Monday, August 3, 2009

Better weather - same old roads and Connect2 Funding Wicken Fen

My daughter's 16th birthday will shortly be upon her and as befalls people born in August she is pretty much the youngest in her year and has rarely been at home on her birthday. Even when she is many of her friends aren't so unfortunately she has gotten used to birthdays on holiday. Mind you this has included a birthday paddling down a river in Canada, blowing out a candle on a birthday cake near the Old man of Coniston in a rather blustery day. As my son is working at the moment we had a meal out at our favourite Chinese Restaurant in Histon when he was visiting us over the weekend.- the Phoenix. I can certainly recommend it - the food was particularly good on Saturday and the place was very busy - always a good sign. Even better it is outside of Cambridge and so not a hassle to get to.

During our meal there were several torrential showers and as we left a double rainbow in the sky in one direction.


In the other direction a wonderful red sky - which left me hoping the the rhyme "Red sky at night - Shepherd's delight, red sky in't morning - Shepherd's warning" was going to come true.


Well Shepherd's delight might have been taking it a bit too far - but the weather on Sunday was not too bad - so I did a bit of the cycling equivalent of pootling around. Just cycling around and about Cambridge check out places I had not cycled in recently or before. One interesting cycle path cuts down from Cherry Hinton to Mill Road - it helps to know it is there - but it is convenient. Here is where it starts off at the Cherry Hinton end of Coldham's lane - don't let the abandoned motor cycle put you off - it is quite a well used path.


The path then passes a Sports Centre - you know the sort of place where people get in their cars to go and have some exercise. It has quite a large car park which is normally fairly busy so I assume that lots of people are exercise minded. It seems a pity that more of them don't make use of the energies to cycle out there as well. The bit of the path next to the Centre has one of the best cycle route fragments in Cambridge - well lit, different colours for the pedestrian side compared with the cyclists side. Mind you quite a lot of the "sports-people" don't seem to realise that the red stuff is for cyclists and often walk along it - perhaps that's why they don't cycle - ignorance.


The route then crosses the Ipswich to Cambridge railway line - on which an old diesel train can be seen plying its trade every hour. Most of the time there is one carriage, but around school time there are two because it gets busy. Apparently there is not sufficient capacity at Cambridge Railway station to make more of this line. I find it a great way to get to Ipswich for meetings though (naturally taking my bike on the train).

The path is called the Tins path and lies between a Territorial Training ground and a lake. It has recently been re-surfaced and is much smoother. Before there were a number of tree routes that protruded quite badly. Unfortunately it is not the widest of paths, but reading the the latest (Aug/Nov 2009) copy of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign Newsletter the Cambridge City Council is looking to widen it - providing land can be acquired. When there aren't many other users and it is light it is a great path, but at night it can be tricky avoiding people lampposts.and cyclists. The bike in this picture is an electrically assisted bicycle - although not that popular yet I have seen a few in Cambridge so they can't be that bad.


My pootling took me past the University Botanic Gardens along Trumpington Road. If you have never been they are well worth a visit - although I have not been since they started charging - just as I have not driven in London since they started charging! This is where the Highway Code and parking do not always make easy bedfellows. The two advisory cycle paths are in the door "kill" zone for the cars parking either side. On balance I think that it is probably better to have the advisory cycle lanes on this stretch of road since it alerts the drivers as they park to the fact that there are likely to be a number of bicycles travelling along the road I do think that it makes the Highway code "suggestion" regarding cycle paths and cyclists ambiguous and I quote:


Cycle Routes and Other Facilities. Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer."

The logic seems a little convoluted - do they want the cyclists do perform some sort of statistical analysis working out whether it will be more dangerous or not. Indeed use of such paths can make the journey more dangerous as well. What this fails to address is the issue of whether damages due to the cyclist in the event of an accident might be reduced or not?

Also if you look at this picture you can see that the door mirror of the VW car protrudes into the advisory cycle lane space - which results from the space being barely wide enough for the car (and not a very wide car at that).


As I pootled around following Sustrans Route 11 and then heading up towards Milton I arrived at a T-junction - Green End Road and Scotland Road). I was turning right and so moving towards the middle of the road, I was indicating so had might right arm outstretched, looking both ways and yes went right into the pothole. Fortunately I did not lose my balance and was not going very fast -and I hit the pothole square on- if I had caught it on its edge it could easily have tumbled me off the bike. So bearing in mind the old saying - "Don't get mad ... get that pothole reported" I headed off to the CTC website to do just that - towards the bottom left of their front web-page is a link "fill that hole". There it is easy to fill in a form with a convenient map to place the pothole on, but to my dismay I find that I am not the first - in fact the pothole had been reported 5 months ago. I suppose I could have repeated the exercise - I am not sure whether that increases the chance of a fix, so instead I reported it directly to the Cambridge City Council via the Cambridge Cycling Campaign Website where if you look under resources you eventually get to this City Council page: Roads and transport- Reporting defects within the highway.

So I reported it directly - along with a description of why it is dangerous to cyclists in particular. They requested an email address, so hopefully I will get updated on progress!


Whilst I was pootling the next step was to check out how the planned cycle path from Waterbeach across to Wicken Fen was coming along. This has benefited from a Televised Lottery competition to determine what public causes were to benefit from some of the public lottery money. The Cycling one won - mainly because it was spread across the country rather than located in one spot to provide, say, a new Opera facility in Richmond. The Connect2 web-page is a starting point for all of the schemes in the planning stage, but here is the one for the Wicken Fen path along with a map. I know that one of the bridges planned for the route is in action because I regularly cycle over it and I am very pleased with it. I regularly see a heron when out that way and a few times have had deer cross my path. I also enjoy cycling along it at night. Below is Bottisham Lock, which is due for an upgrade, to make it easier for cyclists. The interesting thing though is that it already has a narrow track running up each side to allow cyclists to slot their wheels into in order to facilitate pushing a bike over the bridge. It looks as if the track has been there for a long time, so the implication is that there is a cycle route somewhere along here. In fact as i descended the other side I met a fellow cyclist travelling in the opposite direction. But no - only footpaths, so I got off and walked my bike.


On the route I saw this sign - I have always believed that it is lawful to walk a bicycle along a pavement and footpath, this sign implies that (or tries to imply that) I was not allowed to walk my bicycle along either. So I carried it ;-) Thinking I must check out the law when I get home. I also wondered whether the existence of the sign meant that it was possible to seek written permission, if so who from? and what conditions? (Also would I need one for each of my bicycles ;-)

So seeking information via Google and Wikipedia -it seems that you cannot even carry a bicycle along a footpath (where it is a right of way type of path). You can however wheel a pram or pushchair or wheelchair. I understand that there is a need to minimise damage hence not allowing horses or cycling cyclists but I would imagine that a pushchair would do more damage. Here is a typical piece of advice from a County Council - Surrey which explicitly states that you cannot ride, push or carry a bicycle. This web-page from York City Council says you cannot ride or push a bicycle on a footpath. If you do so the matter is one of trespass under civil law. The Ramblers Association has a somewhat clearer description of the Basics of Footpath Law. Where is says that a walker can take along a natural accompaniment such as a wheelchair or pushchair. I guess that a bicycle is not such an accompaniment although could the same be said if I was carrying my Brompton bicycle in folded state?

Well I have learnt something as a result of my pootling: not to even carry my bike on a footpath and it makes me wonder whether Connect2 will make good on their promise of opening up this particular route in the face of such opposition. Perhaps the signs are part of a protest against the ways of the NT and its vision to flood the Fens and bring back malaria and mosquitoes.


I stopped at Wicken Fe to get a drink at the National Trust cafe - the NT seems switched on to the idea that bicycles are a good thing for the countryside and there are some good posts to lock bikes up to at near the cafe. Mind you I did have a driver swerve at me along the road past the car park - he was leaving. I am not sure whether he was perhaps old and a little blind and so just did not see me, or perhaps he (it normally is a he) wanted to give me a fright. I tend to think given the demographics of NT members that it was the former not the latter. Mind you my 20 year old son has just joined - so young people do find their activities relevant


Good to see the harvesting is taking place.


Although I did not take pictures there are loads of bicycles parked on railings in Cambridge - there just is not enough cycle parking available. If there was just think how many more people would cycle in the Flatlands.

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