Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When is News News?

Wednesday, 30th January 2013: It used to be that you got news almost a day late, a daily paper, sometimes an evening paper and the 9 o’ clock news at the end of the day (or Ten o’ clock).  Even the television tended to report “old” news – satellite broadcasts were far and few between and live inserts into news programs were also sparse and prone to failure. Before my time Newspapers seemed to overly respectful printing what was acceptable

Roll on the clock umpty years and we have all sorts of “news” clammering for our attention.  Broadcast TV now offers 24 hours news and live broadcasts from all over the world. We have the Internet, providing an outlet for the TV News organisations, Newspaper organisations and citizen news through Blogging and Microblogging. Last, but not least, we still have some news papers some keeping pace with the change.

So it is no surprise that the companies that supply the news are seeking their niche. The newspapers used to align themselves on a class basis. The Sun became infamous for Page Three, which was hardly news, but when I was a teenager it was quite an eye opener!  It seems that the fight for survival. The Internet is an important part of the battle with organisations such as The Times operating a paywall although that experiment has still to run. (I often linked to Times’ stories until the advent of their paywall.)

One of the more popular forays into the Internet has been that of the Daily Mail, which saw its number of unique browsers pass the million mark in August last year. Of course those eyeballs still need to be turned into revenue.

The other factor that has evolved is the way we receive our news, paper, computer, tablet and smartphone.

In my case I tend to reference The Times, Cycling Cities Fit for Cycling stuff, which is the bit not behind a paywall. It is good to see a national newspaper take a stand such as this one.  I also link to daily Mail stories. Now I have to admit I find the Daily Mail’s slant on things rather odd, but they have good pictures and amusing headlines. My perception is that they are general pro-motorist and ambivalent to slightly positive about cycling, but flip-flop around a bit.

I also link to the Cambridge News, they used to be the Cambridge Evening News – but that niche can’t have been very profitable. They are local and so topical and since cycling is an important feature of Cambridge life they feature it quite a lot. My perception is that they don’t have a position as such on cycling, They do, in common with many newspapers have a motoring feature and presumably make money from car advertisements. It seems to me that, judging from the comments that some of their news stories excite they seem to inflame the cyclist-motorist antipathy.

I do also read sites such as including the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, RTaylor, Radwagon, Cottenham Cyclist and Travelling the Cambridgeshire guided Busway to name a few local sites. Note the Busway cycle track is flooded again TtCGB.

No – you haven’t started reading he wrong blog. So why all this rabbiting on about the news. Well two posts – Cambridge News just don’t let up... and Boycott Cambridge News! Both bemoaning the way the local pay seems to stir up the cyclist-motorist antipathy. Now I have a lot of sympathy for local newspapers, life is tough however I am going to try to avoid linking to the Cambridge News for February.  I don’t dislike the paper, just the way in which they consider the issues of cycling. #boycottCN

So that means not looking at the website as well as not linking to it. What I can do is see what interesting stories they Tweet and then seek out other reports of the same news – or is that cheating?

To finish some snow pictures: (although the temperature is an un-seasonal 13oC).

Snowed on Snowman

We have had a lot of fine snow with little wind.

Thick layer of snow on a table

I hope this doesn’t die after the bad weather.

Tropical Snow?

Bleak fields

The “flatlands of Cambridgeshire”

Snow or cotton wool?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Got it for Christmas (a bit like Got it Thursday)

Tuesday 29th January 2013: So first things first – Props to Jez who has built finished his On-One Scandal 29er, that certainly qualifies as a Got It Thursday report. (I borrowed the idea of Got It Thursday from Jez’s Want It Wednesday.)

The truth of the matter is that friends and family do think I am a little eccentric, in a bicycle-related way. Despite my protestations that pretty much anyone can cycle and it is most enjoyable, too many of them resort to driving most of the time.  Although I am pleased that my son, who has taken on a job which involves more driving, has spruced up his bike and acquired some lights in order to combat his sedentary lifestyle. (Come to that my daughter does use her bicycle at Uni as well.)

So what you might well ask, well it means that I am easy to get presents for at Christmas – there are a whole host of cycling related things at a range of prices from the modest to the level no-one would ever dream of buying it for me. Actually when it comes to presents I prefer the modest and thoughtful to the not quite what I wanted and expensive. (I buy all my own bikes for instance.)

So what did I get – well although I am not a cycle-racing sort of person I do like to follow the Tour de France. It is an epic race of teams and who was more epic than most – well Lance Armstrong. Although not epic in a good way really as it happens. So I was rather pleased to get this book – Seven Deadly Sins – My pursuit of Lance Armstrong by David Walsh.

I know there are some who feel that perhaps we ought to now focus on the clean future of cycling and move on from the past. Well, I am a believer in learning lessons from the past. Whilst I sympathise with the cyclists of today who feel the same outrage, but also feel it is unfair that they are also viewed with suspicion then, whilst I have sympathy, that is also the legacy of those who chose to use drugs to enhance their cycling performance.

It would appear that the suspicions started quite a long time ago and the treatment of David Walsh and those who provided him with information was pretty appalling.  He has been interviewed by Oprah Winfrey and made some admissions, although there are some reports that this also may be part of a long-term comeback plan as the statute of limitations would appear to kick. The question in my mind though is give how well LA seemed succeed at concealing his use of performance enhancing drugs it makes it difficult for me to know what to believe. The battle is set to run it would seem.

So given that this book was a compelling read – the sort of book I read at night and then pick up for a bit of a read before getting up. I enjoyed it and it certainly opened my eyes a bit more. I have since lent it to my son who similarly is finding it a good read.

David Walsh’s Book Seven Deadly Sins

There are some more pressies to talk about – in case you were wondering.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Random thoughts

Monday, 28th January: Well I seem to have caught up – mainly because my cycle rides have all been short ones and I had some sort of coughing lurgy last week. The problem was whenever I lay down to sleep after an hour or so I would start coughing. The coughing would get more and more persistent. In the end the best thing to do was to get up and so minimise the disturbance for my wife and have a hot lemony and honey drink. That would calm the coughing enough for me to go back to bed and get some more sleep before coughing again. I’ve forgotten how much broken nights can affect your days!

I have read several news items on cycling/cyclists recently, including news of the tragic deaths of two cyclists on a tandem in Bristol.  According to the times they are the seventh and eight cyclists to die in 2013. As the latter article points out cycling is an inherently safe thing to do, however there does seem to be a tension between the use of motor vehicles for transport and bicycles for transport.

It seems that the default thinking is that motor vehicles should get priority. (Here is a rather nice cartoon view of the relevant priorities of various transport systems, it is true of Cambridge. There are pleasant cycle routes, on rather convoluted shared-use paths.

So when I read this post  “Why Britain, more than ever, needs the bicycle” it made excellent sense in terms that I understood. So what is the problem – well I guess cycling has an image problem – and it seems to define us. Well at least in terms of the perceptions of others.

Things are changing though, owning a car is going to get even more costly – “Cost of petrol set to rise by up to 5p”. At the same time drivers complain about being ripped off when parking in city centres and yet trade goes up when the parking is enforced – “Trade in Lincoln boosted since new parking enforcement rules, say business leaders”.  Given the change in car ownership in cities along with falling numbers of young people taking their driving tests we should be taking advantage of this change in modes of mobility – the car has passed its peak.

In fact I wonder whether the local “powers that be” spend too much time looking in their rear view mirrors and  not thinking about the city centres of the future.  The internet is here to stay – shopping habits have already changed and will continue to change. City Shopping areas have to become more attractive – less cars more people. The type of shopping will change.  (It has been changing for some time with Supermarkets providing a one-stop shop for things such as clothes.

The trouble is our transport system seems to have become one of conflict acceptance and then punishment. There is conflict whether it be for road space, car parking space or even pavement space. There is conflict over priority in fact what goal are we trying to achieve. It seems that the de-facto position is car throughput, with other factors such as noise, pollution, safety, attractiveness, access… all very much secondary. Why else are we seeing the increase in cyclists and pedestrians killed/seriously injured?

Of course we are seeing real change – there are more cycle routes around and there is a lot of pressure to reduce speed limits in city streets. The trouble is too much of the thinking is still car-centric and it is unclear what is the goal we wish to achieve. The bolt-on of cycling infrastructure approach furthers the conflict. Let’s face it whilst cyclists and car drivers might get annoyed with each other very few actually want to have accidents. I am sure this Taxi driver was very unhappy when he knocked a cyclist of his bike in Cambridge. He stayed with the cyclist, he pleaded guilty. He got quite a hefty fine compared with some reported accidents.

Now I am not arguing that all road users should be totally segregated, however this article in the Cambridge News got me thinking – “Bike crash victim hits out at cyclists”. (Note he got fined.) She now hates “cyclists” although she is a cyclist.

  • Why are all cyclists lumped together? – I see cyclists stop at red lights and pedestrian crossings all the time.  We don’t lump all drivers together? (Drink-drivers get their own tag.)
  • Why aren’t there more complaints about red-light jumping motorists? (I seem then frequently when driving around Cambridge, I tend to avoid the roads when cycling.)
  • Why do some cyclists think that they can break the law?
  • If so many motorists cycle and so many cyclists drive why is there conflict?
  • Why are some pavements shared-use and others not? What are the criteria?
  • What is the thinking behind shared-use paths in general?
  • Do we want to punish or modify poor driving/cycling behaviour?

It seems to me that there is no long-term plan for how we wish to live and get around in the future. There is more of an argy-bargy of different interest groups, some with strong commercial backing, we seem to stumble into situations. Along with the interest groups you have various news organisations, some with an institutionalised view and some just wanting to report items that have a hook to catch a readers attention. The trouble is there can be a fine line between reporting facts and fanning the flames of ignorance.

Sorry – that was a somewhat random set of thoughts – I guess my concern is that there is no real long-term view being taken – just a set of short-term steps – that hopefully will meander to a more pleasant environment – with more cycling in it.

The snow has gone except for a very small pile where our snowman was. Although my kids are older it didn’t take much persuading to go out and build a snowman.

Snowman – January 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I am a cyclist but I also cycle

Thursday, 17th January 2013: I had meetings in London and what with getting home quite late and then getting up to catch an early train into London I was in two minds about whether to drive or cycle to the station. Common sense prevailed and I cycled, what tipped the issue was that I would be able to use Station Cycles to look after my bike as I was due back mid-afternoon.

It is funny, I am keen on cycling, albeit a lot more slowly than in the days of my youth. Distance doesn’t phase me, it is still easy for the balance to tip from cycling to driving if I am not careful. In the case of Cambridge Railway Station cycle parking there is pretty awful, and my heart sinks when I think about having to find a space. I have to add time onto my journey to scour the various parking locations. There is talk of a new 3,000 space cycle park for the station, I will believe it when I see it. It has had its ups and downs although. So far the building has reached the virtual stage – here is the video.

The trouble is I reckon the powers that be (and some motorists) tend to view bicycles as poor-mans’ cars.  You often see the twaddle about “road tax” and how cyclists should pay it. Oblivious to the fact it doesn’t exist and given bicycles are zero-emission cyclists wouldn’t pay it under the current system anyway.

So what happens is that nothing has been done about the cycle parking at Cambridge Railway Station for a long time. You hear/read that:

Apparently it is all students (school and university and language) – so they don’t matter. Also 95% of the bikes there have been abandoned anyway and should be chucked away and then there would be plenty of space. Anyway all cyclists jump red lights and until they start behaving properly they should be treat like naughty children….

The trouble is it ignores the bigger issues of congestion, and that bicycles are much less dangerous to the other road users and less polluting and quieter and take up much less space and provide healthy exercise for their riders and less damaging for the economy (they don’t burn imported money fuel) and… and…

Things are changing, due in no small part to the Cambridge Cycle Campaign. What isn’t taken into account, or doesn't seem to be anyway, is that by having a decent rail service and a nice place to live then it imports wealth into the region. People live in Cambridgeshire and get paid in London and spend it back here. In the overall scheme of things that might not be questionable since it creates demand for limited housing stock and puts the price of houses up

For the record I am not a student I have lived in the area for nearly thirty years doing my bit for the local economy. I want money spent on better cycling provision not for my car – it is socially and economically better that way around.

Whilst, for a long time cyclists have had third-rate parking facilities with people complaining about bikes being abandoned we take for granted that we should be allowed to clog up our streets (and pavements)  with car/van parking. Check out this link from cyclestreets – cars parked without moving for weeks.

The trouble is land gets devoted to housing because we need housing, the government has said so. Those that own the land, not unreasonably want to get the best price for the land, so then the developers need to cram as much housing as they can. The result can be places that aren’t really very nice to live. Any spare space is taken up by the “necessary” cars. So what then has happened is that planning laws require added rules about “affordable” housing and slush money S106 money – this is from Wikipedia:

It relates to monies paid by developers to Local Planning Authorities in order to offset the costs of the external effects of development. For example, if a developer were to build 100 new houses, there would be effects on local schools, roads etc., which the Local Authority would have to deal with. In that situation, there might be a Section 106 agreement as part of the granting of planning permission. The developer might agree to make a contribution towards the provision of new schools or traffic calming on local roads.

The trouble is it ends up as a negotiation and it would appear that in the case of Northstowe there might be a shortfall with the S106 money being £40 million instead of £65 million.  I wonder what infrastructure will get the chop.

It always amazes me how difficult it is to get to Bar Hill, except by car, the place is a road-locked Island I reckon. There is a cycle route to Dry Drayton, which is not too useful if you want to head towards Cambridge (the Science park for instance). The same is true for those wanting to head to/from places like Royston down the A10 corridor. So much so that a Councillor (Susan van der Cen) is campaigning for improvements for cyclists along that stretch.

There is a Blog written by  a Cambridgeshire Traffic Officer – he cites the “fatal four” traffic offences as: excess alcohol, speeding, mobiles phones and seat belts. Apparently in the last 9 months of 2012 here in the Cambs areas there were 1,971 seat belt offences, 807 arrests for drink-drive related offences, 1,978 mobile phone offences and over 27,000 speed offences. Well let me remind all those drivers who complain about cyclists not being law-abiding – the speed limit is the law. Although there is some leeway offered by ACPO on how much you can exceed the limit before getting fined (speeds limit + 10% plus 2 – although this might change at any time so don’t rely on it).

I almost never take the shortest route to the Railway Station – partly to avoid motor traffic and partly because I like it. This ride was no exception and my route took me through Coldham’s Common.  At around 8am it was –8oC, I wore moderate gloves, corduroy trousers, normal shoes, thick, but normal shirt, a thin jumper, a jacket, hat and scarf. (By jacket I mean a business jacket, not a coat.) My point you ask – well normal cycling isn’t about Lycra or special high-vis tailored cycling wear. If I go to London for meetings I don’t carry spare clothes and stop off on the way for a shower.

I am a cyclist – but I also cycle as a means of transport – end of. So it was interesting to read – “Cyclists, you have an image problem” (which I found from Magnatom’s blog). Well I am not sure that cyclists have ever set out to cultivate an image as such. However I do reckon that the goal to be to encourage more people to use bicycles to get around. Some of them might turn into cyclists and do the stuff that cyclists do – race or tour or wear Lycra. However I reckon the issue is that cycling should be safe and perceived as safe without the need for cyclist gear. The challenge is that the bar has been raised in terms of how people want to be safe when cycling – more segregation and more visible priority over motor vehicles.

The thing is try cycling around Cambridge – not a lot of Lycra about – people are cycling to get from A to B. Switch to the Guided Busway and you will see more Lycra and gear.  I do think it prudent to have cycle lights in the dark whether you are a cyclist or just cycling.

A Frigid Coldham’s Common

Life is about compromise – especially when it comes to cycling facilities it seems to me. There is barely enough passing room, let alone space for cyclists and pedestrian and dog walkers. I suppose I ought to be grateful it has some lampposts. There are some cracks opening up as well. The other thing I noticed was that it didn’t seem to have any black ice.

Coldham’s Common – shared-use path

I also cycled over the Carter Bridge, where a car driver unwittingly attempted to drive over it. I noticed that the ramp at one end was looking dodgy when I returned there were cones as a gap had opened up.

This time I cycled up to Station Cycles – walked in with my bike, handed it over and £1.50 and walked out again. No crappy parking. Mind you there were spaces to be seen – which is unusual. Normally the only spaces are where the two space stands have only 3 and not 4 bikes locked up.

I am not sure quite how many bicycles have been stolen from the station recently. I have had one stolen from the Station a few years ago. However given the way the bikes all get banged around you wouldn’t really want to bring anything other than an old clunker here.

Cycle Parking Cambridge Railway Station

It must be the cold weather putting off people cycling – or more likely not everyone has returned to work or college?

Cycle Parking Cambridge Railway Station

And finally. I look at other photographers’ work for inspiration – check out these firework pictures – rather neat I reckon – I must give it a try next November. Here is a wonderful Hockney-esque picture of snow on trees.

And definitely finally – Lance Armstrong sued for fraud after two men claim they were ‘betrayed’ by his best-selling memoirs after he confessed to cheating. I reckon there are quite a few others, ahead of them who might claim to have suffered rather more than that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A little night riding in the frigid air of Cambridge

Wednesday, 16th January 2013: A mid-week ride and despite the cold I really enjoyed it. Because of stuff I have less time to cycle at the moment, or so it seems. So having to go to a dinner at a not quite Cambridge College gave me an excuse to pop out on my bicycle and get in a bit of night photography. I also forgot to add this link to my last post – The Wicken Fen Vision Warden’s post – Winter is here.

Before I rabbit on about that though – the UK Parliamentary Cycling inquiry starts this week and Cyclists in the City gives some interesting food for thought. The Highway Code assumes that some cyclists will be scared on some road features such as roundabouts and that motorists may not easily see you. (Does that mean if I get knocked off on a roundabout that the motorist has a defence?) As the Post suggests this is an acknowledgement in the Highway Code that roads are scary places along with the implication  that it is the status quo.  I guess the issue is that the Highway Code is just that a code, which sometimes creates implications for the law.

One thing that I have noticed this winter (and notice every winter) is that quite a few of the cycle paths are yet to be cleared. Unfortunately I have been driving more than cycling (with a car full) and as as cyclist first and motorist second I look out for cyclists. We talk about how effective lights are and where cyclists should cycle when on the road. The drivers in my family do like to point out red-light jumping cyclists (almost blaming me for it) so I point out the red light jumping drivers – it is not hard there are loads of motorists who go through the lights at red and very late amber. Isn’t that strange?  Cyclists are invisible and come out of nowhere, except they become hyper-visible jumping a red light.

The other thing is that there are also more pedestrians forced into the road as the paths are so dangerous. (My mother won’t go out until the snow and ice clears where she lives. I think her biggest fear isn’t so much breaking something as being hospitalised. She was not terribly impressed by the standard of nursing she saw when my father was in hospital.)

I am lucky enough (or foolish enough) to have a car, although I really do prefer cycling, However there are some cyclists who have to cycle otherwise they wouldn’t get to work – spare a thought for them as they struggle along paths that highlight their second-class citizenship – as defined by by the Great Gods of Gritting. Also remember Highway Code Rule 163, If you don’t remember it look it up – it will help you remember it more than if I link to it.

This cyclist has had the misfortune of having had a fall this winter – I rather like the idea of using zip-ties to increase the traction of bicycle tyres in the snow! It would be interesting to know how many winter cyclists have unexpectedly fallen from their bikes because of black ice. It happened to me last winter, one minute I was cycling the next minute I was rolling on the ground. Now Cambridge is probably better than some areas we have two quad bikes that are used and the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway has a multihog. Reports suggest that the buses are running on time and that the cycle track has now been cleared of snow. It can be done with the right planning. Perhaps cyclists are in a minority – but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored (or demonised as an easy target).

The other thing I have noticed in my motorised travels is that there are loads of motorists with x-ray vision, they can see through snow – well judging from the state of their cars that can. Motorists this is an offense, IMHO far more serious than a cyclist jumping a red light. Cambridge Cyclist has a rather nice picture on one such driver.

There seems to have been a lot of hoo-hah about school closures recently.  One view is that we have become too risk averse and it is setting a bad example for kids. You often hear the “in my day” we trudged over field and pond (covered with ice) in the face of a raging gale to get to school…  Well yes, I did. However things were a little different then. The main difference is that both kids and teachers tended to live closer to the schools. There was also better provision to get kids to school en-masse. Society has also become more risk averse. Also when I finally did get to school we didn’t really do that much – I seem to remember that the first thing was that we got a hot mug of drinking chocolate. We also used to spend out playtimes making slides out of the ice- great fun, only the occasional bone was broken

 Winking smile

Mind you with all the reported delays the roads were dangerous – why make them more dangerous – kids can miss a day or two of school.

The schools snow-closures reflect changes in  society as much as anything. In my day there was more of an extended family capable of looking after kids whilst parents worked. With the nuclear family with two working parents  and increasingly the charged family (a poor joke about single-parent families – I did Physics remember – we can’t tell jokes) the issue of child-care becomes much more difficult.

You want kids to get to school in bad weather – shorten the routes and make them routes more reliable.

I can’t end without some reference to the Police and Crime Commissioner of Cambridge – the Cottenham Cyclist (CC) has posed a question (by email) to the PCC suggesting that the Police should target issues that have serious implications. The response does have the whiff of a politician about it – avoids answering the question, justifies his actions on the basis of the perceptions of the electorate (rather than the data (collected by the Police). I guess that is what you get from a political process. The CC also refers to press release put out by Sir Graham (PCC) “You can’t cherry pick the law”. It references the 2011 Joint Road Casualty Report Data for Cambridge. He is right – we can’t cherry pick the law – although  those in power can cherry-pick whether and how they choose to enforce it.

The law is that if you drive at more than the published limit then you have committed an offence, you’d have to look long and hard to find any driver who wouldn’t feel aggrieved for say getting caught speeding at say 32mph in a 30mph zone. It is speeding though. There are enough communities worried about both the safety and social implications to mount Speedwatch operations. In the last link you  will see that Sir Graham visited on at Ramsey Heights. Here are some results for the Cambridgeshire activity run by the police.

The data for Maid’s Causeway suggests that on the 2nd May 2012 nearly 30% (10,060) exceeded the limit eastbound and just over 40% (16,009) westbound. Where the limit is not the legal limit but following the ACPO guidelines – (10% + 2) – 24mph. Are the ACPO cherry-picking?

Now speeding vehicles aren’t just a danger, they also blight residential areas and  intimidate the vulnerable – so we end up with fewer pedestrians, old people, cyclists families with kids on those streets. I am not arguing for a bunch of fines to be handed round as a cash-cow. What should happen is we encourage a change in behaviour – I reckon that transgressors should have GPS trackers (as used by some Insurance companies) that report on the drivers behaviour and they get it regularly reviewed. Failure requires review and training. I believe that getting around should be a right – but being able to drive around is a privilege.

Apparently four out of five young drivers can’t read a map – so they will be well used to SatNavs in any case?

If you want to see the PCC he holds surgeries – one is coming up on the 24th January (tomorrow). It is in Cambourne so not that easy to get to, unless you have a car.

A frosty spiders web on the rear rack of my bike – nature’s way of telling me I ought to ride more. Now I set out in the evening – it was lovely – I was wearing (fairly) smart clothes as I had to sing for my supper – although not literally. I did layer up a bit and took a scarf and hat as well. From the Cambridge DTG website you can see that at around 18:30 it was –4oC and when I returned around 22:30 it was –5.2oC. Fortunately there was no wind. As a reminder even when roads are gritted there are limits (physical) on the melting effect of the grit. According to this website it will work down to about –8oC – so below that it will be icy.

Also spare a thought for those who “live on the street” – it is easy to blame then – but we as a society allow it to happen. There is a quote at the bottom from Councillor Smart (Executive councillor for housing) that:

“However, we now understand that the solution to rough sleeping can never be just building more and bigger hostels. Indeed, there is some evidence that hostels and other services may actually attract rough sleepers to a place.”

So take that to its logical conclusion, by not proving any provision then some other council gets the responsibility. Care in someone else’s community – or passing the buck. (This is what happens in Las Vegas – living in the storm drains.

A frosty spider web on the rear rack of my bike – nature’s way of telling me I ought to ride more. (That was in the morning).

Spider's Web on my rear cycle rack

It was a very still night but since I was providing the engine it to keep me moving it kept me warm enough. For the layers I was wearing – yellow waterproof jacket, jumper and thick shirt along with corduroy trousers and moderate waterproof gloves I was fine for anything up to an hour. When cycling further I tend to add a layer or two and use thicker gloves along with inner gloves. It was pretty misty and unlike the sticks the lights around here are still orange – I don’t know whether this is because they haven’t gotten around to replacing them or what. This is the view from Jesus Lock Bridge. There were still cyclists around.

The River Cam from Jesus Lock Bridge

On my way back I also took pictures – it did feel colder so I left my gloves on to take pictures which made me even more ham-fisted than I usually am. The is the view looking east under Victoria Bridge.

I left my cycle lights on – which is why the post to the right of the picture seems to stand out – it was much closer. I was hoping my white light would show up in the mist a bit more as well.

The River Cam under Victoria Bridge

And finally the Riverside Bridge – this got more picture take because it had multi-coloured lighting. It was still pretty misty.  I was glad to be wearing a hat. I didn’t need to wrap the scarf around my face though. There isn’t much wind chill at the somewhat cautious speed I was going at. I wasn’t quite sure how treacherous the route was going to be.

Riverside Bridge – River Cam

The bridge has two routes – one for cyclists and one for pedestrians. Here in the UK I find that even where there are segregated cycling and walking areas most pedestrians don’t seem to take any notice. The presumption on shared use paths is to give way to pedestrians and most pedestrians use that presumption when walking along cycle paths.

Riverside Bridge – River Cam

AI took pictures from both side – you might have noticed. You could also hear the gentle throb of generators and smell wood smoke in the air.

Riverside Bridge – River Cam

And finally a bit about Lance Armstrong – first an interesting library sign concerning his books. It seems that whilst those particular librarians had a sense of humour that chap from Manly Council who was quoted had a bit of a sense of humour failure. Apparently there might be a film about the “Cycle of Lies”.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Snow Day in the Fens (Reach Lode Bridge)

Monday, 14th January 2013: In one feel swoop I am catching up on my Posts – Post-time is now only about a week behind real-time.

There has been a bit of argy-bargy about whether 20mph speed limits will be enforced reported in the press. I have been critical of the PCC’s focus on “dangerous cyclists” since the real danger to vulnerable road users is motor vehicles. However I am pleased to see that he is willing to support the 20mph speed limits and has already raised it with the Cambridgeshire Chief Constable. (He also appears here saying speeds over 20mph in Cambridge city are unsafe and here talking about the use of his speed limiter in his car to help him keep to the relevant speed limits. That is a very good point and I personally would like to see more use of electronics in cars to improve driving rather than mitigate the effects of accidents. Anti-lock brakes help you once you have gotten into trouble, whereas speed limiting would help stop you getting into trouble.

The other factor that loads of motorists moan about when discussing speed limits is that they don’t need to drive any more slowly to  be safe – well whilst I would disagree, certainly where some drivers are concerned, it isn’t just about safety. We ought to be improving the streets for the people who live in them and want to be able to go about without cars. Unpleasant roads stop kids getting out and about - which contributes (IMHO) to obesity. (Fenland’s shocking record of obesity in 11-year olds.)

I would also point out that speed bumps might somewhat reduce the overall speed along a road – but they can increase the conflict between different road users. I cycled to the railway station last week along Cornwall Road cars would speed up to the speed cushions as they are quaintly called then swerve to straddle them – oblivious to the cyclists alongside them, well so it seemed to me.

It would appear that the DfT is changing the guidance to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles on roads. About time – as the appalling number of cyclist deaths  on the roads last year. (The Times – 122 a five year high, with five already in 2013.)

The trouble is that to build better places to live the roads are but one part of the equation. In my mind better means – not just safer for walking and cycling, but attractive and encouraging. This means not just reducing the dominance of the motor vehicle but increasing the dominance of cyclists and pedestrians. There is talk of massive home-building planning here in Cambridge. If only they were also better places to live. the dominance of motor vehicles will take time to shake off though – it is endemic in our thinking and even with the new railway station being planned in North Cambridge whilst it is good that there will be 1,000 bike parking spaces there will also be 450 car bays – why that many?

Here is a picture showing that one car parking space can provide eight cycle spaces. Which implies that even with space for that number of cycles there will be almost 4 times as much space devoted to cars as bicycles – shocking in a cycle city.

So when these were taken it was the first snow of the year. We tend not to get that much snow – the elevation of the Fens is around sea-level – which of course is why it needs draining.

We do get a fair few accidents reported though – because we don’t get much practise are driving on snow and ice I guess. When I was a young driver (and lived in the Mendips) we used to get a reasonable amount of snow higher up and we would sometimes go and find either an empty car park or a snow covered country road and practise our skidding car control. That was in the days before there was anti-lock braking. Our cars were old and one friend was a little hesitant. We were all sitting in the his car and he would barely build up ant speed before braking – the resultant skid was pathetic. So we encouraged him to go faster – he did, applied the brakes, then bottled out lifted his foot of the brakes and the front wheels stopping skidding and started steering again. Unfortunately he had turned the steering wheel and we bounced over the verge into a hedge – nothing was hurt except his pride.

I rather like cycling on snow – as along as I don’t fall off – but this time around my daughter came along with me – so we went in the car into the Fens. We joined the Lodes Way along Headlake Drove/Split Drove and I took some pictures near Reach Lode Bridge. It was flippin’ cold, which might have been because I was wearing shorts.

It was good fun, driving on snow is not too bad as long as you keep you speed under control and don’t make any sudden movements. Also being a Land Rover my car has “special programs” which makes it even easier to drive on bumpy roads covered with snow.

Lodes Way – Portrait Bench – in the snow

It was still snowing when we walked up to the bridge.

Lodes Way – Portrait Bench – in the snow

This is Reach Lode – the interesting thing about snow is it tend to dampen the sound and reduce the colours you see. I suppose the last one is obvious. I like the way the water looks greener amongst the snow.

Reach Lode in the snow

The is the view of Lodes Way from the top of the bridge – looking back towards Split Drove. Our footprints were the only sign of civilisation, along with my car just down and to the right.

Reach Lode Bridge – Lodes Way in the Snow

The snow had coated everything – gates always look picturesque on the snow, well that’s what I reckon.

The Path alongside Reach Lode, seen from Lodes Way

And the same scene, but with less zoom.

The Path alongside Reach Lode, seen from Lodes Way

It really was cold, maybe shorts weren’t such a good idea. The good thing about these roads is that there wasn’t much traffic around as we headed home.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Out of order blogs

Sunday, 6th January 2013: Whilst getting rid of a SPAM comment last night, using my iPad I noticed that one of last year’s December posts had not published – Last ride of Last Year. So I published it which promoted it to the top of the queue – a minor nuisance and easily fixed. However I also noticed that I hadn’t quite finished the Post. So I did, using Blogger on my iPad and that’s where it all went wrong. The text changed size and font, so I tried editing it using Windows Live Writer (WLW) and it sometimes changed the font and sometimes didn’t. I managed to get it into some sort of shape and left it at that. Whilst fixing the posting date is easy – I’d had enough.

So the Post the First proper ride of the year got demoted – ho hum. In real terms it is Sunday and the papers have quite a lot to say about Lance Armstrong’s confessional interview. So far I am not impressed, give how long the deception has been running to try and make a “show” out of it seems to have been a self-serving thing to do.

Also as I sit here the snow is coming down again in the Flatlands – it is persistent, but rather fine so the coverage so far is not deep. There will be some snow pictures in a later post and of course some more of the Got it Thursday posts – with props to Jez of Following the Chainline as it sprang from his Want it Wednesday series of posts… As I am known as an eccentric-cyclist, or maybe as an eccentric who cycles, in my family, I have received a few cycling related things for Christmas – they will start featuring – when I have taken pictures of them (don’t get oo excited though – no new 29ers appeared in my Christmas stocking).

However in my Blog-time world it is still snow-free, the weather isn’t as sunny as it was the day before though – but a “mans gotta do what a mans gotta do” (but only when he wants to) and I went out for a quick Lodes Way spin.

What follows is a series of grey pictures – with some green in them. This is the view of that greyness. By the way I’ve just discovered that I can drag the Open Street Map around again in Chrome. I was on Great Drove looking across East, (I think). The shed is where Headlake drove meets Rand Drove, if I am right.

A Grey Day from Great Drove

This is Great Drove and is near the spot I took the picture from, with Highfen Farm up on the right and New Haven on the left. The road really is as undulating as it looks in the picture. At the sorts of speeds I cycle at I don’t notice it. In a car it is much more noticeable and helps to keep people driving their own cars from speeding. People driving other peoples’ vehicles tend to drive along it much faster – not worried that their engine will jump of its mounts. This the way to nowhere somewhere Upware.

Great Drove – the way to Upware

A bit further round, near Ducketts Farm, on the outskirts of Upware, one of the reasons food is going to cost more this coming year.

Flooding in the fields – near Upware

The telegraph poles head on down Harrison’s Drove – quite a large amount of water.

Flooding in the fields – near Upware

After a short ride down the A1123 to Way Lane I joined the NCN11 route from Ely to Wicken Fen. At the moment I am tending not to take the byways – which in this case would be Dicking’s Lane. In the dry it makes a good long-cut, when it is wet it is a muddy nightmare.

The grey view towards Ely from Lower Road, Wicken

I like trees, when I was young (and skinny and light) I did a lot of tree climbing, I was pretty fearless, heights didn’t worry me. Nowadays I tend just to admire them from the ground. This is Lower Road, on its way to Wicken – the sight line is supposed to guide you to the object of my interest.

Lower Road – towards Wicken

After that it was an uneventful ride back through Burwell, up Newnham Drove – which was awful and then back along Lodes Way. As I was cycling over Reach Lode Bridge I bumped into the Swaffham Bulbeck Cyclist, metaphorically rather than physically. So we stopped for a chat, the SBC was much hardier then me and was wearing shorts, mind you the weather wasn’t half bad so I think I was just being a wimp.

It was turning to dusk, but there was a Barn owl (I think – SBC?) flying around and SBC lent me his binoculars for a look. It was across the rough patch where the Portrait bench sits. Now I only had my short lens with me (14-140mm or 28 to 280mm in 35mm speak) and it was getting darker so as you can see the picture I took was, to say the least, a little blurry.

The owl is there – sitting on a post along the hedge two thirds of the way in from the right. Yes the blob of white. I must take my longer lens with me next time.

Owl along Lodes Way (honest)

We parted ways and I headed out along Headlake Drove, or should I say Spilt Drove (yes ‘cos I nearly had a spill), I wasn’t paying much attention to the potholes and lost my footing on a pedal as I bumped into one. I wasn’t going very fast though and apart from a minor wobble regained my pedal and carried on. You know I rather like this cycling lark – there is nothing like a bit of fresh air after Christmas.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Last ride of Last Year

Sunday, 23rd December 2012: Hey I have finally written about the last ride of 2012.  In case you are wondering, my sick Desktop computer is getting better, but is still having one or two sneezes and I am learning way more that I want to about Windows 7 and its oddities. In the main most of the “fixes” have been tweak aimed at reducing the amount of stuff that ends up in the Error Logs, which are a great source of obfuscated information. 

I am not entirely happy yet. I have fixed a long-standing problem with my Acronis backup software which had problems with phantom tasks scheduled. I don’t know why my machine isn’t writing dumps when it crashes, however I do have McAfee back up and running and the machine isn’t crashing every 5 minutes.

At one point I did wonder whether it might be a virus or rootkit infection. But that seems less likely having run various AV scanners and checked for various file names indicating infection.
My current theory is that two pieces of software are occasionally stumbling over each other (and that means software that plays in the kernel) or that there is a file somewhere in the bowels of the system which is either corrupted or has the wrong permissions.  The good news is I feel I can start using the machine again and that the hardware isn’t the problem. I was thinking about building a machine this year as a hobby – that might be a bit time-wasting though.
The good news is that the nights will get shorter – or rather the dark bits of the nights. So far I have only forgotten to take a front light with me once and I managed to get home before it was dark. 

So what have our Police Force been up to in Cambridge – well catching heinous crims – “1,000 fined in blitz on bike lights”. Although if you read the article it turns out that 850 bought lights in the LIT campaign. (Lights Instead of Tickets).  Whilst I still think Policing should be about what really causes problems – I do think this form of justice makes sense. Apparently 9 out of 10 cyclists now have lights in Cambridge. My own surveys have shown that all cyclists who cycle on the outskirts seem to use lights, but quite a few out of 10 don’t in the centre. (As a comparison 1971 seat belt offences have been detected on Cambridgeshire roads since 1st April 2012

So not a bad result if it makes cyclists safer, but no evidence or data has been offered as to why that was a priority. At the same time we have the “Cambridge Police promising to enforce a citywide 20mph limit in Cambridge – so long as it is well enforced”. I hope our PCC is made of sterner stuff and doesn’t allow too much picking and choosing there.  20 is plenty and we do know that speed kills – often the vulnerable road users – children, cyclists and old people.

You get people moaning about driving around in third gear being inefficient and how dreadful and impossible it is – well it is more dreadful for those not in cars and motor vehicles. (This link has a graphic representation of how driving at 20mph can significantly reduce the risk of death. (For pedestrians: 40mph collision – 85% die, 30mph – 45% die and 20mph 5% die.) So reducing the speed from 30mph to 20mph reduces the probability of death from almost 1 in 2 to 1 in 20 – that sounds more than worthwhile. 

Here is one motorist admitting that 20mph makes sense for urban areas.
It might also help to make parents feel happier about letting their kids have a bit more freedom. Apparently just one in four primary school pupils is allowed to walk home alone.  In 1971 it used to be almost 9 out of 10. Now the issue is not all down to dangerous roads. Paradoxically allowing greater choice of where you kids go to schools has contributed – it is still pretty sad though. 

Apparently Ely is suffering from the menace on the pathway problem – or should that be the vocal minority. I do think that whenever you try to change an ingrained behaviour it is better to use more than a crackdown and fine approach. When it comes to the 20mph limits in Cambridge I reckon the first port of call should be an awareness course for all but the most serious of speeders. In the case of Ely it could do with a better route for cyclists to the station. They seem happy to spend a fortune (£30m) on an eyesore to help motorists. Which will speed traffic flow and also increase noise and traffic congestion in other parts of the city. They ought to sort out the cycle routes as well. 

Now onto my ride – a really pleasant leg-stretcher out to Upware and back via Wicken and Burwell, Reach and the Lodes Way. It wasn’t that cold or that windy and it just felt great to be out. Before I get carried away I should say that I am suffering from cabin fever having been slaving over a hot computer for what seems like ages.

We have had so much water that the land is water-logged and it is just sitting around – not good news for farmers or us as consumers – lower yields mean higher prices.

A field across Bottisham Lode – water-logged

A little further along having turned off the Lodes Way and onto Great Drove towards Upware – more water-logging in the fields. Although this won’t put the price of turnips up – this crop is turf.

A water-logged crop of turf – on the road to Upware

This is where Harrison’s Drove meets the road in the linked OSK map. (I have switched to using the OpenCyclemap because it moves when I drag it in Chrome – unlike the OSM map.)

More Water-logged fields – near the Upware Washes

This is a water course that runs from the pumping station in Upware through to Reach Lode and thence the River Cam.

Flooding Near Upware

And on my way home – a quick stop as I head down towards Burwell to take a picture of the sugar beet piling up.
Sugar Beet – Factory Road

For some reason the font sizing has gone wrong – and I can’t fix it – it seems to be because I have used my iPad to edit the post!!! Well I have increased the font size - but can't really recommend the interoperability between Blogger and WindowsLiveWriter.

First proper ride of the year–only two weeks ago!

Saturday, 5th January 2013: Well first things first – my BSOD problem is certainly more manageable at the moment. My desktop computer has been stable for several days now. On the balance of probabilities I feel I know what the problems are related too. However I am still not certain quite what is happening. In the meantime I am keeping a close eye on the Admin logs and tracking down issues as they occur, whilst of course keeping up a high rate of backups.

I am afraid cycling stuff has come and gone in the press, I have had to leave it to other to comment on. My enthusiasm for cycling, photography and fair play for cyclists and future cyclists has not diminished.

I am pleased that The Times seems to be still maintaining its Cities fit for Cycling Campaign, despite the change in Editor. What is disturbing is that The Times has also reported the Fifth cyclist death already in 2013. As the article points out, cycling is still inherently safe, but it appears to be getting less safe.  Given the concerns about Climate change, obesity and pollution, to name but three things, we want to encourage more cycling not less. So the recent increase in cycling deaths will only serve to scare cyclists of the roads and scare potential cyclists away.  This will make the roads even worse for the vulnerable road users, for the non-car owners and p*ss more money away by burning petrol and further decrease investment in public transport.

Worryingly children don’t get the opportunity to get out and about – why – well in part cars. As commented by Tanya Byron – children are 'raised in captivity’. Just as worryingly some parts of the press still seem to refer to the desire to make our towns and cities more pleasant places to live through the introduction of 20mph limits as “War on speeding motorists”. What tosh.

The good thing is that here in Cambridge the detailed work for the proposed citywide 20mph has been given the go-ahead. Although the Police seem to be still reluctant – “20mph limit must be clear before we act, police warn”. Which to me suggests they are lukewarm about the idea. The same issue does not seem to worry them when it is catching cyclists on pavements with unclear shared-use signing. (Cambridge cyclist receives criminal record for cycling on the pavement, also commented on in “Cambs Police arresting cyclists for trying to stay alive?” and here with pictures – “Cyclists Branded Anti-Social For Trying to Stay Alive”.

The other news that has caught my attention is of the Lance Armstrong – Oprah interview.  The whole thing seems rather stage-managed – and too little too late. One quote attributed to him is that he suggests that he didn’t cheat because cheating is getting one over on someone and “everyone was doing it”. I wonder if that is how the cyclists who refused to take drugs and consequently lost opportunities for a careers as a professional cyclists feel about that.

In another bit of TdF news – one leg of the Tour de France 2013 will start in Cambridge. On July 7th 2013 the third stage will being in Cambridge apparently. I do hope I will be able to go along for the show.

As I sit here the weather is cold and as I have a minor sore throat I have chickened out of cycling this afternoon.  Mind you we haven’t really had much snow and I have been out cycling a few times in temperatures of –4oC this week.

At the start of the month – my first ride after the Christmas period was in glorious sunshine. As per usual it was a ride around Lodes Way. It was wonderful – just to get out and get a bit of fresh air and vitamin d.

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode along Lodes Way

I also passed a group out for a bit of shooting. Nowadays given the concern about firearms I rarely see guns except on television and in Airports. When I was a kid it seemed to me that most farmers had guns and it was not unusual to see farmers out walking their dogs with a shotgun under their arm. (I have even had one waved in my general direction – as a kid growing up in the Mendips we weren’t too at all bothered about rights of way and footpaths.

This is a field on the road towards Upware – at the moment it is being used to grow turf – and a trailer came by an deposited a bunched a people with shotguns and dogs. There must have been something around to shoot at because I heard the bangs as I carried along the Lodes Way.

A Shooting Party – along the Lodes Way

A little further along and there was plenty of evidence of the rain we have been having. The good news is that the Lodes way track, in the main has stayed pretty dry.

Lodes Way – Newnham Drove Crossroads

And finally it appears that some pesticides should not be used on flowering crops in Britain as the harmful link to bees has been established. Let’s hope that it is not too late.

And really finally, as a boy we used to make dens, in the woods and up trees. Tree houses have always had a mystique about them – even now if I owned a forest I would really like a tree house – which is kind of weird. But check out these tree houses – who wouldn’t want one?