Saturday, April 19, 2014

Police Crackdown on Cyclists on Lodes Way?

Monday, 31st March 2014: I have decided that as the weather forecast for April 2nd looks good, despite the smog, I will cycle the Peddars Way route. So my plan was to have a couple of gentle spins around the Lodes Way in preparation for my mid-week indulgence.

I rather look forward to going somewhere by train – except that is London when I am working, that is generally an unpleasant experience.  Even better than going somewhere by train is going somewhere by train, with my bicycle and getting to explore. That is then topped by going somewhere by train, cycling to somewhere else and catching a different train from a different station. Although I’d better leave that for when I write the post(s) in question.

The other bit of positivity is that I am well ahead of my cycling-distance target for the month. After a couple of months lay-off at the4 end of last year with back problems I have been determined to re-build some level of cycling endurance again. It wasn’t cycling that caused the back pain and I feel that cycling helps to reduce aches and pain and the like. At the start of the year I figured on cycling every other day for around 32Km/20 miles, which rounded up for good measure meant a monthly target of 500Km.

It can be a bit dispiriting after not cycling for a while because what was easy becomes surprisingly hard.  In fact there is a double-whammy, trying to go as fast as I could seems impossible and so you end up sitting on the bike for longer which impacts both your undercarriage and arms and hands. (Note – when I say fast it is a relative term – for I am not fast I prefer to pootle along and stop and take pictures.)

However by setting a reasonable goal and working around the other stuff – life, weather and the like gradually things improve. So for the last three months my cycling has been getting easier – so much so that I have planned a ride along the Peddars Way – well the cycleable bits anyway.

As it gets easier I can go further in the same time and it becomes easier to just pop out when the mood takes me. I have managed over 1,000Km for March which despite being a good step-up was less of a slog than the 500Km in January.  Mind you as the weather gets better and better I am going to have to resist the temptations to cycle.

Distance Cycled so far in 2014

Month Distance (Km) Distance (Miles)
January    503 315
February    610 381
March 1,085 678

Now you read a lot about ‘Crackdowns’ and ‘blitzes’ on cyclists in Cambridge. It seems that as Cambridge has the highest percentage of cyclists, according to a survey, it is being used as an excuse to make it safer by putting us off cycling.  The biggest obstacle to cycling is reported as being a “perceived lack of safety and fear of traffic on the roads“(30%). So that somehow seems to get spun around as an excuse to clock up lots of cheap fines. “Massive blitz on ‘danger’ drivers and cyclists in Cambridge see 200 fines dished out – with 50 to riders on a one-way street”.

Personally I reckon that getting cyclists for such misdemeanours is a “low-hanging fruit” and that the cost doesn’t actually justify the effective improvement in safety for any road-users.  At the same time there seem to be a bit of a disregard for parking on pavements – indeed in some streets in Cambridge it is encouraged. It is anti-social, affects vulnerable road-users, damages pavements and yet trying to get anything done about it is near on impossible – “Cambridge Cyclist – Copy of pavement parking letter sent to our PCC”. It is not a low-hanging fruit.

Even worse despite the popularity of introducing 20mph speed limits around Cambridge the police confirm they’ll only carry out speed checks in Cambridge’s citywide 20mph zone in ‘exceptional circumstances’. It is not a low-hanging fruit. One excuse reason in the past was that the 20mph speed limit signage was not good enough, strangely that didn’t stop the Police from cracking down on cyclists on the pavement.  That can be pretty poorly signed as well. In fact there is national guidance to indicate the pavement cycling should be allowed where the road conditions are dangerous even where it is not designated as shared-use.

So as I cycled through Lode along the Lodes Way it must have been pricked by a guilty conscience as I cycled along towards White Fen. There was a Police Helicopter circling in the air. Apparently it is a Eurocopter EC 135T” – G-C-CPSH operated  by Police Aviation Services Ltd. The National Police Air Service came into being on 1st October 2012 apparently.

I did a quick check, it was daylight, so no need for lights, I had all my reflectors including pedal reflectors (not so easy when your pedals are SPD pedals.) Oh dear I wasn’t wearing a helmet, but I was wearing a yellow jacket, I was listening to my MP3 player – was I going to get shouted at words of advice from the sky.  No – it did keep hovering around though perhaps I was cycling into a crackdown.

National Police Air Service Helicopter above the skies of Quy Fen

As I cycled along Fen Road towards White Fen Drove I passed an unmarked Police Car and as well as two police officers there was a person sitting on the ground with some form of hand restraints.  There was not bike though.  I reckoned it was probably better not to stop and take a picture at this point.

Then as I was cycling down White Fen Drove there was a police car driving on a farm track.

Police Car – just off White Fen Drove

As I cycled down it then turned off the track towards me. I am not sure what the law says about cycling on the verge – so I pulled of the road and stopped. I got a wave of thanks.

I have no idea what was going on – my guess was either they were chasing thieves across the fens or perhaps hare coursing – not that I have ever seen either actually happen.

A quick search on Google hasn’t thrown anything up.

Police Car –  White Fen Drove

After the excitement I turned to more agricultural matters – the crops are popping up.

Lines of Crops Spring Up – Headlake Drove (Lodes Way)

I decided to head to Upware – although I felt I ought to keep an ear out for any police chases in case I needed to get of the road in a hurry.

The Lodes Way is well signed – although this sign has lost one of the signs for motorists (to Swaffham Prior).

Well-Signed Lodes Way

Spring Leaves appearing along Lodes Way

A military in-flight refuelling plan flew overhead – perhaps for the police helicopter?   I think it is a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker out of Mildenhall. Air-to-Air refuelling for helicopters is somewhat unusual – but here is a picture.  I wonder if it could do Jelly baby drops to cyclists as well.

Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker above Lodes Way

The fleece is out in force in the field along Great Drove on the way to Upware

The National Trust have a fair bit of land in different places around these parts and must be pretty busy getting ready for the Easter rush.

National Trust getting around the Fens

Drain Maintenance  - a never-ending job in the Fens – Swaffham IDB

It seems that MAMILS are a focus on drivers ire. I was disgusted to read about the sprinkling of drawing pins because of a planned Wiggle Sportive.  It is as bad as people who think that because they live somewhere they have a right to park on the public road in front of their houses. No you don’t – there is not a legal right to park on the Public Highway.

The trouble is whilst we might think that all cyclists are MAMILs they ain’t not by a long chalk. Many cyclists are just wanting to get from a to b carrying on with their own particular concerns. Like this chap – a birder heading out to a hide in Wicken Fen carrying his gear. The bike happens to be a convenient and suitable for of transport – quiet, non-polluting and efficient.

I bumped into him on Burwell Lode Bridge a little later as I stopped to chat with another birder – he had also seen the helicopter as well as various birds.

Cycling – good transport for Birders

Three Deer on Burwell Fen - Lodes way

One thing I have not seen cyclists do is fly-tip – perhaps all motorists should pay an additional levy to account for the costs of clearing up after them. I would be happy to pay a bit more car tax – especially if it helped catch the fly-tippers.

Fly-tipping on Lodes Way

On my way back I took some pictures of these blue bins in the field – no they aren’t for walkers to deposit their rubbish but what I assume to be bird-scarers.  When I was a boy we used to buy Banger-ropes, although we knew them as rookies (for rook scarers) – they were more powerful than banger and had almost no fuse. We were pretty foolhardy.  There was one lad who was believed to have thrown a banger into a bowl of petrol and ended up with pink scar tissue all over his face.

I assumed these were some form of propane gas gun, but can’t find any reference to them on Wkipedia. Thinking about it you would expect to see a gas cylinder. I will have to ask my son – he knows more about farming matters than I do.

I will have to get a closer look at one. I enlarged the picture and there is a gas cannon jus tin front of the furthers blue bin.

Blue Bins in a Field – Mystery

May Blossom in the Hedgerow

I’d better start checking train times and mapping my route ready for my GPS for my Peddars cycle soon.


  1. The mystery of the blue bins has been solved - they are game bird feeders apparently.


  2. Yes, that KC-135 is likely stationed at Mildenhall and on roughly one in three days they'll be landing at least once an hour all day. The flight path is directly over Ely so I have intimate knowledge of what goes in and out of Mildenhall (generally KC-135, occasionally C-5/C-135/E-5, rarely V-22).