Thursday, June 30, 2011

C2C2C Update

UPDATE Thursday, 30th June

A somewhat sharper pair of eyes than mine pointed out a few discrepancies in my numbers yesterday – thank you.

Dutch data: David Hembrow of the a view from the cycle path blog, in a post in April (19 April 2011) cites Dutch Government statistics that the number of cyclists killed on Dutch roads was 185 in 2009 and 162 in 2010.

I also quoted the number of UK cyclists KSI’d – killed or seriously injured rather than fatalities.  This report on BikeRadar suggests that the number of cyclists was 136 in 2007, 115 in 2008 and 104 in 2009. (It was taken from this DFT document - Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2009. The DFT also publish a factsheet – Road Accident Statistics Factsheet No. 4- January 2010 which reports the various numbers of casualties per billion passenger kilometres for different forms of transport (2007).

Bus or coach     0
Car                   2
Pedestrian       36
Pedal cycle     32
Motorcycle      97

This indicates that on the basis that the average distance cycled per year is 68Km there would be one fatality per 500,000 years. (I cycled around 12,000Km last year which means a fatality every 2,800 years – although at one level that is a meaningless statistic. )

Also the accident statistics bear out the fact that cycling in Amsterdam is very safe. Indeed in the Netherlands the total number of bicycle deaths is around 160, whereas in Great Britain it is around 115, with the number of cyclists being killed increasing. Why is this? Fewer cyclists in the Netherlands wear helmets, more people there cycle and although the population of the Netherlands is less (around 1/4) and they cycle in total around 14.9 billion Km in total per year. In the UK it is around 0.2Km. So here in the UK the total is around 4.5 billion Km.

Corrected numbers

UK: 115 cycling deaths per year, total cycling distance: 4.5 billion Km

Netherlands: 162 cycling deaths per year 14.9 billion Km

Which implies that you are 2.3 times safer in the Netherlands (based upon fatalities per

The blog also quotes the cyclists injured per 10 million Km as US – 35, UK 6, Netherlands 1.4. Which implies that you are 4.3 times safer in the Netherlands.

So you are safer in the Netherlands despite the apparent disregard for cycling helmets.

Cambridge Guided Busway

I also got an answer on whether larger vehicles will fit down the high-quality cycle path alongside the concrete tracks of the CGB. The Cambridge News reported on “Fire Service guided busway trials to begin”. Police vehicles and ambulances will use the cycle path whilst fire engines will take to the concrete tracks. This means that fire-engine drivers are being trained in driving down the concrete tracks.

The Cambridgeshire Police Helicopter is definitely being phased out.

It also turns out that men are more likely to be hit by lightning than women – we are more reckless apparently. Yes I have cycled thunder and lightning – but didn’t really have much choice.

Also some of you might have seen that the picture on the web page tab now has a KTPT design in green. (It works on one of my computers but not on my laptop!)

And finally they were trying out different bikes at the Cambridge Science Park – Part of Travel Plan Plus.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Cambridge C2C2C (Cherry Hinton, Coton & Cottenham)

Monday 27th 2011: As I was on a deadline I had to work after yesterday’s boring Formula 1 race, I did get the stuff sent off though and as I was on a roll I went for a roll in the afternoon. Although I didn’t take my washing along with me, as in the SpinCycle. What surprises me most is that it only takes 10 minutes for the wash and 10 minutes for the rinse. Mind you add in another 10 minutes for the drying and you would could wash your clothes every evening on the journey home from work.

Before rabbiting on about my ride I am going to rabbit on about a few other things first. The more I read about cyclists and helmets the more strongly I feel that at best there is some very muddled thinking taking place and at worst…   An article in the Guardian “The danger of road safety” neatly outlines the point.  The author comments on how in Amsterdam there are loads of people riding bicycles each and every day and yet very, very few wear helmets, even amongst the young and very young (babies and toddlers on bike seats).

UPDATED Thursday, 30th June

A somewhat sharper pair of eyes than mine pointed out a few discrepancies in my numbers yesterday – thank you.

Dutch data: David Hembrow of the a view from the cycle path blog, in a post in April (19 April 2011) cites Dutch Government statistics that the number of cyclists killed on Dutch roads was 185 in 2009 and 162 in 2010.

I also quoted the number of UK cyclists KSI’d – killed or seriously injured rather than fatalities.  This reporton BikeRadar suggests that the number of cyclists was 136 in 2007, 115 in 2008 and 104 in 2009. (It was taken from this DFT document - Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2009. The DFT also publish a factsheet – Road Accident Statistics Factsheet No. 4- January 2010 which reports the various numbers of casualties per billion passenger kilometres for different forms of transport (2007).

Bus or coach     0
Car                   2
Pedestrian       36
Pedal cycle     32
Motorcycle      97

This indicates that on the basis that the average distance cycled per year is 68Km there would be one fatality per 500,000 years. (I cycled around 12,000Km last year which means a fatality every 2,800 years – although at one level that is a meaningless statistic. )

Also the accident statistics bear out the fact that cycling in Amsterdam is very safe. Indeed in the Netherlands the total number of bicycle deaths is around 160, whereas in Great Britain it is around 115, with the number of cyclists being killed increasing. Why is this? Fewer cyclists in the Netherlands wear helmets, more people there cycle and although the population of the Netherlands is less (around 1/4) and they cycle in total around 14.9 billion Km in total per year. In the UK it is around 0.2Km. So here in the UK the total is around 4.5 billion Km.

Corrected numbers

UK: 115 cycling deaths per year, total cycling distance: 4.5 billion Km

Netherlands: 162 cycling deaths per year 14.9 billion Km

Which implies that you are 2.3 times safer in the Netherlands (based upon fatalities per

The blog also quotes the cyclists injured per 10 million Km as US – 35, UK 6, Netherlands 1.4. Which implies that you are 4.3 times safer in the Netherlands.

So you are safer in the Netherlands despite the apparent disregard for cycling helmets.

The general wisdom is that more cyclists means more safety and that many people don’t cycle because of the perceived danger. I think that is bollocks. The actual safety of cyclists is getting worse again and is definitely worse than in the Netherlands. The reality is that here in the UK we focus a small amount of money on the fear factor with training and helmets and another small amount of money on sub-standard cycle paths. Pedestrians often complain about cyclists on pavements – yet no-one seems to complain about sub-standard shared-use paths – which means the same thing.

So what is the problem, well there are two groups of problems (IMHO), there is a hurdle that stops many people taking up cycling, principally the fear and the cost exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle.  The second is that huge amounts of money has been spent on a car-based transport system.  That is money spent on roads and road maintenance, policing, accidents and even car advertising (car advertising is £500M a year alone).

What does this mean, well how about this £692m M74 extension for 5 miles of motorway, that works out at £86,500 a metre! Or the introduction of longer lorries on UK roads. or the introduction of Council IT systems to provide traffic Jam tweets. (Am I a cynic, I’ve never thought of Government (local or national) as being paragons of effective IT.

The trouble is that whilst car ownership has a significant impact on the perceived quality of life we all end up paying a huge cost.  What about the inhabitants who live around this section of the A14 that was closed by a lorry fire, did they get a say. Even police helicopters are feeling the pinch. I realise that they do more than just patrol the roads, but they do cost a fortune. Cambridgeshire police is considering ditching its own helicopter and joining a consortium.

I am convinced, but don't have much data to support it that I am in more danger when cycling now than a few years ago. Whilst I agree that both cyclists and motorists have become less law-abiding it is cyclists who tend to feel the pain.  I have drawn the line at getting a helmet cam though, much as I am drawn to the idea my kids would disown me I think. However this is the sort of disrespect I mean – “The shocking moment a father-of-two cyclists was cut up by a police car”. Now I am sure that it was probably more shocking than actually dangerous, but it doesn’t surprise me, that is how cyclists are treated by motorised road users.

We also share roads with people who seem to have problems reversing – don’t worry no-one was hurt, just some bollards and two bicycles. Or this one who also had problems unintentionally reversing disrupting more than 50 trains.

The problem is that, especially in times of austerity, we motorists feel hard done by. We pay more for parking – “Residents ‘hostages’ to rising parking fees”. We feel ripped off by fuel prices. Although we also tend to forget that pricing is set by supply and demand, it can come down in price, but only if the need for petrol falls quicker than the diminishing supplies.

We also moan about “‘cash cow’ speed cameras”, as part of the war on motorists. Well they wouldn’t be cash cows if motorists weren’t breaking the law would they.  Speeding isn’t just about safety, it also creates noise and air pollution, burns our planet’s resources more quickly. Mind you I do think that it is the very same motorists that speed that want cyclists punished for red-light-jumping. Essentially most motorists don’t like it because they got caught.  When I am cycling along a road I want speed limits enforced please – if they aren’t then surely my human rights are being infringed.

Speed limits also help to prevent or reduce the seriousness of accidents –not an argument the government seems to be prepared to push.

Change is on its way though, a cycle lane seems to be a big political issue in New York, although I am not sure whether it might just be a convenient issue for a political battle. Also closer to home the Cambridgeshire Council is talking about a “Transport Revolution”. Although I must be a bit thick because I can’t quite work out what they mean. There is hope that it will help prevent bus cuts though.

Phew were did all this come from you might well be asking, I am not sure. Perhaps it is being stuck indoors not cycling. One of the seeds was an excellent essay in 5 parts by Sociologist Dave Horton on  For all you motorists out there wanting cyclists to wear helmets can I suggest putting your nose back into your own business and following the sage advice of this website – Driving without Dying.

Flip I’d really better get back to the ride – this is my C 2 C 2 C around C.  When I set off I was not really looking to go anywhere in particular, just around and like many of my unplanned cycle rides it sort of evolved. I headed out to Cherry Hinton and then found my way to Coton before heading up to Cottenham and Cwy (er Quy really), before heading back to Cambridge.

This route has the second worse road crossing of any I have done as it crosses the bit of the A14 at the Girton interchange. I think the worst was crossing the A11 near Barton Mills. Having said that it does mean that few people go that way, although which is also why it is favoured by graffiti “artists”. here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map below. The route is around 52Km/ 32.5 miles in length. The paths were all good for cycling although the bit from Madingley Wood to the Girton Interchange was rather cracked in some places and the grass was slightly over grown in others. The hypothetical Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB)  high-quality cycle path was – high quality that is or would have been if I’d cycled on it.

Winking smile

I made my way through town, resisting the temptation to stop and take pictures of cars parked in cycle lanes, mainly because I’d still got the long lens on my camera which makes it awkward.  In fact the first picture was this one of potatoes flowering in the field alongside the Cambridge Road by the American Cemetery near Madingley. I wasn’t sure at the time why there was a gap in the lines and I am still not really.

On reaching the Girton interchange I figured I ought to take more pictures – so here is the path between the A428 bridge and the M11 underpass.

And here is the M11 underpass, it was a hot day and I had drinks with me this time. So I stopped and had some whilst these characters looked after my bike.

I meandered a bit and was going to cycle through Histon. I stopped at the point where the Park Lane Cycleway crosses the CGB and noticed that there were cyclists using the high-quality path - shock, do they not know it is a Construction site.

This is that high quality path and it is.  Looking at it you can see a large number of bikes have already made use of it along with something larger judging from the suspiciously wider tracks

At the moment there are gravel mounds to allow the tarmac laying machines to get onto the cycle way. Which suggests that the entrances aren’t quite wide enough – I wonder if they will allow a fire engine through?  It does mean that they can’t be running bus trials at the moment though – or if they are they are short trials.

Although I didn’t see any thousands of tiny toads were killed on the guided busway. They are around the size of a 5p coin and get trapped. There are plans for tunnels but until then ecologists are visiting on a regular basis and moving the toads across.   Given how long this whole saga has been going on I can’t help but wonder why it is only now being sorted.

The grass between the tracks will need another trim at this rate.

The cyclist from before carrying on up the CGB. she wasn’t the only one, but just happened to be in the right place at the right time when I was taking pictures.

As I was meandering I then went up to Cottenham and on to Waterbeach. My plan was to then cycle down alongside the River Cam, but it was so pleasant being out I decided to elongate the trip and cycled on to Clayhithe and then went off-road towards Quy past Allicky Farm.

There were some spots of rain around but nothing too bad, I barely noticed it, but it did mean I kept going rather than stopping.  Although I did stop to take a picture of this, which is barley I think.

This was the bridleway alongside the field of barley? It is certainly looking pretty ripe and will soon be ready for harvest I would have thought.

I am actually writing this post on the 29th of June the day after thunderstorms swept though and I kept saving my work in case of power cuts. As it happens I wasn’t troubled although the lights did flicker once of twice.

We did get a fair bit of rain though and we were warned about Flash floods. At times the lightning seemed very close – but some parts of Cambridge did suffer the chaos.

When i was a boy I used to wander far and wide across the fields with my friends and whilst we weren’t fanatical about nature we did spend out time amongst the wildlife and seeing the variety of birds, insects and small animals.  It seems that increasingly children have less opportunity to come into contact with nature, unless on some special school trip. But it matters and I was worried to read that “barn owls are disappearing”. There were 12,000 pairs in the 1930s and now there are only 6,000 pair. They are at the top of their food chain which implies there are problems lower down.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunny social Cycling

Sunday 26th 2011: It has been one of those weeks, which for me means a week where it has been tricky to get out and get a bit of cycling in. My recent daily distance has dropped to the 1Km region, just enough to remind me that cycling is a pleasant activity and definitely to be pursued.

As Sunday hove into view I also had decision about when to cycle. The Formula 1 races seems to start around 1pm for the European set which means I either cycle in the morning or late afternoon. The weather forecast had also promised some very hot weather so I broke the habit of a lifetime wee while and decided to set out for a ride on Sunday morning. 

When my kids were younger and time was even more scarce I would sometimes pop out at 7am, but that was when I used to call it training and would stick to a fast road route so that I could get back for breakfast with the family. Nowadays with only one child at home I tend to get up and eat my breakfast and read the paper whilst my wife and daughter get up in their own sweet times.

I was expecting it to be warmer when I set off, but as you can see from the Cambridge Digital Technology Group’s weather page it was 10am when it started warming and the sun was turned on. Although I got up quite early I still went out for the Sunday papers and had a read whilst eating my breakfast. However by 9am there was still no sign of life in the house so I set off, leaving my house key in my pocket in my shorts as I didn’t want to disturb my wife by popping back to the bedroom.

As it wasn’t that warm and I wasn’t planning to be out for more than three hours I just set off on the route shown below.  It has become one of my favourite ways to cycle around Wicken Fen and the Lodes Way.  I feel that all cycle routes to a place should have variations so that you can take a more circular approach. I still want them to be reasonably direct though. This is the route, it is a mix of byway, bridleway, shared paths and a little bit of road. It is probably not one for the wetter months of the year.

Harrison’s Drove is a great track as it take you through Wicken Fen to Wicken Lode. but can get very soggy. I would appreciate it if this became a little more all weather, especially when they start renting out bikes at Wicken Fen.  Where the route crosses the A1123 in the Summer months I use a byway called Docking’s Lane to avoid the A1123, but I tend to use the road in the wet months. If it wasn’t the weekend I would probably have gone up the Cam and then headed back down the road from Clayhithe. That would have reduced the overlap even more and the Cam path is very good for cycling.

I am not sure I have shown this actual route before so I have re-created it – here is the Bike Route Toaster Link to the map below.  It is just under 60Km / 37.5 miles long

Did I mention that I also put a different lens on my camera? Since I wasn’t being very adventurous I though the least I could do is look at things with a different perspective, in this case a 100mm to 300mm lens (which is 200mm to 600mm in 35mm money).

The route leaves Cambridge on High Ditch Road before crossing the A14 on Low Fen Drove Way. There were some early morning dog walkers. Since being bitten I have become a little more sensitive to seeing dogs walking free on byways. It makes me think that they (the owners) seek out-of-the-way tracks because the dogs are, perhaps, not the best behaved.  I was reading too much into it the dogs were fine.

After going around Snout’s Corner there is a slightly dilapidated farm building that has had some art work added. I’ve taken pictures of it before, but took another, with the long lens.

The track has a few potholes on the A14 bridge side, but this side it is pretty reasonable and it is not as steep as the picture makes it look. In fact there is no hill at all.

I carried on around and then up through Horningsea and back along the Harcamlow Way before joining the route of the old Cambridge to Mildenhall Railway line which runs along the back of Anglesey Abbey. In the main it passes through agricultural land but you also pass a bit of woodland as well.  This is the view looking back towards Cambridge somewhere near Lode. The fields either side have Flax growing, but it is past the flowering stage.  There was still one field just back along the track with blue flowers still out.

The last bit of the track before you reach the road at Lode is called Harvey’s Droveway, that gets quite rutted as it is well used by farm vehicles and there were some quite deep puddles – which need a bit more care than when it is dry.

My next stop was on the Lodes Way bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode.  It was starting to get a bit sunnier and I had already seen one or two cyclists out and about I was passed on the bridge by this chap.  There is nothing like a sunny Sunday to bring out cyclists.

Which got me musing, some of my non-cycling friends think I am a bit cracked as I try to cycle to most meetings within 10 miles of so in “reasonable” work clothes. Even at a moderate pace 10 miles does not take long on a bike if the route is reasonable. I am not talking byways and bridleway here. 

If you look at some of the cycleway developments here in the Cambridge area they are often a moderate distance; Horningsea to Fen Ditton School – 2.35Km/1.5 miles, Cottenham to Histon 5.4Km/3.4 miles, Wandlebury Cycle track 3.24KM/2.2 miles, Sawston-Babraham cycleway 1.67KM/1 mile, Impington-Milton 2.92Km/1.8 miles). Now I realise that some of this is probably “driven” by the way in which such things are funded, it is no coincidence that some of them facilitate popular school routes.  The trouble is that reinforces the mind-set that longer distances are for dedicated (and weird) cyclists.

What is even worse is that many parents resist the provision of healthy cycle routes as it threatens the provision of “free buses” for their children and because of the perceived safety issues. Mind you the Milton-Impington cycleway issues were reported in 2009 (Cycleway may spell end of a school bus) and almost two years later the route has yet to be completed. There is also concern in Comberton with “Mums say children facing ‘dangerous walk to school’”. Although this is as much an issue of the loss of a free bus service rather than the provision of a cycle way.

All of this serves to marginalise the bicycle for anything other than very short journeys and yet at a very moderate 16Km/h / 10mph represents 32km/20 miles in distance terms over two hours. So it is great to see some longer routes being opened up into the countryside.  The Guided Busway route is a shade under 20Km /12.5 miles  from Milton Road to St Ives and the Lodes Way from Lode to Wicken Fen is 12Km/7.5 miles.  Both of these routes represent an opportunity to get just a bit further into some lovely countryside and at the same time help to reduce perceived safety fears.

As you can see this bit of Lodes Way through White Fen was created to help join the dots of Lodes Way. In fact I think it was the first bit of Lodes Way that was added. The surface is just slightly loose small gravel on a hard surface and is ok, although nothing like as good as the new tarmac surface on the CBG high-quality cycle path. The path also meanders through the Fen as well. There has also been quite a lot of planting.

I took the pictures from the area of the new bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. You do have to be a bit careful as the track drops down from the heights of the bridge and there is a tight left bend. Loose gravel collects here and can catch the unwary out.

A little bit further down the lode is the old footbridge – still serviceable and used.

After crossing the bridge you reach an unnamed tarmac road. as I passed by there were quite a few pink poppies growing up in the field on the right hand side. Not quite as spectacular as those growing in Dorset, but it does make me wonder whether is was grown as a crop, for medicinal purposes, in the field once.

Along one side of the field there was a quite a host of poppy flowers, which I didn’t notice until I had gone by.  Here are a few more – there were hundreds if not thousands in flower though.

As I was passing along Split drove towards the Reach Lode Bridge I stopped to take a road’s eye view.  You can see the curve of the bridge just to the right of the road.  I like the way the flowers grow along these verges – they don’t seem to suffer the regular hack that some roadside verges get.

I am not quite sure why, but I find it difficult to resist taking pictures from a bridge. I think part of the reason is that it gives a slightly elevated viewpoint here in the flatlands. Here are some water lilies, past their best.

Also the obligatory view (when I am on a bridge with a camera) along the Lode towards Reach, you can just see one of the houses in Reach if you look along the line of the Lode.

As I was taking pictures there were cyclists converging from both sides.  Here is a group coming along Split Drove, the lilac edges the road nicely.  The road turns left a bit further back from the way they have come. You can also see the edge of lilac delineating that road.

A few traveller caravans have parked up just out of sight, but they are set back from the road and the dog although lively is tied up.

(As I sit typing this Post up there is thunder and lightning flashing all around and I keep saving every sentence or so just in case there is a power cut!)

As they approached the track towards the bridge a chap who has just passed me over the bridge went by them.  He did ask me whether I wanted him to wait to allow me to take my picture. Actually it was the cyclists I wanted in the picture.

You’ve guess it some pictures from the next bridge along Lodes Way.  This was taken from the rather awkward footbridge over Burwell Lode.  I say awkward, it is better than nothing and there are ramps to help guide you bike wheels up and down the steps. There is a bit of steep grass (and mud) banking also (I cycle it – just remember to get a run (pedal) up and don’t lean back otherwise you might tip over backwards. 

The problem is that the steps are so steep that even on a dry day my wheels skid down the ramp. I have wide handlebars on my Marin which sometimes bang against the railings along the edge as well.  Oh and whilst I am moaning my pedals and cranks also bang against the top step as the bike levels out. Mind you as I say it is much better than nothing.

As well as loads of cyclists there were also boats out and about in the fine weather.  This one is coming up from Burwell. In this picture it looks quite industrial, actually the warehouse building as part of a small industrial unit halfway between where I was standing and Burwell.  (There seems to be an air-conditioning company there as well as a transport company.

As I was standing on one of the high spots in the area and had a longer lens on my camera then it was also an opportunity to take pictures of various “landmarks”.  This is Burwell Fen Farm as marked on the OS map.  The map shows 3 separate buildings – from here it looks like one.

There was also a boat coming down the lode from Upware.

I then headed up Harrison’s Drove which gives you the sense of being in the middle of Wicken Fen. Whilst I understand that it is easier to keep cyclists around the periphery you get a much greater sense of the countryside heading through the middle.  The first half of Harrison’s Drove is an old concrete “road” now classified as a BOAT. The concrete slabs have cracked apart and are there are some large gaps, but with a bit of care it is quite cycle-able. The second half is a bridleway, recently classified as such, looking at Where’s The Path doesn’t show it as a path still though. As an aside I have noticed that WTPs generally runs out of OS map “tile serves” much earlier in the day not there is finer weather around.

The second half is a mud and grass track with some large dips and ruts. I would assume that given the high levels of water around that when it is used by even a small number of vehicles it quickly gets chewed up.  In places matting has been laid down but the surface soil has been eroded to leave the mats bare.  You do hear birds tweeting around here though.  I have heard cuckoos several times this year whilst cycling on this bit of track.

The bridleway then reaches Wicken lode where the bridleway turns left, there is a footpath to the right as well though which takes you back to where Wicken Lode splits into Monks Lode and where NCN51 is.

The fine weather was certainly getting people out with three canoeists paddling along Wicken Lode heading towards Reach Lode. One thing I’ve noticed about my long lens is that by the time I decide to take a picture of something I have often gotten too close. The good thing though is that when taking pictures of people I can take pictures from further away and it doesn’t look quite so intrusive.

Yet more pictures of water lilies. The “High Dynamic Range” picture has made the reflection in the water almost as bright as the reeds themselves. The flower is still almost bleached out though.

The bridleway then follows the route of Reach Lode up to Upware. I stopped and parked my bike to take a few pictures. This is the view back down the lode towards the cockup bridge that crosses Wicken Lode.  There were heaps of people around messing about on their boats.  One thing I have noticed is that one or two bring along small portable power generators. It seems to be slightly odd to come out into the countryside and then run a noise-maker to watch TV but hey what do I know.

I was amazed how many cyclists there were going by and as you do nodded and said hello as they passed by. One of them turned round and came back.  I assumed he was going to ask a question about places to cycle or some such. Instead he asked “are you Jamie?” it turned out to be the Cottenham Cyclist, author of the Blog of the same name -  Whose blog I subscribe to. So we stopped and had a chat to compare notes about blogging and cycling.  I mentioned how I had met someone cycling on the CGB and asked them if he was the Cottenham Cyclist. Whilst finding the link I also checked out Blogs followed by the CC and started following them myself.  I also rashly mentioned that I am thinking I  must really learn to track stand this year – now I’ll have to give it a go.

It must be the time of year, but I have noticed that the frequency of Posts on most of the Blogs I follow has dropped off – including my own.  We must all be too busy cycling (er except for me).

As we stood and talked heaps of cyclists went by some on what looked to be vintage machines. One of them was definitely a Pedersen. When I say heaps I reckon around 50 passed by with one or two asking how far ahead the peloton was. After comparing notes on bicycles and when the best time to get a tandem is we parted ways and I headed off towards Wicken along the Upware Road towards the A1123.

On the way through I had to stop to take pictures of these purple flowers growing in one of the fields. I think there might have been some potatoes growing underneath the ground as well! They have come along way from the Andes.

As you can see it is quite a colourful time of year here in the Fens.What with the oilseed rape earlier in the year,  then flax and now potatoes and of course with a sprinkling of wildflowers thrown in as well.

What was that about a sprinkling of wildflowers – here are some poppies with a sprinkling of wheat, sorry, here is some wheat with a sprinkling of poppies. The line of flowers on the right hand side of the picture seems to be the line of an old hedge, long since uprooted to make a larger field.

There are a few ears of wheat growing amongst the poppies though.

I have gotten into the habit of crossing the A1123 and using a byway called Docking’s Lane to get to Lower Drove (which is the route of NCN11 between Ely and Wicken Fen). As I was cycling up towards the A1123 I passed a couple of cyclists by the roadside, one looked as if they had been mending a puncture and I slowed to see if any help was needed. It wasn’t and shortly after they passed me on their racing bikes. For some reason, known only to lots of probably male cyclists, I upped my pace to catch them up. It is a failing I have even when I am wearing work clothes that I tend to speed up just to show passing cyclists that I can cycle a bit faster than I do.

As we all reached the junction they seemed to be going for it (i.e. crossing the road) so I did, but still looked anyway, it was a good job as there was a fast car coming round the bend. Always go for one last look is my motto – and that could well have been if I’d carried on across the road (my last look that is). I headed toward Docking Lane and they went down towards Wicken.  A little while later as I was heading down Lower Road towards Wicken who should I meet but the two racing cyclists, did I mention they had loads of Lycra on as well.  We said hello like long-lost friends passing like ships in the night. (Just to mix a metaphor and a saying).

Wicken Fen was busy, slightly depressing was the huge number of cars that had transported the visitors to Wicken Fen. In our car-dependent society most people would see the car as the only viable means of transport to get to Wicken Fen which is just a little bit off the beaten track.  There is a bit of a catch-22 situation in that the NT want to attract visitors which essentially means making provision for more and more cars, yet Wicken Fen is a throw-back to a more natural time

Instead of following Lodes Way I turned off towards Burwell and joined the NCN51 route to Reach.  Despite the recent rain this farmer has been able to get a bit of haymaking done along Weirs Drove at the Hythe Bridge end.

A good line of bales drying in the sun, I presume.

The recent rain has made some of the tracks I use slightly sticky and I was in two minds as to whether to cycle along Black Drove way but old (well new really) habits die hard and I did. It was indeed sticky and slippery and I had one or two moments when I thought I’d have to dab my feet but didn’t. I did find that the rain had made some of the track which had recently been repaired easier to cycle.  The repairs had been made by filling the dips with soil.  Since the tractors don’t need it the soil had not been flattened and on my bicycle was loose enough to be tricky and I would tend to cycle to one or the other side.  After the rain the loose soil was more compacted.

Once on the other side and heading towards Swaffham Prior there was yet another field of flax. The buildings in the background are the Swan Lake Grain Store which is where Black Droveway starts.

At this point I was starting to worry whether I would get back in time for the Grand Prix, I shouldn’t have worried for timing reasons but I’ll come to that story. This is the last picture I took of the wiggly road towards Swaffham Prior.

The good news was that I got home with 15 minutes to spare, mind you I was absolutely parched. It was by now very hot and sunny and it had been a mistake not to have taken a drink with me. Still I was home, the first thing was to head for the fridge and get a cold can of diet coke. Except the door was locked and then I noticed that my wife’s car was not there. I walked around the house trying doors and windows, there was no way I was going to get in easily.  So I rang my wife who didn’t answer, she rarely twigs when her phone rings when she is out so I rang my daughter who knows about modern technology!

It turned out that they were in town buying a dress and were just having lunch. Normally I take a door key with me, but if you remember I had left it in my  pocket on the bedroom floor so as not to  disturb my wife’s lie-in.

So they offered to come back, which I accepted but then realised that it might not be the best thing for peace and harmony. So I rang back to let them know I would break in. By now it was getting very close to the start of the race and despite the fact I was gasping I decided not to pop down to the shop for a drink. Instead I unchained a ladder from the shed - combination locks don’t require keys – phew. I then propped the ladder up by an upstairs window, jammed the ladder with a couple of chairs and broke into my own house. I did let my wife and daughter know I had not come to any harm as well.

Rather disappointingly it was quite easy and none of my neighbours seemed to notice even when I dropped the ladder whilst carrying it. I managed to turn on the TV and start the time-shift function just as the cars were going round for the formation lap.  Two cans of diet coke later I put the ladder back and then settled in to watch what turned out to be a very boring race - the worst of the season. Especially after the excitement of the Canadian Grand prix.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A bit more random rambling of the non-cycling kind

Thursday 23rd 2011: I seem to have been stuck at my computer for ever, although really it has only been for a few days. Occasionally as my will to carry on with the stuff I have to do falters the weather comes to my rescue and throws down a load of rain.  I have some deadlines and so a little bit of discouragement from cycling is probably a good thing.

A good indicator is to compare the rainfall graphs for April, May and June. There is barely anything for the first couple of months except for a suspicious spike towards the end of May and then June has rain every two or three days. (There is currently a message on the main page indicating that the spike in May could have resulted from a dodgy sensor.)

So no new pictures I’m afraid although I have used the Web  as a form of vicarious cycling – trust me it isn’t anywhere near as pleasant as cycling for real.

I was interested to read “A snapshot of biking Britain” in the Independent. A link I arrived at from “Bike Week Blues” (on the Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest blog). To cut a long story short apparently we don’t cycle because we can’t fix our brakes or we don’t feel safe.  The fix to this problem; we cyclists should wear helmets, get trained and eschew earphones (and presumably the MP3 players as well). I know let’s make cycling a punishment for getting in the way of all those virtuous motorists.

Why do I have a problem with this – well the message it gives is that the roads are dangerous, but it is the cyclists fault for not being wrapped up. A year of so ago I attended one of the hearings into the Congestion Charging here in Cambridge. A common thread from many of the necklace villages was that cycling into Cambridge would be great – but people wouldn’t do it because it was dangerous.

Here are some “training videos” – Silly cyclists which both amused me and made me think, mind you my normal response is to use cycle paths wherever possible nowadays.

It just so happened that the next blog post  I looked at was this one “Barcelona Bloggers”. Not a lot of cyclists wearing helmets in those pictures – zero in fact. A bit like that chap in this picture.

I think the bottom line is that cycling has a fairly high degree of perceived risk nowadays and telling us that we need to get more protection and training does not lessen one jot that perceived risk. In fact it confirms our fears and the helmet we are told to wear, well whilst it might have some benefit if we bang our head on an overhanging mango, what good it is if we get run over by a car or a lorry? (I also found myself reading some of the crash stories – they don’t make for pleasant reading.

Part of the problem is that it is difficult for us to assess risk. Look at mobile phones and the way that possible dangers are represented.

The problem is that when a car hits a cyclist, regardless of the blame the consequences are worse for the cyclist and when you read stories about “car crashes into house” it makes you wonder who you share the road with.  The good news, well maybe, is that there is a suggestion that “20mph zones ‘should be extended across city’” although I fear it will founder because there is a tacit acceptance that the speed limit is more of a guideline.

If as a cyclist you do fall foul of a car and end up with the common cyclists’ injury of a broken collar bone then the CTC Cycleclips has some useful advice.

It is now “official” scientists have confirmed it so – “a rural life is better”. Although it doesn’t say whether it factors in the high cost of fuel, lack of public transport and lack of local facilities. Having said all that I do enjoy cycling out to Lodes Way for my dose of rural. Although rural isn’t quite the same as it was – there has been a survey by the People's trust for Endangered Species of the dormouse population, numbers have dropped by 50% in the 20th century. The churches are also in need of repair.

Mind you Coton will benefit from new Funding for an orchard - £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to Cambridge Past, Present & Future which looks after the Coton Countryside Reserve.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Cambridge to Ely cycle loop–Cottenham, Clouds and a Causeway

Monday, 20th June: No rain today, although the grass is now looking much greener. Mind you if you dig just a little way beneath the surface you’ll find dry soil.

First a bit of the recent news – here is a video on the Cambridge News website on what happens when a guided bus breaks down. This was a trial rather than for real, but shows that things must be getting closer to an open Guided Busway. I wonder if there will be a cycling event when they open it.  The Opening date is the 7th August which is a Sunday. In that modern press-management-way we are getting a “deluge” of CGB news stories – just like buses you get no information and then loads comes along. The CGB is also having a “short back and sides”.

Whilst on the Cambridgeshire County Council Website I noticed this piece about Traveller graffiti artwork unveiled in Willingham – I must look out for it the next time I pass through Willingham. If you have sneaked a look at the map I didn’t see it this time, but I only went through the outskirts of Willingham.

Apparently the cost of petrol had caused a third of drivers to cut down on the number of car journeys they make according to an RAC report. The RAC also predict it will get worse. The problem is that the long-term trends are set the oil in the ground is not an unlimited resource.

Mind you if you do get out in the car beware back-seat drivers they cause one in seven accidents and near misses.  Apparently they distract the driver. I can also vouch for the fact the women are more likely to lose their temper at criticism – well in my limited experience.Auto 

So there you have it – back-seat drivers please don’t distract the driver when near cyclists. I wonder if that is what caused this Coach Driver to write off nine parked cars whilst looking for a short-cut. Apparently he had previously picked up a parking ticket and wanted to find a free space. Perhaps he could find a new job as a traffic warden – parking on double yellows appears to be a perk of the job.

Or perhaps it was a pothole that caused him a problem, it is going to cost £2.7m to fix the worst ones in the county. Just in case you were interested here are a few facts about road building. We all pay for them by the way.

After my recent trip South I decided to head North. Like the last ride this one was not so much planned as happened.  It started off with a ride up the Cam.  The other day when cycling along riverside there were heaps of people coming back after the bumps. Which makes for very slow going particularly at the various gates and cattle grids. In the end I went through to Willingham and then along the Aldreth Causeway though Haddenham and then past Grunty Fen to Ely and then back along NCN11/Lodes Way/NCN51.

Here is the route, a combination of byways, bridle ways, country lanes and shared use paths. In all I covered around 77Km/ 48 miles. I am still running a little picture-lite after the cloud problems recently.  As you might have noticed I had more problems with Blogger yesterday as there was a temporary glitch. I have noticed that these forums are a little patchy in terms of expertise. They do help to reassure me that the problem is a general problem rather than a local issue on my computer. In the case of the temporary glitch the “answer” was just plain wrong.

For a change and while it was not too busy I set off up the River Cam.  Mind you at this time of year it is a popular place to walk and it helps to have a bell on my bike to alert walkers. There were also quite a few cyclists as well as cycling coaches. In the fine weather there are quite a few people out on the river as well.

Unfortunately NCN11 up the River Cam comes to an end when it reaches Waterbeach. My usual route is to head over to Landbeach and then Cottenham. The road between Landbeach and Cottenham is not the nicest road to cycle along, thin and fast, but most cars overtake leaving plenty of room. usually I turn off up Long drove just as I reach Cottenham which heads North and eventually re-joins Twenty Pence Road. However the Twenty Pence Road is not the most inviting for a cyclist so I carried on through Cottenham along Lambs lane past the Cottenham Primary School.

I can see why so few kids cycle to and from school. the road had cars parked pretty much all over the place and those mums take no prisoners. Even where I should have had right of way they would drive at me. Funnily the only motorists to allow me my right of way was a white-van driver.  They tend to block one side of the road and then charge along the other side.

Even on the High Street a car passing their little pride and joy suddenly stopped and called over to offer him/her a lift. Oblivious to me being held up behind them. That will have to be another law of cycling – don’t cycle past schools at opening or kicking out time. It was a pleasure to get out on the Rampton Road which has a shared-use cycleway (not very wide though, so it is a tidal flow path, presumably trying to promote cycling to/from Cottenham Village College. Although I can’t find anything on their website that might indicate there is decent provision for cycle parking.

As I was cycling over to Rampton these clouds caught my eye. The series of horizontal lines that look as if the red Arrows have been flying in formation and turned on their smoke trails briefly.

The view the other way was also pretty good. Endless fields of crops and a blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds.

I did see a hang glider flying around but wasn’t quick enough to take a picture. Then in Rampton I turned off down Cow lane and then along Irlam Drove. This is a nice, but long way through to Willingham. The only problem is that at one stage it must have been a concrete road and over the years the slabs have had tarmac added and moved apart so you get a constant bump, bump as you cycle down. Not dangerous – just tedious. before reaching Willingham I turned down the Causeway. As I reached the Meadow Road there was a horse right across the track and a few travellers had settled in.

I normally carry on, never having had issues when cycling past travellers but I also noticed a dog that looked to be free-running. When passing free dogs I like to have a bit of speed in reserve ready if they chase after me. It doesn’t happen that often –  once or twice a year at most and normally never Traveller’s dogs which tend to be on a lead and stake). But I find that it doesn’t do to whizz past horses so I decided to take the long way round and went back to Irlam Drove, turned left onto Rockmill Road and then right along Meadow Road. There are various Traveller sites along this road, but set off the road so there are no horses to be careful about.

As it happens just as I followed the road onto the line of the Causeway I did meet two lads each on a horse and cart with small horses in tow. I am not sure whether they were being moved or out for exercise.

The bit of the Causeway from Meadow Road onto Aldreth seems to be quite well used. The track is quite wide and there are ruts along it- but not terribly deep.  It is not the smoothest of byways but it is quite cycle-able on my Hybrid. There is a cycling club in Willingham – Willingham Wheels. They do a cross-country run to the pub on Thursday evenings.

I heard “Ultralight” flying around and did manage to get a picture this time. Although by the time I did have my camera ready he/she was quite far away. Not close enough to work out the flight-sign. But it shows that it wasn’t very windy.

Rivers are always a good thing to take pictures of here is the River Great Ouse on the outskirts of Aldreth from High Bridge? (I know where I was, I am just not sure what the bridge is called.

A close up of those reeds.

I then cycled up through Aldreth and then Haddenham. The causeway is around 2m above sea level where it crosses the River Great Ouse and then there is a climb up to 30-35m as you reach Haddenham. As you join the main road (A1123) you get to go down hill.  As it happens it is not that difficult to cycle at car speeds in villages when going downhill. except that cars don’t like it.  When following a car at 30mph I like to leave some space – I think that car brakes are better than cycle brakes, but that is not based upon any evidence.

In fact it is quite difficult finding a definitive answer,  Cyclecraft  (my copy – it took a while to find though) quotes:

Gradient 10% down 40Km/h (25mph) :   Dry and alert – 27m.   Wet & tired – 84m

Whereas the highway codes states for cars:

20mph  12m

30mph   23m

Which implies that cars can definitely stop more quickly.  As it happens my speed was logged by my GPS on that bit of hill as a touch more than 30mph (48Km/h).  It wasn’t quite a 100mph downhill.

So why did the flippin’ car behind me squeeze past me, pull into the gap I was leaving between me and the car in front and then brake! argh! I will tell you why – he, yes a he, wasn’t reading the road and looking ahead to work out that actually I wasn’t delaying him – but that van turning right up ahead would delay all of us. It is a good job I leave braking room and yes I was in the primary position. I turned off a bit later although there  are useful byways around Sutton and Witchford that I must try out.

The road skirts around what was RAF Witchford which was opened in June 1943 and then closed  in 1946 with the runways being broken up in the 1960-70s. There is now a business park -  Lancaster Way and a bridleway around the perimeter which I must also try out.

When I lived in Willingham, we used to cycle from Ely via Witchford, the last bit was on the A142 – a very busy road nowadays. There is now a decent shared-use path. An old lady stopped as we both circumnavigated the roundabout onto the shared path – she said “you’re faster than me” as she let me through – always good for my ego, even if I am not that fast anymore. (If I ever was!)

Cycling along the shared-use path I couldn’t resist a byway to the left.  I later discovered it was called St John’s Road (track) and led onto St John’s Road in Ely. It looked pretty good but was actually fairly overgrown, with quite a few stingles and thistles and I was wearing shorts.

Now I was not quite sure where it went, but hey that’s what exploring is all about sometimes. However I don’t really like getting stung just to explore.  I stopped at one point and took a picture of this field of spuds in flower.

But the path onward actually looked quite good and despite brushing against quite a few stingles I didn’t get stung and yes it did get a lot more overgrown than this bit.  Then the bad bit – I had to cross the A10 – it took ages and there was a lot of traffic. It would probably have been a bit easier if I’d followed the shared-use path – then I could have crossed one lane at a time.

Once into Ely I followed NCN11 back down through Barway and to Wicken Fen.  I stopped on Goose Fen Drove to take a picture of these roses.  I got a nice wave from a passing driver, I think he thought that I’d stopped for him.

I am not sure I would use the byway into Ely but the route was quite good with much of it on road. It is a pity there are not a few more cycle-able routes through to Aldreth and Cottenham and alternatives to the B1049 – not bad but not that good for cycling. I wonder if there is any called for a new bridge over the River Great Ouse – after all £450,000 is being spent on the connection between Histon and Cottenham to improve the cycle-path. Lets get Aldreth a bit better connected.

Before I finish I’ll just mention this link to some Old Fen maps.