Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Reach Ride - Monday 4 May 2015

The Reach Ride goes from Cambridge town hall to Reach, a village around 10 miles north east from the city. The goal is the Reach Fair which has been running for over 800 years since King John granted it a charter.

The Reach Ride has become a very popular ride amongst Cambridgeshire residents. People travel to Cambridge to do the ride from all over the county. The seat count reached over 800 again this year.

It's a good natured ride and is frequented by road racer types as well as families. The pace is aimed at the latter, so it makes it very welcoming across the widest spectrum of riders. It's great to see even quite young riders happy to take on the 27 miles round trip. When it's split into two, and with the promise of ice-cream and rides in the middle, it's a very attractive proposition!

And it's not only riders. That good humour extends across people outdoors. I don't think I've had so many smiles and friendly greetings when out riding normally. Yes, it happens, but rarely, for example, from single women out jogging or walking the dog. Perhaps it's one of those few chances we have to remind ourselves that normally people are good and we don't have to behave as if everyone is out to get us all the time.

There was a little confusion this year as the Mayor's cycle couldn't use the official route. This should really be seen as a little nudge that cycle-paths should be planned with all types of cyclist in mind. Not everyone is on two wheels. When I arrived on time for the proper start, everyone was already gone. And in trying to catch along the published route I managed to overtake main party quite early on!

As a result of trying to catch up with a group that was quickly behind me, I managed to have lots of time at the Reach end. I settled on exploring up through Wicken Fen and back round via Upware before the fair, then a brief rumble out to Burwell and back after lunch. I can't help feeling that some people, like myself, who may not have a great fascination for the actual Fair, might like to take a wander further up to Wicken Fen as a more official trip. I pushed it a little too far this time, managing a total of 47 miles. And "bonking" around 2 miles from home.

I managed to get several clips, and did manage to do several passes of the (smaller) group on the way back. Faces are always good on these rides, please tag yourself!

Click here to see the map bigger.

Slightly Lonely Journey There  (Go HD see * below)

0:11 A few people still at the start mopping up.
0:45 The normal jam under Victoria Avenue completely missing!
1:25 Relief at the first signs of a group.
1:40 Not a very big group though, huh?
2:25 Newmarket Road Park & Ride, some more groups, but not moving, huh?
2:30 Small discussion about ride. I continue.
3:25 A few stragglers at Quy, where is everyone?
3:40 Last rider? Unbeknown to me, I'd already passed the main group!
4:20 Bottisham centre.
5:05 Swaffham Bulbeck centre. Empty roads!
5:33 Road cyclists pass.
5:50 Swaffham Prior centre.
6:07 Closed Roads! Although this proved a little unreliable.
6:50 Reach Fair!

People on the Way Back (Go HD see * below)

Apologies for the sound track, it just seemed so appropriate!
0:11 Final look at the Fair
0:30 An awful lot of parked cars for a closed road?
0:43 A car, even more strange for a closed road!
1:11 Road Closed sign. Ignored by a lot of drivers. Illegally.
1:30 Nice to pass lots of riders after the mornings mix-up!
1:50 A good look at the front riders, face on!
2:30 And back to passing the group again
3:20 Another look back at the riders coming past.
4:15 A couple heading to Waterbeach, needing to walk some of the way.
4:40 And into Lode.
5:10 And the main Quy Road, nearly back up to the front.

Wicken Fen and Upware Circuit (Go HD see * below)

0:11 Leaving Reach heading north then east to Wicken Fen.
0:50 Some riders! Hmm, and a car on a closed road
0:54 Camera fail, restart at first junction.
1:35 Bridge over Reach Lode. Very nice!
1:49 Rejoined proper track
2:20 Very awkward bridge, I had trouble with just a little day bag.

              This is a barrier to quite a few riders, I expect.
2:55 Main part of Wicken Fen, lots of riders! Ely people coming to Reach Fair?
3:00 With space available and people walking and riding, a bit more path width?
3:45 Another camera stop to look up route round horrible A1123 road.
4:45 Pretty rough track, probably not good in winter.
5:00 The Upware road! 3 of 7 car passes were not good.

              This is the alternative to the problematic Wicken Fen bridge?
6:00 Upware! Always seemed so fantastically distant
6:45 This is mapped as an unclassified road, not a track!
7:30 Back on the NCN11 cycle-route.
7:45 Road Closed being ignored by drivers, again.
8:10 Pulled in to let a car pass.
8:30 Lots of non-local parked cars
8:40 To the cycle parking!

Burwell Short Circuit (Go HD see * below)

0:11 Bit confused by cyclists coming towards me on this side of the road!
0:13 And car on the other side?
0:18 Ah, all becomes clear, walking/riding one side, cars managed on other, very good!
0:24 Driver doesn't really understand road controls, can't go up to it!
0:35 Dip out into car space as none coming.
0:43 End of control section, take back road to Burwell.
0:50 Quite a few people walking and riding from Burwell.
1:03 And a driver!
1:12 Onto a back track up the Burwell Lode.
1:28 Burwell centre.
1:41 Turn back towards the Burwell Lode.
1:50 And back onto the back road back towards Reach.
2:05 Lots more people walking down the path, some the same as before!
2:11 Dad pushing young daughter learning to ride, Excellent!
2:21 Back to the road control.

Return from Lode (Go HD see * below)

0:11 Last big cluster of people, going forward
0:49 Bottisham centre.
1:10 And back towards Quy, be good when the Lode-Quy cyclepath is done!
1:15 Got caught by another faster rider, good chat along the way!
1:28 One of the fast little groups.
2:02 Road crossing in Stow-cum-Quy.
3:10 Newmarket Road Park and Ride.
3:45 Road Crossing in Fen Ditton.
4:40 Back to Riverside.
5:00 My final bit on the main route, I bonked after this!

* How to go HD.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

CamRideHome in March 2015

#CamRideHome is a leisurely ride around some of the more pleasant cycle infrastructure and cut-throughs in Cambridge, ending in a short pub stop to chat about the joys of the past month. It starts at The Mill in Cambridge every last Friday of the month at 6pm. Rob at Ben Haywards has been instrumental in getting this going and is the route source on their CamRideHome page.

The March ride was the first which occurs mainly in daylight. This year we explored some of the new developments to the south of the city in Great Kneighton. New paths are being added to link in with the Southern section of the Guided Busway.

Click here to see the map bigger.

I managed to get video footage until it was quite dark, co-incidentally as my battery failed (how to go HD*).

March 2015 Ride

All together a very pleasant little ride, aimed at the pace of the slowest and with a couple of beers and good chat afterwards. Who's up for April, when we'll be in balmy evening sun all the way?

* How to go HD.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Addenbrookes Quirky Cycle Provision

Addenbrookes does make a lot more provision for people riding to the hospital than most. But it should.

Addenbrookes is a health provider, it should be seeking to help people develop a healthier lifestyle. And it's in the city in the UK with the highest cycling levels. It's already got a good user base (15 times the UK average), although there still should be a lot more cycling in Cambridge and getting people comfortable with a great healthy transport alternative should be the standard.

Old Development

So, it's a little concerning that the provision is quite piecemeal. This is mostly down to sticking plaster solutions. Doing a little bit here, doing a little bit there, adding a bit here, changing a bit there.

Here I look at a couple of places in the centre of the hospital. This piecemeal approach is clearly shown by:
  • stopping a shared-use route a few metres from the road it's going to;
  • not signing the shared-use route because it doesn't go all the way;
  • not putting enough cycle parking where it's needed;
  • sticking plaster adjustments to old, unused routing;
  • trackstand skills requirement to stick to cycle routing; and
  • inconsistent signing all within a few metres.

The central experience

Of course this is in the middle of quite a lot of development. And there's a level of juggling about within tight spaces. I'd suggest the sticking plaster approach does nothing to help this. It's time someone took a big red pen to the layer-upon-layer map and drew a clean slate. I'd bet it'd work out better for all people coming to the hospital.

New Development

Now, wouldn't it be great if the planners would learn from their earlier mistakes and plan in cycleroutes rather than fixing it in later. Yep, that'd be great, it's a shame it's not happening.

This post about Francis Crick Avenue from a little while back shows the usual approach of skimping on as much as possible. Despite having a clean slate and acres of space, cycle routes are squeezed in on roads  with drains, puddles, and rubbish. Not only that, the road is not designed to reduce speeds but encourages people driving to exceed the speed limit, thus making it really unpleasant on a bike. This seems to be a usual response to the hospitals roads. Other places realise that if you make straight roads speeding happens, if you make them twist and turn speeding doesn't. It has little overall effect on journey times, as it's simply rushing to the next junction, the real controller of average speeds.

One of the most damning indicators is on the new-ish Dame Archer Avenue which has a cycle route around the (pointless) lights (if you're on a bike*). This would seem good. But if there's space of a off road cycle route, why isn't it all the way long the road?

Again, routes from the hospital are good, but where the hospital has had control over the development the result has been very poor.

* Note that traffic lights are needed on a road to let two lines of motor traffic merge. If it were two lines of cycle traffic, would the lights be needed? No.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Bamburgh at New Year

At the New Year I was lucky enough to share a house with friends in the north-easterly town of North Sunderland, whose coastal area is the more famous Seahouses. This is the location of the great historic rescue by Grace Darling on the Farne Islands.

During our time there we had mostly great weather, including some windy, windy days (great for beach walks) and some fantastic sun-bathed days (also windy). I found the time to take 2 bike rides taking in the sites from this part of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. as well as being more socialable and going on 3 lovely walks. Some of the photos and clips have captured a bit of this fantastic light.

Anyway, this is the area map, with a few details. Click here to see the map bigger.

Map includes my ride in blue, NCN1 in yellow, Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses Pier, Doddington Moor walk, and St Cuthberts Cave walk

The rides provided some stunning views. I took photos along the way as well as taking screen captures from the video footage. The clips and photos are below.

The walks on Doddington Moor and to St Cuthbert's Cave also gave some stunning views. Doddington Moor has a number of ancient Cup and Ring markings with some description here. St Cuthbert's Cave also is full of history as well as good views nearby.Visit Northumberland also says that:
It is reputed that the monks of Lindisfarne brought St. Cuthbert’s body to this place to rest for a short period in AD875 following Viking raids on the Island and the subsequent abandonment of the saxon monastery.

I've put all those photos here from those two walks, along with a windy beach walk to Bamburgh Castle and here are a few highlights (Google seems to be killing embedded pictures, sigh. Click the caption links underneath if they aren't there for you!).

St Cuthberts Cave

Doddington Moor

Seahouses Beach


The rides were fun, and the latter quite windy! I did the first one anti-clockwise and used the road along the sea between Seahouses and Bamburgh. This gave some fantastic views of Bamburgh Castle as I got nearer and nearer. It was marred a touch by too many close passes by people driving, I just didn't let that get at my enjoyment. Here are the photos from that.

The beach north of Seahouses, looking north

Distant View of the Farne Islands

Bamburgh Castle from distance

Bamburgh Castle from the edge of the village

Bamburgh Castle last distant view

Bike shadow

Bamburgh Castle close up

Bamburgh Castle close up

Bamburgh Castle close up

Bamburgh Castle from the village green

And here are some of the stills from the video footage.

Sea view from North side of Seahouses

Bamburgh Castle distant from south

Bamburgh Castle close up

Bamburgh Castle close up

Then, I made my way inland, catching NCN1 for a little while, then back south along some very frosty lanes. This. This gave an added excitement of taking it very carefully on slippy-looking surfaces. I skidded only once as I was stopping by stupidly turning the front wheel slightly too much at 5mph and sliding for a foot until I stopped. Also, picking lines through ice puddles avoiding going on surface that might crack or large lumps of broken up ice.

Bike Shadow

Icy Puddle

Slushy puddle and shadow

Here's the ride in full. There's no need to watch it all, unless you wanty a nice relax, I've linked places of interest below.

Maximise for HD & turn the sound up or down, depending on your preference!

The first ride

00:29 Seahouses
00:44 Coastal View
01:15 Bamburgh Castle Distant View
02:44 Bamburgh Castle View
03:45 Bamburgh Castle Close View
04:15 Bamburgh Village
04:55 Sunny Inland Route
07:03 Turning South
08:44 Icy Puddle
09:35 Slight Skid
11:15 Turning Back onto NCN1
14:11 Credits

Later Ride

Later on I got to do the route again, this time clockwise. There was a ferocious south-westerly wind and I wanted to get that bit out of the way first. It was hard just going along at 8mph! In this first bit I also found a farmer doing their traditional winter work of hedge trimming. They were good to stop for me to pass, although I pretty sure I picked up a slow puncture here.

Here are some stills from the video footage.

Tractor trimming

Once turning north, the wind had changed to being directly across me, hindering me by blowing me across the road. However, there was some great shadow pictures!

Bike Shadow

I also found a car behind me at one point. This is a narrow road and there really isn't space to just pass. The driver seemed to get this, possibly because I was quite a long way out from the hedge, controlling the lane. I didn't want to hold them up as it spoils both our enjoyment. So I found a good place, checking the road surface ahead for a good 100 yards, and pulled over signalling the driver to come past. All went very well!

Signalling Driver to pass

Car passing close but planned

Car passed fine

Finally, turning back towards the coast and Bamburgh Castle and I got the benefit of the wind! The road gave fantastic long distance views of the castle as it was going directly towards it. I decided to go all the way into the village to get the castle close up once more.

Bamburgh Castle distant from East

Bamburgh Castle close up

Finally, I turned back through the village and headed for the NCN1 route south towards North Sunderland, simply to avoid the sea front road with it's rushing drivers. It's longer distance and time-wise, but quieter and less hassled.

Maximise for HD & turn the sound up or down, depending on your preference!

The last ride

00:24 Onto NCN1 going south-west
03:15 Passing a Hedge Trimming Tractor
04:10 Turning westwards off NCN1
06:30 Earlier Skid Corner, Easier Now
07:35 Earlier Icy Puddle, Easier Now
08:35 Car Passing
09:35 Turning Back Towards Coast
10:25 Bamburgh Castle from the West
11:00 Bamburgh Castle Slightly Closer
11:15 Bamburgh Village
11:30 Bamburgh Castle Close Up
11:42 Back into Bamburgh
12:05 NCN1 Route Back to North Sunderland
16:00 Credits

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

New South Cambridgeshire Cyclepaths

One of the issues of cycling in Cambridgeshire is that whilst the town is relatively (to the UK) well provided, the county is less so. Some may say "Why bother? There's not many out in the villages." without spotting that Cambridgeshire has large locations of employment where people need to commute.

One example of this is the Babraham Institute, south of Cambridge and just north of the village of Babraham. With road speeds of 60 mph on the connecting A1307, an off-road route is vital to give any people wanting to ride the confidence to do so safely.

This first clip shows travelling all the way along Hills Road from Addenbrookes to the Babraham Institute,who have been very helpful in creating this route. There's a number of old route clear up issues still to iron out, some maintenance practices that ought to be considered (gritting and hedge-cutting/clearing), and taking the route further.

This second clip is of the official opening ride, starting from Wandlebury and overlapping the first clip a bit. It also goes on to show the issues of the next bit of infrastructure, from creating a path through the Babraham Institute,which needs carful negotiation, to working with a local farm or two to improve surfaces, and to looking at a bridge which could prove expensive to update for all bike users. It also goes onto looking at the new path next to the A505, a vital link from the Granta Park, another big employment centre, into Sawston.