Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Short Ride and a Short Thought

Thursday 15th May 2014: What’s not to like about cycling in the countryside. Unless you suffer badly from hay fever.  We might think of the countryside as a uniform chunk of green, but when you get into it that’s not the case. At cycling speeds even the “featureless bits” change pretty quickly. If you are prepared to take to byways and bridleways you also come across “secret” bits of the countryside.

The Thought

When the kids were, well, still kids we used to go up to the Lake District regularly for our hols. These were holidays inspired by Swallows and Amazons and Peter Rabbit. Now the Lake District is a popular place and parts of it get pretty crowded. The popular mountains can get pretty busy. (Helvellyn, Scafell Pike. The Old Man), but what we found is you don’t need to go far of the beaten track to find unexplored lands. Well you can’t go too far with a five year-old and yet you can still stir their imagination.

The same is true when I go cycling, I like to explore, but exploring doesn’t have to mean pedalling for miles.  Sometimes you just need to take a track you’ve never been down before.  In fact now I think about it that statement still holds true when cycling around Cambridge. Just check out the OSM cycling map of the area.  It is a veritable hodge-podge of highlighted cycle routes, cut-throughs and alleyways.

Which of course highlights the issue – it is a maze without much obvious planning or structure.   Just check out the maps provided by the County Council for cyclists – what seems like a random list of maps. It seems to me that the planning around cycling for transport in the Cambridgeshire  area is still very much ad-hoc. The Cambridgeshire Local Transport Plan 2011 – 2031  (Consultation Draft) starts by conflating the needs of pedestrians and cyclists – Section 3. Strategy Approach “

“A comprehensive pedestrian and cycle network will also provide for many more trips by foot or by bike, and will complement the passenger transport network.”

WRONG: We need separate networks.If we want to encourage more people to choose to cycle and/or walk instead of drive then we need to realise that mixing the two together is a cop-out that compromises both modes of transport.

There also needs to be planning associated with the cycle network, the time has come to move on from ad-hoc networks. We need a planned network that provides efficient and direct links across and around the city (and county) not routes that jink about through every back alley and gravel track.

In fact a start would be a statement that says a plan will be developed to develop a strategic cycle network.

Section 3.3 (Page 29) of the plan uses more woolly words (my italics) -

“Greater levels of walking and cycling are critical if existing traffic problems are not to be exacerbated further, and investment in the cycle and pedestrian network is therefore one of the key investment priorities in this strategy.”

“Develop the cycle network in the area around Cambridge, providing greater opportunity for cycling to replace the use of the private car for more trips into the city.”

We should setting goals to move people away from driving to cycling and once again there is talk of the cycling and pedestrian network being a key investment priority. It can’t be much of a priority if the two get combined. I consider cycling to be suitable for even the shortest of journeys. My morning trip to the paper shop is 300m there and 300m back. A distance I can easily walk, but a distance I can even more conveniently cycle – so why wouldn’t I.  (There are bike racks right outside the shops – which makes it even more convenient.

So CCC                         Cycling and Walking are very different

Don’t get me wrong I am not arguing that cycling should be winning funding over pavements, rather cycling should be getting more money from road transport budget.

If you want a reminder why it matters that we drive less try this.

Air pollution is a real according to this Guardian piece “it prematurely kills almost 30,000 Britons a year”.

The Ride

So when I am riding for pleasure/leisure/exercise/meditation it becomes a bit of a no-brainer to cycle in the Countryside.  On this ride I detoured around Oily Hall Farm, which hasn’t made it onto the OSM map it seems but is more or less in the middle.

Iris pseudacorus – Bottisham Lode

The same flowers at a distance. I had my 100-300mm lens with me for a change (200mm – 600mm in 35mm speak).

Iris pseudacorus – Bottisham Lode

A dandelion clock with a nice bit of bokeh.

Dandelion Clock

Commissioners’ Drain

Unidentified Flying Helicopter over the Fens

Sustrans Portrait Bench – Lodes Way (with Reach Lode bridge in the background)

That was taken using my Samsung phone, I was way too close to use my long lens.

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