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.