Wednesday 25 July 2012

Wet Weather Riding

Or whether or not

To get people comfortable with cycling the infrastructure they use must be convenient, go to the right places, be safe, and usuable in 99% of all conditions. Never 100%. The weather is sufficiently random for me to understand you can never expect to do whatever you want whenever you want to do it.

Cambridge is pretty good for cyclepaths. There are quite a few separate ones. Unfortunately they are separate which doesn't help much. Nevermind that, let's at least feel comforted that they are safe. Hmm, well, maybe. And usuable in pretty much all conditions? Well, not really. The whole point of encouraging cycling is completely destroyed if, as soon as it starts raining, we all run back to our cars.

Now these conditions were reasonably extreme, but still should be dealt with by properly constructed infrastructure. After all, no-one would think twice about driving in these conditions, so they shouldn't when cycling. Otherwise, simply, people will default to their basic means.

Just so you know, I've been specially trained to deal with harse conditions. I'm not wearing hi-viz, not wearing heavy waterproof gear, not wearing special shoes. No, I'm in sandals, light shorts, a teeshirt, and a cap. The cap keeps the rain out of my eyes, and the rest dries within 5 minutes of me arriving home.

At the start of this clip you can see the onroad cyclelane is tiny, filled with water & debris, and has plenty of slippery paint. Not sure if that's a very safe environment. Not least that when every car passes a fair degree of water is sprayed sideways. Do notice that the majority of water is drained from the road to make sure people driving in cars have a clear road. Of course is all deposited in the cyclelane.

At 23 seconds approaching the lights, notice the zig-zag paint lines. Not conducive for slowing down effectively as the wheels slip and slide on the wet paint. And then of course, abandoning the cyclelane is required as the person driving the van fron the left pulls their front into it. Continuing on, notice the drain covers that have become slippery wet metal covers to avoid at all costs.

At 1:37 the separated cyclepath appears. Woo hoo! But attempting to get into it across the side road is pushing it a bit too far with a rough entry point that has become uneven and has, yes, you guessed it, another metal cover in the middle of it. Of course, because I've not immediately doffed my cap to the far superior person driving a car and got out of the way, I get a close pass for my arrogance.

Anyway, into the segragated path, all is well. Well? Do notice all the puddles going straight across the path? Each one could contain a pothole. Luckily I know where all the potholes are down here. But if you didn't, this would not be a comfortable experience. The other thing to note about the puddles going straight across the path is that it shows off the structural failures of the path. This causes a very awkward bouncing of the bike going along it (and even in dry times!). If any road was like this, it'd be fixed becauses of the outcries from people driving (ruining suspension, not very comfortable, yada, yada). Of course it's more irritating on a bike as it makes a lot more difficult to ride along it.

At 2:18 the first of the cycle traps appears. These slick bits of paving are designed to trap the wheel so that if any slight line correction is needed the wheels are held firmly in line and the person cycling is appropriately dumped next to it. These are nicely lined with water.

Notice that all along here the footpath to the side is completely overgrown. It's not been cleared for several months. So we are back to the "shared path" concept, not a footpath and cyclepath.

Then, at 2:38 the first of the humungous puddles appears. Now, as I say, I'm trained in extreme sports, so have the capabilities of plowing on and know I'm not about to hit a pothole. If I was coming down here for the first 30 times, I'm not sure I'd feel the same. Again, notice that the road is nicely dry.

More cross puddles, more cycle traps. More metal covers. And repeat. And repeat.

Then at 3:42 the second humungous puddle. There is a bit of the footpath to the left that is clear. Now, perhaps most would simply ride over there. This is unfortunately breaking the law. And of course a person cycling, if they break the law, they must be taken in front a judge, have 12 people look down their noses at them expressing their outrage at such an audacious, lethal, and terrifying action, then taken to an open place to be placed in the stocks for three days, and finally hung, drawn, and quartered.

I found out the reason that this puddle exists on the way up. It was on the road.  I just caught the last of the movement of the water from the road to the cyclepath as a vehicle deliberately moved over to the remnants of the road-puddle and drove through it splashing it up onto the cyclepath, luckily just missing me as I saw what was about to happen a second or so earlier.

At 3:52, at the bus-stop section of this puddle, notice the way the tarmac between the cyclepath and the road is raised. This is just ot make sure none of that pesky water doesn't run back into the road and get in the way of those superior people driving cars. Or head towards any kind of drain.

More cross puddles, more cycle traps. More metal covers. And repeat. And repeat.

at 5:15 notice the jogger in the cyclepath. They clearly don't think anyone will be cycling right now! They do jump out of the way, and we share a comical look to the skies.

At 6:15 I start my wait to get onto an ajoining cyclepath. 45 seconds wait later you see the other reason no-one wants to cycle here.

The shared path is more awkward in the rain. Anyone with the backs to you really, really don't know you are there, so extra care and no speed remotely acheivable.

At 8:20 a nice thing! This person driving can see they are not going to get out, so pulls back in to let me pass. This happens sometimes along here, mostly not of course.

At 8:43 the final puddle. This one of course created because cars have to cross thus have created the depresions to hold the puddle water.

At 8:52 another hazard of shared paths in the rain, umbrellas. Evasive action required!

So, would you want to ride to the shops given you are going to do it at a certain point in time, pretty much whatever the weather is doing?

As I say, I'm specially trained. If you've not been on a bike for decades I can see why you would simply head back to the car. Hence our transport system will stay stuck in the 1980s model and will continue to choke the life out of this country.

1 comment:

  1. I live on the outskirts of Manchester - this is pretty much my daily commute. the worst are the roadside cycle lanes as the flooded areas tend to hid the rougher parts of the road (there's probably a causal link there) and there's rarely enough room to cycle round without going into traffic