Saturday, December 21, 2013

Working in London

18th October 2013: It probably sounds a bit smug, but I don’t intend it to be. I am glad I don’t have to commute to London 5 days a week. In fact I am glad I don’t commute to London 1 or 2 days a week like I used to for a year or so.

Well as I try to catch up with myself ready for the new year here are a few observations of a day in London in October! Well it started of very pleasant with the sun shining through the trees. Unfortunately I was supposed to be suited and booted and running short of time so I got a lift in wife who was heading that way.

Early Morning Sun Shining Through The Trees

At least I didn’t have to find a parking space for my bicycle and it was pretty warm so I guess there were some positives.

Cycle Parking is difficult to find – Cambridge Railway Station

New cycle parking is going top be built, although it seems that the priority is to put all the other rather large blocks of apartments first.

Lots of new buildings are being put up around Cambridge Railway Station

Whilst the sun seemed to disappear it stayed warm. Mind you at first it looked as if there would be some space on the train.

Waiting for the Cambridge to London Train

What a surprise lots more people arrived to get on the train and it was full.  Not everyone got a seat, including me because I politely allowed some older folk onto the train and, well ended up standing. Which was a flipping nuisance as I wanted to get some work done.

They are increasingly banning bicycles on trains, yet they are a pretty good way of getting from A-B-C-B-A, where A is home and C is the destination and C is where you are going.  Apparently some operators are recommending a bike at each end.

Only Standing Room on this Cambridge to London Train Today

Actually there was a tube journey involved as well, after standing on the train all the way down and the travelling on a hot tube I was feeling pretty hot and dishevelled I wished I bought my bicycle along it wouldn’t have been any worse.

I reckon that the use the Train Operators just don’t care about customers, the customers are literally a captive audience. So rather that provide a reasonable service we get treated like cattle.

Skinny London Pavement

At the end of the day when I headed back, the train was even busier. It is awful, at least I got a seat, unfortunately there is often an undignified rush to get a seat.

Standing Room only on this London to Cambridge train today

Trail by Commuting!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

October Windfall

Saturday, 12th October 2013: Thank goodness for my Android Phone – it is such a convenient camera for those spur of the moment pictures. Especially as I have sworn of cycling until the new year. After my back twinge I decided to “rest” it until the new year and then start increasing my cycling mileage again. Hopefully when I do that it will counteract my increasing waist inchinge. Mind you things get busy at this time of year and the days draw in and well the weather can get a bit unpleasant as well. I seem to be turning into a fine-weather cyclist.

One tradition was a pre-Christmas visit to my Mum’s to exchange hostages presents.  She lives a few hundred miles away and prefers not to travel at this time of year so she has Christmas with my sister who lives just down the road from her.

We went up to my Mum’s house in bright sun and came back during the gales. It seemed to me that the current lorry and car driving tests must now include testing a driver’s ability to drive in convoy very close to the vehicle in front, at high speed. Undertaking seems to also have been included.

When I got back to Cambridge I was impressed to read that a local cyclist - Cab Davison or Cambridge Cyclist who seems to be the first cyclist to obtain a conviction against a driver through helmet Cam footage. The driver was fined £60, given 3 points on his licence and has to pay £200 in costs. Well done, as a cyclist I have had a few close passes. It is very scary and whilst the car might come off with a dent or two it puts my life on the line. You may well say that it doesn’t happen very often, well no, but it is the closest I come to serious harm.  So it needs raising, drivers need to understand how dangerous it is and that a helmet and high-vis jacket isn’t going to be much help when a cyclist gets hit at speed. As discussed in this article Road Deaths: The Asymmetry of Power and Risk is Stark.

We did notice, as we drove along the Motorways, that there were quite a few apples trees that had dropped their leaves, but still had quite a few apples on  them. Apparently this is happening around the country and is because of the “unseasonable weather”. Well on my rider around the byways of the fens quite a few apples dropped back in October.

High Ditch Road – evidence of the recent gales

Recumbent bicycles to become compulsory due to low-flying aircraft in Cambridgeshire

Low Fen Drove Way – Fallen Apples

Byway to the left – concrete track to the right (Low Fen Drove Way)

Modern Ditch and Bank in the middle  (Low Fen Drove Way)

It seems that the Council is finally completing the Shared-use cycling  between Horningsea and Fen Ditton.  A few more are in the pipeline – A1096 St Ives: Foot and cycleway, Swavesey to Buckingway Business Park Cycleway and the Wandlebury to Babraham Research Park cycle and footway. They all appear to be shared-use and somewhat compromised, let’s hope they get finished in a timeley manner unlike the Butt’s Lane thingy.

I didn’t realise there was a car on the shared-use path until I viewed the picture on my computer. They are such a common sight. I wish our PCC would realise that this is just wrong and do something about it whilst he is not climbing the greasy pole.

Shared-use route between Horningsea and Fen Ditton

Tractors Ploughing and Drilling

A windfall along 100 Hundred Acres Road

An Old Railway line (The back of Anglesey Abbey)

White Fen Drove – A recently de-spudded field (when the picture was taken)

For some reason the same picture but with a bit more zoom.

A windfall along White Den Drove

A sprinkling of Autumnal Colours on the outskirts of Reach

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Cloud–you can’t really trust it!


Bike Route Toaster – is no more?

Life seems to stay the same and yet change at the same time. Sometimes those changes can be pretty radical – but we tend to spot them in hindsight. Look at the onslaught the High Street is struggling with. Some blame inability to get their cars into the centre “cheaply”, some blame the fact that there are too many cars whilst others “blame” the internet. (Although really it is what we can do on the Internet that counts – from payments to visualisation to tracking the parcel on its way.)

The reality is that times change, but we humans tend to live in the moment. Partly because much of the past isn’t that relevant to now.  When I was a kid we watched TV in Black and White, because that was how it was transmitted. The BBC only started broadcasting in Colour in 1997.

In 1998 around 10% of UK households had Internet Access, whereas 80% of households had it by 2012. These changes are both profound and yet mundane.  The Internet shopping of today is not that dissimilar to the Catalogue Shopping (Mail Order) of yesteryear. You can even by a book – Catalog: The Illustrated History of Mail Order Shopping from Amazon.

When it came to music, we used to have vinyl records, and yes I still have some, along with a record player – somewhere or other. Then along came tape recorders, cassette recorders, digital cassette recorders, video recorders, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray, Digital TV, Digital Radio, streaming, MP3… Newspapers have long be struggling with the digital age, books are now available digitally. The digital age for cameras (and smartphones) is well and truly with us.  I have a 35mm film camera which my son is borrowing it to take B&W pictures which he will process and develop himself, but I haven’t used it for over ten years.

The upshot is that we can do everything digitally and we can do lots more as a result but there will be a day of reckoning.  Having been involved with IT and the need to keep records and data accessible you tend to look for standards. That means standards for saving the data as well as being able to read it.

Take  down loaded music for example, what happens when you die is rather unclear. Technically you don’t own the stuff, you have a personal licence. Although apparently you can give an Amazon account to someone else

One of the issues to consider is how long you want you stuff to be readable.  Take pictures for example, I have pictures taken 50+ years ago that I still keep.  In my case some of the, more recent pictures are kept because they were taken when the kids were younger and perhaps the kids will want to show them to their kids in years to come.

The same is true of my pictures, I have taken far more, in the digital age than I ever took on film.  Partly because it is cheaper and partly because I want to take more. I buy more music nowadays, partly because I can listen to it conveniently and partly because my music tastes haven’t really evolved. 

As a result I buy CDs not downloads and then rip them onto my computer so they be streamed. I backup my pictures and music three times.

So what am I complaining about, well I have to apologies to readers of my Blog who found it useful to check out the ride routes on Bike Route Toaster – apparently it is no more. Google have moved the Maps API from v2 to v3 and as a result you don’t get so see any map data. Well that is a whole bunch of links in various posts that will now not work.  I guess you get what you pay for and I didn’t pay for Bike Route Toaster. The routing data is not critical to me and I I don’t know how many readers used it – but it is still irritating. I have over 200 routes plotted.

Now I don’t blame the author of Bike Route Toaster – she/he might be busy, doing other things or even no longer. It is a reminder though. You can’t really trust the Net with your stuff, unless you don’t care about that stuff that much.

Plenty of space for more disk drives

Getting through the Summer pictures

29th September 2013: I must at least try and catch up with pictures already stake. This was a visit to Oily Hall and then up to Wicken Fen.It turned out that there was an endurance event on although I only really saw a  straggler. Although he wasn’t straggling because he was unfit – he had taken a wrong turn.

The event was being assisted by a Search and Rescue team – CAMSAR – Cambridgeshire Search and Rescue, a charity that often works in conjunction with other services such as the police to locate missing people.

In this case they were following on behind the event to provide emergency assistance to an Ultra Marathon in this case a 45mile race starting and ending in Ely, after running to Cambridge and back.  It is being run in 2014 and the blurb mentions it passing through the desolate Fens.

Although we tend to think of mountainous areas such as the Lake District or The Highlands as places where people get lost – it isn’t that difficult to get lost in the Fens either. There are few highly visible landmarks (although Ely Cathedral is one) and it can all look the same. I have come across lost cyclists and walkers a reasonable number of times.  Generally their problem was they couldn’t locate themselves on their map.

The “Veld” at Oily Fen

A path alongside Commissioners’ Drain, Oily Fen

A Wooden Bridge over Commissioners’ Drain

A volunteer from Cambridgeshire Search and Rescue on the Burwell Lode Footbridge

A burnt-out car – Newnham Drove (stolen and dumped?)

The route of the Ultra Marathon race doesn’t cross the river until Clayhithe. Here is heads alongside Bottisham Lode to the River Cam and then down the East bank.

Quite a “Run Route” – more than I cycle – most times!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

It is all relative

I have been “off the air” for a while, partly because I am cycling less and also because I have a bad back. Sufficiently bad that I had not felt at all comfortable sitting at my computer let alone going out riding.

Things seem to be on the mend so I shall see how it goes.  The trouble is if I don’t cycle then I take fewer pictures and if I don’t want to sit at my computer for extended periods then I don’t write my posts.

I have taken some pictures though which will feature as I catch up.

In the mean-time I have fixed a rather annoying little problem with my email and I can now access my Network Storage from my phone and iPad. It did require a bit of fiddling with my Broadband Router. It shouldn’t have required any fiddling, but it didn’t want to plug and play.

It seems that there are still far too many tragedies reported on the roads in the region. A cyclist died in a crash on the A140 in Norfolk and a Pedestrian was killed in a collision in involving two cars in Ely. However if you follow the website you can see that  the list continues to grow.

In the UK we seem to have strange views about road safety.  Whilst the Highway Code will talk about the responsibilities of motorists to consider Road users requiring extra care is (IMHO) suffers from being a rather odd mix of Code and Law.  So rule 163, which deals with overtaking  has a very nice picture of a car giving a bicycle a huge amount of space, but no real guidance on what motorists should actually do. In my experience as a cyclist motor vehicles almost never give that kind of space when overtaking a bicycle.

It also seems that too often the responsibility for safety on the roads is placed on the pedestrian of cyclist rather than the motor vehicle.  As a result of the significant numbers of cyclists killed in London Police Officers were given a target to fine 10 cyclists a month.  The MET chief has been quoted as saying he would not cycling in London (because of the traffic). This approach seems to be more one of scaring the cyclists off the roads and so out of the way than actually making the roads safer for cyclists.

Here in Cambridge our PCC makes a thing of “cracking down on rogue cyclists”. There is going to be a crackdown during the Festive season on Drink-drivers and drunken cyclists. In that article Inspector Rogers (of the Cambs Police Force) is quoted as saying:

“It’s dangerous because you’ll probably go under the nearest car or lorry and the fact is cycling fatalities are going up. Cambridge is a massive area for cycling with a big student population and the roads are dark and narrow and it can be hairy enough cycling when you’re sober, let alone to do it when drunk. Cyclists need to concentrate to stay safe.”

It does seem as if the Police consider cycling to be intrinsically dangerous.  Don’t get me wrong I don’t recommend going out and cycling and drinking but  the danger presented by a drunken cyclist is far less than that presented by a drunken motorist.  The kinetic energy of a moving object is 1/2 mv2 – or in words a half of the mass times the velocity squared. (For mass in Kg and velocity in metre/second the energy is measured in Joules.

So for a car weighing 1500Kg travelling at 30mph  (which is 13m/s) with two occupants (average UK adult weight – 76Kg) – total 1652Kg.  So applying the formula the energy is 140KJ

If we do the same calculation for a bicycle, v=15mph (which is 6.7m/s) and the weight is = 76Kg (person) plus 14Kg (bike) – total 90Kg, then the energy is 2KJ.

A car and its occupants weight a lot more than a bicycle travel at higher speeds as well… However the message is that any cyclist who doesn’t wear a bit of high-vis and a polystyrene helmet is in the wrong. Here is some research that suggests that no matter what clothing cyclists wear around 1-2% of drivers will pass dangerously close.

Why isn’t the real danger being tackled? Here is a CTC article on Police should tackle the real danger. What is it that makes our Police and PCCs and MPs focus on the wrong issue? To illustrate the last point here is an article on Chris Boardman’s response to a recent Government Transport Select Committee – investigating the recent spate of deaths on London’s roads.   According to an item in the Daily Mail! There is a knife attack every 4 minutes – if you follow the logic applied to cyclists then perhaps we should all be wearing stab-vests.


It seems to me that the bottom line is that roads are there for all of us. They must be made safer and more attractive for pedestrians and cyclists. To do that requires addressing the cause of the danger and not trying to heap responsibility onto the victims. Some may witter on about how important motorised transportation is – well a system that so wastefully burns imported fuel is absolute nuts. It is bad for the economy and for the country… The overall motor vehicle traffic volume in Great Britain in 2012 was 302.6 billion vehicle miles.  If the average petrol consumption was 35mpg that represents (at £6/gallon) £50Bn.  Simplistically that is all wasted money.  Doubling the efficiency of “transport” would say a huge chunk of cash.

For instance “New broadband report reveals £20 return on every £1 spent”. Or as reported in the Daily Mail – How superfast broadband means more working from home giving us 60million hours more free time. I personally don’t consider 24Mbps as superfast though.  That seems like planning to fail. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

September sun

End of September: I have not done much cycling over the last couple of months and my body is starting to suffer, I reckon. So here is a reminder of the end of September. Summer seemed to drift on most pleasantly this year.

Spuds – desiccated and ready to harvest – near Upware

A broken down Spud Harvester (Varitron 200)

These Acorns look rather “plump”

The Wicken Veld


What is a cyclist worth?

At the moment there seems to be nothing but tragedy on the roads. It has been a black time.  There have been 5 (UPDATE NOW 6) cyclists killed on the roads in London with Boris Johnson reported as saying that risk-taking cyclists are often to blame! Sadly another cyclist has been killed in Camberwell.  Victim blaming from the top and who cycles.

Even worse, although it perhaps doesn’t attract the same press attention there are cyclists also being killed elsewhere in the UK (as noted on the Road Justice website).

Teenage cyclist dies in Bath hit and run (16/11/13)

Cyclist dies after multi-vehicle collision in Billingham (16/11/13)

Cyclist dies in collision in Nantwich (12/11/13)

55-year-old cyclist killed in collision in Sheffield (03/11/13)

Man arrested after fatal hit-and-run outside Worcester pub (28/10/13)

    As a regular road user (cyclist, bus passenger and car driver/passenger) I find myself horrified that the loss of human life can be treated so casually. Even worse is the victim blaming that takes place, both directly and indirectly, towards cyclists – wear helmets, wear high-viz, don’t cycle on pavements – unless we tell you to, use lights… Apparently on Monday “Police Targeting Cyclists Who Break The Law” in Central London were stopping cyclists who weren’t wearing helmets to advise them to take safety more seriously. At the same time they stopped 20 HGVs and 60 offences were found to be committed.

    They were advising cyclists against wearing headphone – I wonder if they were advising motorists not to listen to the radio or CD player as well? Yet at the same time we have the laws of the land being bent all the time. 

    Q: When is a speed limit not a speed limit?

    A: When it is a speed limit!

    The current ACPO Speed Enforcement Policy has a range of tolerances for speeders (Section 9). Where the limit is 30mph, apparently the measurement tolerance (device tolerance) is 32mph and a Speed Awareness Course (SAC) would be offered from 52mph to 42mph. The relevant numbers for 60mph are – device tolerance  62mph, SAC 68mph to 75mph. You might ask what happens for 20mph limits – well a fixed penalty is not currently issued and a summons would be appropriate for greater than 40mph.

    For some strange reason 20mph limits have a section to themselves – Section 11. Which, paraphrasing basically says there should be a whole package of measures to manage speeds otherwise you would get lots of offenders and that would expose vulnerable road users to speeders. (Read the section – it does sound a bit like doublespeak). |Clear not the fault of the poor drivers.

    I wonder what the ACPO guidelines might have said in the case of the shop manager who was arrested, held in a call and take to course for riding a bike without lights.  Fortunately the Senior Crown Prosecutor recognised the absurdity and asked the courts to withdraw it, which they did.

    The time has come to recognise that these were just people going about their lives, using a bicycle. Not Lycra Louts, not MAMILS, not red-light jumpers – but people. Read the Highway Code – cyclists are like pedestrians, they are vulnerable road-users.  It is about time we prioritised the safety of those vulnerable road users.

    That means prioritising the needs of cyclists and pedestrians, spending money on their needs. Not like this council – which spends £50,000 a year driving pupils 800m in minibuses rather than build a footpath along a dangerous road. Apparently the cost of the pavement would be £100,000.  So the breakeven time would be two years.  Apparently the design life of a pavement would typically be twenty years but could be up to 40 years.  Perhaps it is councils like this that are the reason that Children need more exercise.

    The needs of the vulnerable road users are of course greater than just a bit of pavement. They need the traffic to be managed – they need to ensure the road can be crossed safely, where appropriate, it needs to be  relatively quiet, it needs to be low on pollution. Traffic flow should not be prioritised over the young lives of schoolchildren. Ideally there should be a fence and it should be wide enough for segregated cycling and walking…

    Compromised facilities compromise lives – like this bit of paint on a pavement – cycle path – pah. Yet that is what we end up with – why – because it is cheap. Not fit for purpose – but cheap. Even worse here in Cambridge cycle safety money has been used to speed up motor traffic flow – “Scandalous waste of cycling money”.

    The bigger scandal – the Department for Transport are forecasting that cycling will fall for decades to come.  Do they know something we don’t – let’s face it this is either planning to fail – big-time or going in the face of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), “how can we get Britain cycling?

    There needs to be more focus on dealing with the elephants on the roads – cars and lorries (and buses) and moving and parked. We need to change behaviour and be consistent in applying the rules. Personally I would like to see more training and education rather than just fines. (But of course that training and education has to be paid for.)  Too much of the time the press seem to stir up accusations by claiming that motorists are being milked.  eg. “Traffic wardens in Cambridge dish out £1.23m in double yellow fines – and now there’s a crackdown outside schools”. In that article someone moans that they are supposed to have 5 minutes on a double yellow line before a fine.


    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    We all like a story

    Stories play an important part in our lives.  Before the printed word they were important not just for entertainment, but education, cultural and knowledge preservation, control and societal cohesion. You only have to look at young children at play and watch them in a play re-enactment from to see how important a part it plays in our lives.

    Such is the power of the story that it is used by Politicians when they are selling us there political approach. The trouble is stories are about people rather than facts. Good stories sway the emotions rather than the intellect.

    The trouble is the heart doesn’t always lead to the best decisions, which is why there is conflict between evidence-based policy and the use of anecdotes when making what can be critical decisions.  One example of that, where that difference impacts our health is in the Pharmaceutical Industry – as described by Ben Goldacre.  It can be further complicated by the imperfect use of statistics. When, what is a powerful tool in the Scientists’ armoury (Stats) gets fiddled which it can lead to a general cynicism about any science – look at how the seriousness of Climate Change can be so easily dismissed by some.

    Which leads me to my concerns about the role of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC). We seem to have moved back to an old-school political accountability system of overseeing our Police Forces. A system that is even worrying our MPs and even one PCC is suggesting that they are a “£100m waste of money”. There are also claims of expenses claimed by two PCCs and a third with a chauffeur and just for good measure cronyism.

    With with the low turnout for voting it wasn’t an auspicious start for PCCs, perhaps we, the electorate got what we deserved. Here in the Flatlands around Cambridge  our PCC who seems to have a bee in his bonnet about cyclists or maybe an eye ear for a good soundbite?

    Police dish out £1,500 in fines in an hour to cyclists without lights in Cambridge as commissioner Sir Graham Bright joins crackdown (as scores more law-breakers sped past). And the sound-bright from our PCC :

    “It is just unbelievable how many cyclists are without lights. It is terrible for drivers who just can’t see them in the dark and the cyclists are simply endangering themselves and other road users.

    “We could have had many more officers out tonight and they would have all been busy stopping cyclists without lights. It is like shooting fish in a barrel.”

    IMHO, some rather emotive language – “shooting fish in a barrel” – well as I have first-hand experience of being knocked of my car in broad day light I can tell you that it sometimes feels as if I am that fish when cycling. That was not the most helpful of phrases. The first part of the quote “unbelievable how many cyclists” and “it is terrible for drivers”. 

    This seems to me to be old-school political rhetoric designed to appeal to the heart and not the head. It sympathises with the drivers for the terrible thing cyclists are doing to them. No mention of what is so terrible for drivers though.  Perhaps it might be terrible for drivers caught without lights in an area where all the streetlights didn’t work – but terrible – no.  I suppose the feeling is why bother with facts when the electorate don’t really respond to such things anyway.  If you are interested in facts then the Cottenham Cyclist has looked at Oxford and assessed the data regarding accidents during daylight and darkness. Perhaps it might surprise you that the conclusion is the cyclists in Oxford are proportionately safer at night.

    The positive aspect of the exercise (apart from the fact it was cheap – three volunteer police constables and Sir Graham he was there – just not my idea of cheap) was the use of the LIT approach – lights instead of tickets.

    To be honest, from observing the work of PCCs I am not totally sure what they are really supposed to do – but another example of our PCC’s pronouncements – “Make cycle helmets compulsory” says police chief Sir Graham Bright – but Cambridge MP Julian Huppert disagrees. In this article the PCC tells us a story of his Doctor son’s experience of consequences of head injuries and tells us that “the damage that can be done if a cyclist hits their head on a kerb can be terrible”. Which is true – but the same could be said of pedestrians:

    “the damage that can be done if a cyclist hits their head on a kerb can be terrible”.

    It is no less true. Co-incidentally a “pedestrian hurt in hit-and-and-run crash at Cambridge crossing”, fortunately only minor facial injuries – but why doesn’t the PCC offer the same advice about helmets to pedestrians?. In this instance it is a good thing that they have gotten a more balanced view.  Although the cynic in me suspects that is more of a press-device to report a conflicting point of view rather than get to the truth. Interestingly the same story was reported by and avoided being quite so anti-cyclist. also devotes more space and facts to the issue.

    Two other examples of how news reports tend to use a “story” which, I reckon clouds the facts. “Angry pensioner tips bag of dog poo over Cambridge University lecturer for ‘cycling too close to he’ by guided busway”.  Perhaps it is me being too sensitive, however the article does seem to give way to much airtime to the miscreant’s side of the story and the (unproven) danger presented by cyclists. Whereas the guilty party has two previous cautions for common assault and criminal damage and frankly what she did was disgusting.

    The second story – “Man fined for assaulting cyclist said he was trying to save his life” also seems to focus on the guilty party and the victims get no say.  Perhaps that also mirrors the way the courts work.

    It seems to me that we cyclists must get better at telling our story. If we want to stop being the out group – no more lycra louts – but parents, children on their way to school, or to work. We have to stop being painted as such one-dimensional characters.

    Update – I hadn’t read A Tale of Two (or Three, or Four) Assaults. As reported by Cambridge News – the Cambridge Cyclist breaks down the coverage of mitigation versus coverage of the illegality.

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

    Cyclists–the group you can berate between meals without ruining your appetite.

    Many people think of Cambridge as a cycle-friendly place, well I can tell you know it doesn’t always feel that way. I have now cycled through the “improved” Hills Road junction a few times and also driven through it, although not as many times. My impressions were of being abandoned in a big car space.  Indeed if you look at the OSM Cycle map you can see that cycle routes avoid the junction with Lensfield Road  and there are long cuts (Coronation Street or Glisson Road).  Depending upon where you are going you end up negotiating uncontrolled junctions or more crossings. Also, despite the fact I have lived in the area for nearly 30 years the routes just do not spring to mind – they don’t present themselves as the most logical of routings.

    What does stick in the craw is that the improvements were part-funded in the name of cycle safety. So the meagre, piecemeal cycle infrastructure budget was raided to pay for what is really the replacement of a tired motor junction. Oh yes we did get that “wonder of wonders”  an advance traffic signal for cyclists. Although they haven’t got lights at cyclist-eye level so I almost missed it and it is only a few seconds.

    But that is old news really, I just wanted to check that it wasn’t just the shock of the new that had put me off the junction.  There are loads of places where there are random poles along a cycle path, random shared-use paths that appear to have little logic being them.  They stop and start and switch sides so much I reckon they are designed to increase the conflict, real or imagined, with pedestrians. (Whereas the real danger to pedestrians are motor vehicles.)

    The strange thing is that, even the Daily Mail, is reporting the news that Bicycle sales overtake Cars for the first time ever in Europe. Apparently in 2012 in the UK there were more than 3,000,000 bicycles sold compared with just over 2,000,000 cars. The researchers attribute it to the recession although little evidence is presented, remember correlation is not prove of causation! Obesity has risen in Europe over the same time – maybe that is the problem…

    Now Psychologists (and I am not one) talk about Ingroups and Outgroups and in my mind there is no doubt that motorists are suffering from Outgroup derogation. For some reason cyclists must be perceived as a threat. What is more striking is that if you ever follow the comments on a Cambridge News story about cycling then you can almost guarantee that it will generate loads and loads of comments. Like this one Police targeting ‘dangerous and anti-social’ cycling in Cambridge today.

    You only need to read a few of the anti-cyclist comments to realise that many of those commenting do not appear to be very intelligent or given to rational argument. Also given the Daily Mail article on the sales of bicycle versus bikes and the  data about how many households use bicycles to realise that those people making averse comments about cyclists are probably a rather sad minority. Who when not sitting in their cars/vans fuming (at the cyclists, pedestrians, roadworks, lorries, buses, bus lanes, taxi drivers) are probably leading a sad and lonely life. Who end up sitting eating their microwavable food in  their bedrooms pecking away at their computer keyboards adding more and more comments. Safe in the knowledge that they probably won’t be considered as racist of sexist.

    The trouble is this sort of antagonistic behaviour seems to come from the very top – just watch Question Time in Parliament or see how many politicians seem to spend more time sniping at the opposition than communicating what and why there are proposing a particular course of action. There seems to be too much focus on the headlines not on the substance.

    It would also seem that the press will exacerbate that behaviour, after all a provocative headline will generate lots of eyeballs, so important for the Internet-age. So we have one such headline in the Cambridge News – “Police targeting ‘dangerous and anti-social cycling’ in Cambridge today”.  Personally I don’t have a problem with the approach the Police are taking for cyclists without lights – LIT – Lights instead of Tickets. It is a bit of a win-win, it even helps our local bike shops. The problem I do have is as to whether it is either dangerous or anti-social?  It might be, but there is no discussion to support that – so it does tend to stir up the trolls and feed the Outgroup Derogation.

    Driving a motor vehicle creates noise and air pollution – that’s antisocial, and air pollution is harmful to health – that’s dangerous and/or anti social.

    It is perfectly reasonable that the Police are there to uphold the law, however the Cottenham Cyclist has has looked at some data in Oxford that suggests that cyclists without lights are not putting themselves in harm’s way. So given the budget pressure on Policing is this the right way to spend the limited Police resources. Or is is a cheap (PSCOs are doing the work) way to rack up some numbers for our PCC to justify all the good work!

    Interestingly the word “danger” does crop up in the Cambridge News’ headlines a few times – “Hundreds of ‘danger drivers’ snared in Cambridgeshire police traps” and “Police to crack down on ‘dangerous’ parking outside Cambridge schools”.   Although the Cambridge News distance themselves by using quote marks around the terms.

    So to help calm us all down, some pictures  - no cyclists without lights or jumping red lights. No cars no buses – just bridleways and countryside. No provocative headlines – except for the Dung heap.

    Low Fen Drove Way – Apples

    Hundred Acre Road – A Dung heap – human?

    Lodes Way – Burwell Fen Bund – it seems to be working

    I bumped into MikeC whilst cycling through Burwell – he mentioned a Sun Dog. Which was still around as I headed towards Swaffham Prior.

    Sun Dog – Between Burwell and Swaffham Prior

    And here it is a bit closer.

    Sun Dog – Between Burwell and Swaffham Prior

    There were some cars and lorries about – that road between Burwell and Swaffham Prior does get very busy.

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    The Fruits of the Fens (well some)

    Wednesday 25th September 2013: So the disadvantage of working from home is that it can sometimes be a bit too easy to not cycle. A bit of rain or a bit of gloom and you stay in and even convince yourself that you are being good by getting more work done.

    Whereas if you have to commute to work then once you are in the cycling routine you tend to just do it, rain, shine or wind.

    Sad smile

    So quite a good little routine for me is to get out at least one day of the weekend and then try for a mid-week ride and possibly a POET’s day ride. Despite most of my rides being around the Wicken Fen area – there is always something to see and although it isn’t busy it isn’t totally deserted either.

    Of course I have to ring the changes as far as routes go – but there are lots of byways and bridleways, around and about.  I am starting to wonder whether there is a correlation between the sorts or quite routes I cycle along and Solar Farms and Wind Farms. There is Wadlow Wind Farm. There is talk of Solar Farm on the Heath Road, near Burwell(NCN51).

    Well I had seen that the Cambridge County Council was exploring the possibility of a Solar Farm near Soham.  It was MikeC (who I bumped into yesterday around the Fens), who told me that it would lie alongside Brack’s Drove bridleway between Wicken and Soham. I guess Solar and Wind Farms have similar requirements to me when it comes to location.

    This is what I mean, we do have the Lode’s Way, but there are also numerous signs showing the various ways you an get to the Lodes Way. This is an 11-51 link from Swaffham Prior on Whiteway Drove.

    Two cyclists heading to Lodes Way from Swaffham Bulbeck?

    I turned off and then along Black Droveway rather than follow them up the road. These apples look rather nice. This year is a good year for applesw and pears. We have had loads our a couple of apple trees in the garden and one of the pear trees was so laden that a branch broke.

    Apple Tree on Black Droveway

    A recently planted Rowan (I think). I didn’t really pay much attention – that is just what I filed away in my memory when I took the picture.  We have just had t6o cut an Ash tree down in the garden. It wasn’t Ash dieback, but did need removing before it became tricky to remove. We replaced it with a Rowan.

    Rowan on Black Droveway

    I usually skirt around  Reach on Blackberry Droveway and then up along Straight Drove. A nicely regimented field of bales.

    Bales waiting to be collected on Straight Drove, near Reach

    I rather liked the way the trees in the background had a bit of mist around them.

    Bales waiting to be collected on Straight Drove, near Reach

    I then detoured along Split Drove and turned right on Headlake Drove.  This is my first Sugar Beet clamp sighting of the (end of the) year.  These are really temporary stores, they usually pull the beet out of the ground just before they get loaded into lorries and taken for processing. They print the dates in the local that the various factories are starting up around these parts.

    Beet Clamp – Split Drove

    After Upware I headed out towards Wicken.  These poppies are late.  It was the flash of read that caught my eye.

    Wild Poppies – near Upware

    Now this is sort of how I saw it in my mind’s eye. Just a flash of red. So now they are colour-popped poppies.

    Wild poppies

    On my way back on Lodes Way (proper) I stopped at Burwell Lode – for the misty look.

    Burwell Lode – Getting Misty

    Don’t roll on too quickly Autumn.