Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Change of perspective

Wednesday, 9th July 2014:

After the excitement of the Tour de France passing through Cambridge I only managed a couple more rides during the week. An enjoyable mid-week ride took me out up NCN51 to Swaffham Prior and then down Barston Drove through to Reach and then up Straight Drove/Harrison’s Drove to Upware and back round via Wicken Fen and Lodes Way.

I sometimes find that going the opposite way around a regular route can  almost be as good as heading out to pastures new.  It is amazing what a change or perspective can do. The other changes can be natural with development of the seasons especially as leaves grow on trees and crops grow in fields. Then there is the weather, almost guaranteed to be changeable here in the UK and finally there is the light, which depends upon the time of day. That’s my excuse for always taking pictures.

Apparently there is a Government campaign starting today – real-time – (9th October 2014) pointing out the dangers of Country Roads. Apparently 60% of fatalities occur on country roads and the number of people killed on country roads is nearly 11 times higher than on motorways. Well for what it is worth, to me that suggests that the speed limits on country roads are set way to fast. Too many drivers just don’t seem to anticipate potential oncoming hazards and some completely misjudge the gap when they overtake me (when cycling) on country lanes with oncoming traffic.

I would also add the traffic density on many country roads is much higher than  we might anticipated even a short number of years ago. Too often motorists get impatient and impatience leads to poor judgement. I followed a lorry and tractor towing a trailer load of hay driving out of Burwell towards Swaffham Prior the other day (in my car). There was a van behind me that seemed desperate to do anything to overtake me and the lorry and the tractor at all costs.  The van driver over took me be going on the other side of this keep left bollard. He made several attempts to pass the lorry by overtaking on a blind bend.

A bit a a PR campaign might be cheap, but I can’t see it doing much to change driver behaviour. There needs to be a more radical approach if country lanes are to be made as safe as motorways. Or do we think that the number of deaths on the roads is an acceptable cost of capitalism?

Barston Drove doesn’t seem to be named on the OSM map but is on the OS Map. I have a confession, I tend to take the footpath, which is a reasonable  track rather than cycle over the old railway bridge. My guess is that the track was rerouted when they built the railway line and has never been put back. Here is a comparison of the current OS and the 1930 OS.

Church Hill, Reach seen from Barston Drove

depending upon the weather and the state of the ruts I generally then either cycle along Blackberry Drove or Great Lane (Reach) onto Straight Drove. I sometimes cycle on Reach Lode underbank track for a change up to Split Drove. At the end of Split Drove I turn right along Headlake Drove and then along an unnamed road. Basically a detour off and back onto Straight Drove.  Straight Drove can be a bit tricky after passing the Reach lode bridge and the detour gives me a different perspective.

There is a battered track called Harrison’s Drove that lead to the road to Upware.

The view from Harrison’s Drove

After cycling through Upware and just before reaching the A1123 main road I stopped and took a couple more pictures of wheat ripening. In this one you can see a lorry on the A1123 on the left of the horizon.

Wheat field – adjacent the Upware Road

Ripening wheat – Green Hedgerow – Upware Road

I also ought to say that not all country lanes are bad. Most of them are reasonable, road Lodes Way area the tractors and lorries pretty much always drive courteously around me when cycling. I do tend to see van drivers and yummy mummies on their phones though. Perhaps they think that the law doesn’t apply on single-track country lanes.

Friday, 11th July 2014:

After Monday’s excitement I found myself back in the centre of Cambridge to meetings again on Friday. It was far less pleasant there were smelly motor vehicles all over the place. As I walked past the Judge Business School I rather liked the small avenue of trees in front of the building though.  On Monday I was too busy looking the other way to the cyclists passing by on the road.

Looking the other way – Judge Business School at the end of an “Avenue” of trees

I finished mid-afternoon (I think) so extended my ride home – which took me through the Newmarket Road Park and Rode (NCN51).

One thing that scares me is when  my bike twitches unexpectedly. It hardly ever happens when driving, it happens far more frequently on a bike. As I was heading towards the P&R site this is what caused by back wheel to slip, a small patch of mud. I had moved from the centre of the track to the edge to miss the puddly-wet bitt and when my back wheel ran over the small amount of mud it slipped sideways. It wasn’t much and I caught it without drama, except it made my heart race – it was a visceral shock. Enough to make me stop and take a picture.

You can see my track on the mid – it widens very slightly, perhaps by less than a centimetre. When you are expecting such slipperiness it ain’t a problem, when you are not it is.

Such hazards, which include muddy patches, ice in the winter, ridges, potholes and kerb edges are what makes “dedicated” cycle routes less appealing the many motorists realise when they see cyclists lawfully riding on the road.

NCN51 -  an “Occupational Hazard”?

As I passed through the P&R I couldn’t help shaking my head in despair at the introduction of a parking charge. Who made the decision – Cambridge Country Council – who pays the price Cambridge City and the people who use the Car Park in both time and money. Passenger numbers have fallen as well. I guess this is what you might expect when there is not an alignment of interests between the various governing bodies.

Cambridge P&R Charges ahead

To some extent our society works because of the way things are broken down into manageable pieces. we have Parish Council, District Councils, County Councils, Unitary Councils… Then we have the Government, imposing its own view of local democracy, particularly when the local view if not the Government view. To me it seems that they cajole, bribe and use law to herd the councils.

Then on top of that we have they application of law with Police Commissioners and the Police and local priority setting. Does it then focus on the right things or the easy things. Well just having read a Government initiative aimed at driving down the deaths on country roads I read this. –“’I’m late for work’ is excuse 40 cyclists caught jumping red lights on one Cambridge Road”.

Is it against the law - yes, does it annoy me – yes. Do I feel endangered by it – not half as much as I do by the number of motor vehicles jumping traffic lights, speeding, overtaking recklessly… So why is time and effort being spent on such misdemeanours when there is still so much death and serious injury on the roads.

Why has our PCC got a bee in his bonnet. Or does this come down to such policing action can be undertaken by PCSOs and so the cost per fine is so much lower – they are the low-hanging fruit of the roads. They are good for a headline – but seriously show me the data – how many lives are saved.

And as for this PCC suggesting number plates for cyclists – well we’ll be getting them on pedestrians next!

Does our PCC have things properly in perspective?

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