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.

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