Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Fine Friday Cycle–and some news!

Friday, June 13th 2014: this was a bit of a POET’s day ride, although I had recently been on my hols and carted my Brompton around with me I hadn’t gotten that much cycling in. Well I was travelling with some of my family so it would have been a bit unreasonable to go off on my own. So I took the opportunity for a early start to the weekend to go off cycling.

But first the news, well the news that caught my eye and hung around long enough on my desktop

Tax Disks – a thing of the past

I have just renewed my Tax disk on my car, for a while I always went to the local Post Office, mainly to support it. But you can’t buck progress and I find it so much easier to do on-line. Mainly because I can just sit down at my computer and do it. No getting dressed or hunting out documents (MOT and Insurance) which get checked on-line at the time of application and then a few days later it turns up in the post. Except that this time it won’t be turning up in the post – it won’t be necessary to show a tax disc from October 2014 in the UK.

It seems reasonable after all with ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) vehicles can be checked as they pass appropriately equipped Police vehicles and roadside cameras. Although this could apparently cost the economy £167m a year according to the RAC. Is it me, or do the RAC seem to be an old-fashioned organisation. Their position on cycling always seems rather defensive – eg “RAC Foundation slams MP’s call for tougher action on drivers who kill and injure cyclists”.

Changing Driver behaviour – fines or lessons

Apparently “nearly 500 fraudulent applications for vehicle insurance made every day”. reports the DM. I still think that the time has come to make cars smarter and to monitor driving and more effectively report on poor driving and speeding. My approach would not to immediately fine errant drivers, but to use training courses to change driver behaviour. Mind you when I looked on the web to see what evidence there is to indicate that such courses work it was somewhat anecdotal- “Speed awareness course work” and “Speed awareness courses: do they work?” and finally “Research reveals value of speed awareness courses”. Although in the latter case the research was a survey of attitudes rather than a look after before and after speeding.

Although this report in the massive drop in speeding fines issues in Cambridgeshire – more than 44,000 in 2010 compared to 23,800 in 2013 does raise the issue that the reduction might not be because drivers are better behaved but because there are fewer speed patrols and active speed cameras.  Which does highlight the old adage – “you get what you measure” which isn’t necessarily what you want.

More Haste – Less Speed – More Fat – Less Happiness

As I get older I find myself thinking more “old-farty” type things such as life was easier when I was a boy, youngsters have so much pressure, or the roads were less congested when I first started driving.  I try not to say them though. To be fair I also point out how medical science has improved significantly, motor vehicles are actually much safer and what did we do before the “innernet”.

One of the big changes has been the rise in car ownership, despite what people think they seem to have gotten cheaper compared with public transport. The trouble is humans activity is synchronised to the clock, with the main events being going to and from school and work. Which here in Cambridge have a huge effect on congestion in the City (and probably most towns and cities). This will only get worse as there is to be a massive increase in housing developments in and around the city.

So I am not surprised to read that “Workers who cycle, walk and use public transport are ‘happier than drivers’” Apparently the Guided Busway was singled out as beneficial to stress levels. (If you are interested a report has also been published saying the the CGB contract was appropriate for its time!)

I am not surprised, cycling might not have the same potential for high-speed as a car, however I do find cycling is more reliable when it comes to getting to a place on time. When I set of on my bike I know that the journey is unlikely to be affected by traffic, when (if) I set off in my car through Cambridge I have now idea how much I am likely to be held up.

Why does this matter – well it is very easy to take a myopic view and say that congestion is hurting the economy, well one one the significant costs on the economy is public health. and apparently “Obesity is a ‘slow motion car crash’ that may bankrupt the NHS, says its chief executive”.

Economics in Action

We have had a pretty good Park and Ride system in Cambridge. You park, you pay a bus fair and then you get on a bus which occasionally can use bus lanes to get into the centre of Cambridge.  However, apparently it worried some Councillors? that some people were turning up to the P&R and then walking or cycling to their intended destination and not paying the price. So a charge and charging system was introduced.  The result, well, apparently “passenger numbers plummet by 14% after parking charges come in at Cambridge park and ride sites”. Why well partly the cost and partly the extra delay incurred because you have quite a queue to pay for your parking.  (My take on the P&R numbers the last time I wrote about it.)

It turns out that “Commuters will walk 25 minutes to destination to park for free in Cambridge – study”. So well done “transport chiefs” you seem to have spent a load of money putting in a complex system to charge people using the P&R car park and ended up clogging the streets. Still on the bright side it does mean those street parkers are getting a bit of exercise.

Whilst on the subject of economics in action when there are developments (both housing and industrial/retail) a “tax” is due, developer contributions, which offset the impact of the developments. Apparently East Cambridgeshire District Council has handed back more then £500,000 to Sainsbury because they couldn't spend it appropriately.   It makes me wonder why the Cambs area has so many councils if this is the result. This is insulting to the rate payers.


The Ride – Lode to Prickwillow and back

There that’s a few things of my desktop. The ride – well there was no purpose, I just felt like I needed/wanted/deserved a slightly longer ride after so much driving during my hols. So I cycled up to Prickwillow via Ely and back via Fordham. Here is the map of my ride on Bike Route Toaster. It is either country lanes or tracks or shared-use paths and more or less a loop. I prefer loops.  It is a shade over 60Km/38miles and flat – assuming you start from Lode. I guess you could park at Anglesey Abbey, although I don’t know if they charge or not!

Fields of Wheat just south of  Ely (NCN11)

NCN11 alongside River Great Ouse – approaching Ely
This view will feature a flyover soon – enjoy it now
subject to the Secretary of State

Shanghai (上每) sailing on the River Great Ouse

Poppies near Isleham

Bird-watching – Burwell Lode

Burwell Lode

Burwell Fen

Freshly Cut Grass – near White Fen – an evocative smell

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