Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blazing Saddles

Although I have not been out on my bike for a few days (three) various family commitments (and the F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone) over the weekend have limited the amount of time I feel able to go out cycling. And talking of sport - when working from home I have been trying to watch the Tour de France (TdeF) and did a Google search to look for a Stream to watch. I found one and whilst working in another window would listen to the commentary and every now and then pop the Streaming window into view to see what was going on. This worked well, it turns out there are websites that list all the possible streaming sites although many will only work for specific geographic locations. I had assumed that the Stream I was watching was legitimate - but as things were starting to get exciting - it stopped with a message implying it would not be back. So I went back to the search, it turned out that here in the UK ITV4 was following the Tour each day from around 2.30pm onwards with a high quality stream, so when possible I have been watching that.

If you go to the website it can get a little confusing when trying to distinguish where you head for the live streams as opposed to the view again possibilities. At least I got a little confused. They also do a daily highlights program which is shown each evening and then appears on their ITV player as what seems to be an indeterminate time later. (I am "watching" the Highlights program for the 9th of July at the moment - really I was hoping to watch yesterday's -10th July.)

I feel that Sport as entertainment should serve to encourage sport as an activity. I certainly don't have any illusions that I might become a great cyclists of racing driver (any more) - but watching cycling does help maintain my enthusiasm for all things cycling. I am also sure that I see more cyclists out and about, here in the UK, during the TdeF. Of course the fine weather might also be responsible. It would be interesting to look at the relationship between watching sport and playing sport. Do people watch it because they do it or vice versa or a little of both? Mind you I don't cycle as a sport - more as a means of transport and for recreational purposes.

The good news is that even "City Cycling Seems to Have More Upsides Than Down" at least according to this study reported in the US of 500,000 Dutch adults. Cyclists inhale more pollutants for instance but the report suggested that if the Dutch adults switched from driving to a round trip of 9 miles per day, on average they would live 3 to 14 months longer because of the activity. The pollutants would knock off, on average 0.8 to 40 days of life and traffic accidents would knock off 5 to 9 days. So without knowing quite how the numbers add up, that suggests around 6 months of benefit. It probably does not sound that good when you are young - as you get older is gets more significant. Mind you an alternate view would be to consider it in terms of what extra "quality of life" days would you get. I am assuming that a regular cyclists will remain more active and so more able to get around and suffer less from stress.

The one odd thing here though is that a fatal accident does not really knock off an "average" of 8 days - the person killed loses it all immediately. It is strange, in the UK we sometimes refer to the US "Right to bear Arms" or "Right to Free Speech" a little disparagingly when it, perhaps occasionally allows things that from a UK perspective seem a little odd. To misunderstand them is to ignore the essential simplicity and power in protecting an individual's basic rights against encroachments. Today in the UK I feel that our quality of life is being gradually eroded. The rise of motor traffic has led to noise pollution, air pollution and restricts our freedom of movement. Even worse it has drastically affected the way in which parents consider the safety of their children especially in getting to school. Which leads to more car journeys as they are perceived as being the safest transport "solution".

Mind you you only need to read news reports such as "Cyclist injured by hit and run driver" to feel that cycling is dangerous. In this case I cyclist was hit by a car door being opened in front of them. Don't read the comments though - they will only serve to annoy you. Basically some car drivers have a blind spot when it comes to cyclists - they seem to hate their presence and thus hold them responsible for anything.

Talking of motoring the A14 £1.3 billion upgrade is reported as looking even less likely. I feel that it is common sense that we cannot spend money we have not got - but of course it is being "justified" on the promise of future benefits. When I was involved in the management of a company I always took a much more proprietorial view of things - if it was my money would I spend it? It changes the equation and helps keep things real. I have also worried about the issue of the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) and the apparent impasse between the contractors and the Cambridgeshire County Council with what appears to be a large funding gap. There is a saying that "if you owe the bank a few thousand pounds you have a problem" but "if you owe the bank a few billion they have a problem". It turns out that that that maxim also applies to Housing developers and Councils - "Company to repay £1m for bypass in three instalments". - the report suggests that as a result of a re-negotiation the Taxpayer is £800,000 out of pocket. I hope that this does not set a precedent for the CGB.

Back to more important matters my cycling. Saturday was a blazing hot day, reportedly the hottest day of the year so far in parts of the UK. As long as you don't have to cycle too fast I really like cycling on such hot days, when even the wind is hot. I did take two bottles of crushed ice lemon squash - it stays cold longer with my Camelbak Chilljackets and I also put on loads of sunscreen and wore a floppy hat. I also went out on my Marin for an "amble" by bike around the byways of the fens - no fast cycling for me.

When I was in Manchester I had taken my Sony DSC W200 pocket camera to take pictures and not realised that its batteries were flat. When I charged them up I checked that the camera was still keeping the date and time correctly, which it was. I also had a look around the menus and realised that it would automatically take a sequence of three pictures, one correct, one under and one over exposure suitable for re-combining as an HDR picture. So I thought I would experiment with it rather than carry my larger camera. It was much smaller and lighter and so easier to carry on a hot day. There is more experimentation to come - but it has a different colour balance and is much harder to keep still when taking a sequence of three pictures. Even though the pictures seem to be taken more closely together (in time). It also has a small lens and the viewing screen is quite small which meant that I had not realised that it had not got a focus lock when taking some pictures. So the following is a mix of multi-exposure HDR shots and normal pictures.

There is rather a nice byway from Whiteway Drove (a road between Swaffham Prior and Upware) and to Reach called Black Droveway. Here is the sign showing it. The track is actually to the left and can't be seen in the picture. I set off down it but it has been getting ruttier and ruttier - today it looked as though it had been "bull-dozed" to level it out a bit. The problem is that the ruts seem to filled with loose dust and weeds which caused the front wheel to dive (unless you leaned backwards to put the weight onto the back wheel). After having to stop a few times, by dropping my feet to the ground - whilst still astride and perilously close to the crossbar I decided to turn back - it was too hot and risky! Hopefully a bit of rain will help compact into a flatter configuration.


The last picture was a normal, single exposure picture - this is an HDR exposure. I was shooting into the sun and did not pay a lot of attention to the small screen to see how it looked - a little odd as it turns out. I liked the way the farmer had synchronised the irrigation though.


After Reach I cycled up Straight Drove - another mud track as seen here. This had not been flattened and the ruts were solid - the growth of vegetation did make it difficult to see what the surface I was cycling on looked like though.


Looking North on Split Drove. This and the last picture are normal, single exposure shots - I found I was not holding the camera still enough so that the re-combined picture looked even more out of focus than usual.


Cycling through Wicken Fen onto Priory Drove I stopped at the wooden gate which I used to steady the camera. The result was better. It looks more in focus and has given a bit more vibrance to the clouds in the sky and the green grass.


The is the same location but looking East, Priory Farm lies down the track and to the right. The is a multi-exposure shot - the flowers in the foreground were blown by the wind and so appear very blurred.


On leaving the Fens I cycled through Lode to head back to Cambridge. I stopped on the outskirts of the village where the High Street meets the main road - it is a cross roads - there were some roadworks. I believe that the junction and the shared-use route from Lode to Bottisham is being upgraded - although unlike other Cycle-path improvements being undertaken by the Cambridgeshire County Council it is remarkably difficult to find any plans for what is happening. This is an unpleasant road to cross though - which is why I sometimes cycle along the shared path to Anglesey Abbey and then pull out onto the road from there. The cycle path to Bottisham along the Lode Road is also rather narrow and so if I am going that way I always cycle along the road. Mind you I have been beeped by car drivers - in fact one chap seemed to slow down and beep me a few times - clearly ignorant of the law!

There is a reference to the costs in this table - the implication is that the Crossroads will be start in Q4 - so perhaps it has been brought forward (cost £35,000) and the Lode to Bottisham improvements will start in Q1 and cost £200,000. There will also be £500 spent on something called a Travel Planner for Bottisham Primary School - perhaps to encourage more use once the route has been made easier?


According to the sign accompanying the road works it will take 56 days, the odd thing is that it looks as if the crossing will be on the left-hand side of the crossroads whilst at the moment the Lode-Bottisham shared use path is on the right-hand side as seen in this picture.


Whilst looking for more information on what is happening I also found this Amended Report 21/01/10. It reports on the development and delivery of cycling routes around Ely. It discusses improvements to the crossing and how it might be funded. Interestingly it also notes the National Byway work and refers to an Appendix B showing the route - which is not attached - shame.

I forgot to mention - on the way back from White Fen I passed an Adder basking on the road - but no sooner had I stopped and taken my camera out - the snake disappeared into the verge - I will have to get quicker. I don't see snakes that often - but when I do they move pretty quickly.

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