Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Long and not so muddy way to Horningsea

Thursday, 11th April 2013: Despite me banging on about building a new computer I am still finding the time excuses to get out and ride. (But since you ask, this is being written on the new computer.) One good excuse that is always guaranteed to get me out is a lunchtime meeting.  This time I was meeting a friend and ex-colleague at the Crown and Punchbowl in Horningsea.

Although I can’t not mention the Parliamentary Report on Cycling led by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group – there is a petition on the HM Government site to:

Promote cycling by implementing the recommendations in the 'Get Britain Cycling' report.

Here is the link so get signing. When I signed it there were 600 odd at this moment (10:30am 25th April 2013 there are 23,532 signatures.) Apparently once it reaches 100,000 then it triggers a debate in parliament. Here are some of the main proposals.

Why does it matter, well it is good for society. Unfortunately although cycling has been in the news it has not really become more popular. The DoT’s recent publication “Local area walking and cycling statistics” don’t show any real improvement in numbers cycling. Cambridge still retains ‘cycling capital’ title according to the Cambridge News. Or as the BBC puts it “Cambridge beats Oxford in DfT cycling survey”.

The trouble is we have been “optimising” the roads for motor vehicles for ages. As soon as I read the title of this Cyclists in the City post I thought that’s it. Our roads are set up so that pedestrians and cyclists feel like they are in a game of Frogger.  (Yesterday in real-time I cycled through Soham the cycling lanes are crazy and make you feel you are in some soft of game. When that post appears there are some pictures.) If I as a regular cyclist feel bemused how on earth will it encourage motorists out of their cars.

Cycling investment must go up a gear, MPs say  shows some of the changes that will have to happen. The alternative? Well already British drivers spend up to three days a year stuck in gridlock. Why is this well well I reckon we are over-reliant on motor vehicles for transport.  I was chatting to one of the local County Councillors out drumming up support. We discussed the A14, his view – the problem is all the lorries getting in the way of cars.  Well maybe if you drive a car, but we can’t keep sticking plasters (band-aids) on the problems.  We need to take a longer-term view, for a start importing energy is not good for the economy. Committing loads of people to a life of commuting isn’t good for society. It wastes times, affects health and destroys the land.

Interestingly this seems also be be better understood in the Cambridge City Council. “’More queues warning over upgraded A14”. More roads means more cars, unless there are alternatives.

Let’s face it even as far as the law is concerned motoring is a special case. The limits at which we are supposed to adhere have leeway. Apparently “Just 62 motorists have been fined for breaking Cambridge's 20mph limit in one year”.  Now there is a mixed message if I ever saw one. The trouble is we humans don’t really deal with probability very well. So being told that speeding is dangerous and that the fast cars go the higher the probability of a serious accident or serious injury to a vulnerable road user doesn’t really compute.

I sometimes wonder whether the law is too black and white when it comes to the shades of grey that “breaking it” represent, particularly when it comes to traffic law. Let’s face it the laws on pavement parking differ around the country. It many ways it is a social crime forcing pedestrians off onto the road. Pavement cycling is most definitely a crime except when it is not.  Here in the Cambridgeshire area there are wide pavements that you cannot cycle on and narrow pavements that you can – figure that out.

So I rather liked this Post from the Cambridge Cyclist – “The OTHER rules of the road”. Having seen my kids grow up and go through the learning to drive phase, you very quickly see far too often situations where driving lawfully, such as at the speed limit earns the ire of your “fellow” motorists.  The trouble is there does seem to be the view that motorists are just another source of tax, so I do wonder whether there needs to be an alternate to a fine and points. Not so much to change the view, but rather to change driver behaviour. I reckon there ought to be more awareness courses, perhaps with tests that need to be passed and follow-up refreshers.

The what happens is that an issue gets out of hand and there is a crackdown, and things get better for a while. Such as this with 50 taxi drivers fined for ‘over-ranking’ in city centre. Mind you it is often said that  those who are careless when it comes to following the law are likely to disregard other laws. Perhaps like this Motorist who screwed up a £30 parking ticket and ended up with an £850 fine for littering.  Mind you there is a mixed message there the motoring offence is seen as less serious than littering!  The Littering fine was actually only £200 – but my concern still stands

Apparently on average we knowingly each break 260 rules a year.  The main excuses being that we are in a rush or we fail to see the victim (the so-called victim-less crime). I would also add that sometimes rules seem arbitrary. Like my earlier example, sometimes you can cycle on the pavement and sometimes you can’t. it isn’t helped by comments such as has been attributed to the PCC for Norfolk – “Let good drivers go as fast as they can and scrap speed limits on motorways, says police tsar”. Or ridiculous double yellow lines – as here in Swindon or here in Cambridge.

Phew – way to much moaning - I have been pretty much avoiding the byways and bridleways recently, but my visit to Horningsea gave me the opportunity to take a circle route and get a few kilometres of countryside cycling. It was also warm enough for cycling shorts.

So my circle route to the Crown and Punchbowl took me along NCN51 through to Lode and then back across the fields to Horningsea. Some of the route follows the old Cambridge to Mildenhall trackbed. Then round the back of Allicky Farm along a track called the Drove Way. Then along a track called 100 Acres Road, although I have not seen that name on modern maps.

On the way back I cycled around a loop called Low Fen Drove Way on the OSM and OS maps. However on the old map  it starts as Biggin Road and ends as Pound’s Lane.

It wasn’t a bad call as it happens. The track was quite cycleable.

Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

And the crops were growing in the fields.

Crops popping up in the fields along the Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

The second half of the track was also not too bad. This leads on to The Drove Way. The field to the right was used to grow Beet and the weather was not kind when it came to lifting the beet. The path also got a bit chewed up.

Whenever I see a dog in the distance am always a little wary. The problem is less one of fear of being bitten than of getting entangled. I have been bitten a couple of times when cycling, although only one broke my skin. (Which reminds me I ought to carry some antiseptic wipes in my Carradice bag.)

The first thing to note is whether the dog is on a lead or not and the next thing to consider is how concerned the owners are when they see a cyclist in the distance. If the dog is huge and the owner is worried then that worries me. What I really don’t like is being chased by dogs when cycling – one of us stands a chance of getting hurt. I always cover the brakes and slow down – the dog is out playing – and will sometimes leap about unpredictably. But if the dog starts chasing then I have to decide whether to outsprint them or stop. Nine times out of ten nothing happens though.

Dog walking along the Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey

The line of trees along the edge of the field is the route of the Drove Way, the way I go. Once again the crops are springing up, it wasn’t that long ago that the field was being harvested.

Route of the Old Railway Line, behind Anglesey Abbey heading towards The Drove Way

One of the things I like about the Crown and Punchbowl is that it is is both a pub and a nice restaurant. I did apologies for walking in in shorts – but they were not phased and welcoming.  I do like bangers and mash and they have variations on a them – but this time I had fish and chips – not something I have very often. They also offer more refined items on their changing menu.

Despite having cycled I couldn't manage a desert my friend had one it did look good. But I find it easier to cycle if I am not completely stuffed – quite a lot and often is the motto. Horningsea must suffer from speeding motorists, they have been given the special red-coloured tarmac and Speed Warning signs.  I stopped to see how easy it would be to take a picture of a car alongside the light flashing its warning. I didn't wait long. The first car that came past was through before I had taken my camera out of its bag. This is the second car to go past. It is some way up the road. I am not sure quite how sensitive the detectors are, but I reckon the car was 100m or so. I have not idea how accurate they are not at what speed do they start flashing. Apparently they are known as Interactive Signs and also SIDS – Speed Indicator Devices. According to the report the overall speed reduction is 1.4mph (but varied from 2.6mph to 0.6mph) – see Page 43.

Although the report does suggest that such signs should be rotated between different sites.  The is a discussion on this website that they may be set to flash at or below the speed limit to enhance the slowing effect.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

I am also not sure whether the SID is set to continue flashing whether the vehicle slows down or not.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

It carried on flashing in this case, I don’t recall another vehicle coming through immediately after.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

The car that followed didn’t activate the sign – so for completeness.

A SID – Speed Indicator Sign – Horningsea

It would appear that the local Phone box has also been re-purposed – it appears to be a mini-library.

Phone Box Library -  Horningsea

As I mentioned I went home via Low Fen Drove Way which circles Snouts Corner and Honey Hill. I took the official byway and although it was rutted just near Snouts Corner is was cycleable – I did have to dab my feet down once or twice though. The badly rutted area is where there is a parallel concrete farm-track. The concrete track is been made inaccessible by some earth works.

After that bit the track widens considerably and it looks as if it is being repaired after the soggy weather. It was pretty dry, the real snag on a bike is planning which rut not to get stuck in.

Low Fen Drove Way, near Horningsea

The route then crosses the route of the old railway line alongside a Dog Kennels. Then it becomes a more tarmac-like road/track. Although there are quite a few potholes.  There is then a hill bridge over the A14 and you join High Ditch Road. Look at that leaves coming out on the shrubs.

Approaching the A14 Bridge on Low Fen Drove Way

It would appear that some tosser doesn’t think that it is worth keeping the summer chairs for sitting out in the garden – so they fly-tipped them instead. The flipping Council Tip is not far down the road. Is this an example of Victimless crime.

Fly-tipping Low Fen Drove Way

Here is the hill, notice how the fly-tipper came over the bridge to do their dirty deed out of sight of the through road.

Low Fen Drove Way – bridge over the A14

And finally some pictures – well links to them anyway. Here are some pictures of Chernobyl 27 years on, the Imperial City in 1860 pictures entered into the 2013 Traveller Photo Contest and from the sublime to the ridiculous – Jeremy Clarkson cycling.

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