Friday, March 4, 2011

A Loop around Cambridge - part 1, Potholes re-visited

Thursday, 3rd March: Having replied to the comment made by Tim on using the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) to get from Bar Hill to the Cambridge Science park by bicycle and having seen how the county Council responded so quickly to my report of a pothole in Cherry Hinton I decided this ride would have two themes. The first theme was to check out a few potholes, the road between Great Wilbraham and Fulbourn was pretty bad the last time I went along there. The second theme was to try out the route between Bar Hill and the Cambridge Science Park suggested by Cyclestreets. I use a variety of methods to work out cycle routes including the old-fashioned "I wonder where that goes" approach. So I thought I would give Cyclestreets a road test. I tend to use Cyclestreets to look for the cycle parking in Cambridge and the photographs of the cycle parking help me work out how safe I feel that parking is going to be. This post comes in two parts as I took quite a few pictures. The look at Cyclestreets is on the second part.

There was a third aspect of my ride; I decided during the ride to cycle up the entire Southern Section of the CGB as well, just to see what it is like. Here is the Bike Route Toaster link of the ride shown below. The route is around 68Km/42.5 miles in length and has a bit of a hill a while before the end, which I think is around Dry Drayton and Bar Hill. It only reaches 40m above sea level, so it is not much, but for a flatlander... As you can see below it is a bit disjoint and manages to run along NCN51, NCN11 and the new NCN11?

The current situation is that the Busway delays have cost the contractors £10million in case you were wondering, at least according to the Cambridge News. It is also two years late. Mind you I don wonder whether that means the money ever gets piad and hasn't the cost overrun been even greater?

Cambridge Loop Bar Hill Ant.jpg

It was a cold day and when I set off I had not really any strong plans in terms of the route, the themes came to me as I was cycling. I had made sure I was "wrapped up" though and took lights even though I set off early. When you work from home you have to work at making sure you use the time saved not commuting to do other things. (That's muy excuse.) The temperature was around 3-5C when I set off, but dry so it wasn't too bad, it is quite easy to generate heat cycling a bike. There was a bitter wind though but my coat was wind-proof so the only issue was the demoralising effect of cycling against the wind. But when cycling a moderate loop like this one you tend to find you get quite a lot of shelter from the wind.

I was nicely warmed up by the time I turned off the NCN51 route and headed down through the Wilbrahams. I did cycle along the A1303 Newmarket road after reach the outskirts of Bottisham. I could have detoured through the village but in the end it was just under a kilometre on a fairly wide road. There is a lumpy path alongside the road, but it doesn't seem to be marked as a shared-use path and the road was smoother. Once through the Wilbrahams I started thinking about potholes, there were some massive ones on the road and I was thinking about which ones to take pictures of, whether to report them and where to stop safely when taking the pictures.

But Sod's law came into operation, the potholes were no longer, they had been filled. Now, potholes at the best of times aren't really much of a story and a filled in pothole is even less of a story. So I didn't bother stopping and indeed it seems that the filler-ins ad done a thorough job at least in terms of catching all the potholes. I would say there were at least 20 or so potholes that needed sorting along the road. When I reached the outskirts of Fulbourn it became clear. I caught up with the repair team filling the potholes. They have been driving along the road,stopping as appropriate and filling in holes. At this point I did think about taking a picture - but they were on a corner and it looks kind of weird to take pictures of road-menders.

Half-way through Fulbourn I did stop to take a picture of the old Waterworks building along Cow Lane.It was built by the Cambridge Waterworks Company to the west of Poor's Well in 1891 to supply Cambridge. Apparently Poor's Well was drained to avoid the Fulbourn villagers' sewage contaminating the Cambridge folk's water. Apparently the cost of the Waterworks was £2,000. I always used to think it was an old church, but having learnt more about it can see that it is not. There is a stone with details carved visible in the picture, but the detail is not quite sharp enough to read what it says from this picture.


I did detour through Cherry Hinton, I'd missed one set of potholes at least I could take a picture of the one I'd reported, post repair. At the end of Fulbourn Old Drift I was surprised by just how much new leaf was showing in the hedgerow. I really don't like the cycle lanes in Cherry Hinton much, I am not at all convinced that they make it safer for cyclists. My guess is they cause more incidents, but fewer nasty ones although quite a few cars seem to have perfected the art of zooming through them.


And ... here it is the result of NM-1685, according to the email reported on the 22-02-2011 and fixed on the 23-02-2011. Unfortunately I think that the roads are in pretty bad shape so the patching is a short-term solution. Also judging from the picture the drain stands rather proud. Hopefully it would rock as a bicycle wheel went over it rather than jar the wheel. One of the reasons I am not very happy with narrow cycle lanes such as these is they tend to push cyclists into cycling in the gutter along with the drains, gravel and other crap. They make it harder for a cyclist to take the primary position, which is in the centre of the entire lane indeed the secondary position is no closer than 0.5m from the kerb so you can see why I don't like these cycle lanes as I think they encourage you to cycle too close to the kerb. They also make motorists view any cyclist not hogging the kerb as a roadblock.

Although I didn't cycle along Cherry Hinton road there are now wide Advisory Cycle Lanes painted along the left -hand side of the road with a much more significant width than these. (Advisory cycle lanes (pdf) are the dotted ones.) A note on the first page of the linked pdf also confirms a long-held belief of mine - "The analysis shows that significantly wider distances are adopted by motorists in the condition without a 1.45 cycle lane with posted speed limits of 40 mph and 50 mph with a 9.5m wide carriageway. These findings were not replicated for a similar width road with a posted speed limit of 30 mph and a 1.3m wide cycle lane." Sometimes motorists treat the cycle-lane as an invisible barrier somehow protecting the cyclist as they speed by with inches to spare.


At this point I detoured along the Addenbrookes-Great Shelford Cycleway to try to approach the end of the Southern Section of the CGB. On the way through I did take this two-picture panorama of the Addenbrookes site with new building very much in evidence as the hospital expands.

Addenbrookes Panorama1.jpg

It looks as if some Graffiti-artists were trying for a Darwin Award, "commemorating those who yield to natural selection and 'remove' themselves from the gene pool ... thereby ensuring the next generation is smarter by one." There seems to double trouble here, trains and high-voltage.


Just in case you've forgotten about things like Darwin and genetics, there is a convenient representation of a Human Genome on the cycleway. Actually it represents BRCA2, one of 30,000 genes in the human genome.


Having detoured down into Great Shelford I cycled back up to the new Addenbrooke's road between the A1301 and the M11. Then I headed back up to the Trumpington Park and Ride area to join the Southern Section of the CGB. Here it is, it starts just before the old Cambridge - Bedford railway line bridge (Varsity Line). As you can see this bridge seemed to require a fair bit of work to make it safe, at least judging from the new brickwork. A while ago when I was wanting to add to my house I had to prove to the Planners that the new brickwork would be in character with the old brickwork. This looks as if they chose bricks with the biggest contract possible. Perhaps part of the restoration approach was to make it clear where renovations have occurred - well it worked here. I do wonder why the bridge needed so much repair, surely the problem is the load it carries, not the stuff that goes through?


The cycle path starts with a tarmac surface but once under the bridge it reverts to a hard-pack fine gravel surface. I found it less easy to cycle along than on the Northern section of the CGB, but that could well be because it hasn't been flattened by the traffic of countless cyclists. I did pass three or four cyclists on this section. They were all on the concrete tracks!

There is a "station" for Trumpington which presumably is seeing quite a lot of change as a result of the CGB and the Housing development in the area. There is an interesting Trumpington Residents Website with various galleries of photographs showing some of the developments as they progress. They do have a "Covered" cycle park at their CGB station.


Across the way from the Cycle park on the other side of the CGB tracks you can see how much re-development is taking place over a large area of ground.


Just for completeness, the view up the CGB with the down-station on the other side. At this point the CGB is dual-tracked.


After passing the Addenbrookes CGB link there are signs warning that the CGB is blocked by locked gates at the station. But there were a few cycle tracks on the shared-path. I took this picture after passing underneath Long Road. I've mentioned it before, but some bits of the CGB tracks seem to have a stone infill, whilst others have vegetation. The bridge on the right is (or was) I assume for moving livestock between fields.


Getting closer to Cambridge (looking the other way to the last picture). The track seems not to have some of the wiggles and undulations present on other parts of the route. I passed under Hills Road, cycled up to the gates and then headed back. In the end I went back to Long Road to get back onto the road systems, which is where I re-joined NCN11 including the Rutherford Road/ Porson Road short-cut. I don't normally take this route and generally carry on up Long Road to the Trumpington Road. I don't suppose there is much difference in terms of distance or time though


The next place to head for was Dry Drayton and I decided to head up out along the Coton path through to Coton and then past Madingley Cemetery. First though I had to pass along Grange Road which is currently closed for sewer works. Mind you it was not closed until Herschel Road (next to Robinson College) so even cars could drive up. I don't think the closure applies to cyclists in any case.


The next stop was Dry Drayton.

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