car/motor use and  drive up cycle use significantly.  Or as reported by Bike Biz – Save the world, cycle more, says climate change panel.

Now I find cycling in Cambridge reasonably pleasant, but as a cyclist I very much feel like a second-class citizen when it comes to getting about. cycle routes often take circuitous routes, jump up and down kerbs, travel along potholed roads and play second fiddle to motor traffic. Actually cyclists also play second fiddle to pedestrian traffic as well.  When cycling through Midsummer Common the routes cause conflict between pedestrians and cyclists – whilst I am not a great fan of more tarmac I think it would help to provide segregated paths through the various parks.

I know my way around Cambridge and yet it is not clear to me that anyone no-one has taken a strategic view of cycle routes through the city. With the exception of CCyC – Cambridge City Deal could mean go-ahead for Chisholm Trail.

So here are a few pictures that I took whilst having the time to cycle from meeting to meeting at a leisurely pace around Cambridge.

River Cam – Sculling by Riverside

Blossom alongside Great St Mary’s – Cambridge

Blossom alongside Great St Mary’s – Cambridge

I sometimes feel that glaciers move quicker the Council bureaucracy. Cycle parking at the Cambridge Railway Station has been dreadful for ever (well a long time anyway).  Now given how important non-car modes of transport are in County’s Long Term Transport Strategy (trains, cycles, buses, walking) you would think that given so many people want to use their bicycles to get to and from the railway station then the Council would make it happen – quickly. The trouble is there are grandiose plans about – which seems to stop any short-term solutions to the problem and so people who do cycle to the station to catch a train are resigned to parking their bike any place they possibly can.

Cambridge Railway Station – still an abysmal place to park you bicycle

A set of “cycle safety posters are returning to Cambridge after a successful first outing”. One of the posters reminds cyclists to ride a door’s width from parked cars.  However there are several places in Cambridge where it is next to impossible – like along Trumpington Road where the cycle lane places you right up to the parked cars. Or maybe that isn’t a cycle-lane – but a non-cycling lane – to show you where not to cycle.

Trumpington Road – Parked Cars hard up alongside the Cycle Lane

I have to admit I also to0ok a rural route home via the Wilbrahams.  Whether we like it or not sustainable energy is important.

Wadlow Wind Farm – Wind Turbine (1 of 13)

Oil Seed Rape - Wilbraham

At least there is still some countryside about.


No comments:

Post a Comment