Tuesday 19 February 2013

Cambridge Video Clip Cycling Guide

A completely mapped cycling video guide to Cambridge roads with description & tips, cross referenced indexing, and video embedded KML files by area for download.


On uptake of video clipping my cycling, one thing I was keen on doing was to create a view of the cycling in my area. This wasn't a judgement thing. It's not "the cars are bad, cyclists are bad, the roads are awful" concept. The idea was to simply show how it is. To allow people to look, make choices, and cycle safely in known conditions. In some kind of vain notion that others might want to take a look before trying a route.

To that end I've organised a large number of clips with geographcial KML data and indexed it in multiple ways and allocated a notional quality status to them.

Here's a full map of the coverage including the KML for the whole picture. The KML data is best viewed using Google Earth (download), especially in conjunction with the Excel tool, but still can be accessed using Google Maps through any web browser (although this shows a limited number of routes per map 'screen').

View Cambridge Video Routes Guide in a larger map or Download KML directly

Inevitably, keeping my opinion out of the state of the roads isn't easy, and it has crept in at times. Although maybe there's a hint as to why I think as I do when riding on the road. At the same time, this has had a long-running effect on my driving, calming my decision-making and helping me understand that rushing in a car is a dangerous action. The best mechanism is mostly to calm down, slow down, and let others have space.

Additionally, a fair amount of commentary is telling people cycling to take care and look out. This is mostly due to lack of awareness of others in the roadspace rather than a call to reduce the right of way of the person cycling. It's better to be safe than throw yourself into dangerous situations created by others.

Throughout these pages and clips, I've tried to stick to describing what people do and not defining them by it. So I try to use the words people driving, people cycling, or people walking rather than drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. I'm not a cyclist, I'm someone who drives, cycles, and walks. Defining ourselves by what we sometimes do is a gross oversimplification done by people not thinking.

There are a few does and don'ts listed at the bottom of this page.


At the moment, I've based this in Cambridge. But there's no reason why the code can't be replicated and data set updated to reflect other places.


Anyway, the result of quite a bit of work is a Routes Database linking to YouTube clips of road conditions. This database is reasonably well thought out (IMHO!), although I'm aware lots will feel it's in the wrong format. It links directly into Google Earth (so download it for free if you haven't already), but actually is updateable and will grow as more clips get added.

Effectively there are 5 inter-linked elements to this mechanism.
  • KML routing data (or full downloadable file), allowing the selection and creation of routing files by street, route, and area all readable in Google Earth (download or other KML browsers)
  • The Streets Index page, listing in street order with route clips with start times and local area KML files for use and download
  • The Routes Index page, listing in route order showing streets used with detailed description and local area KML files for use and download
  • YouTube clips, accessible from both indexes and within the KML routing data
  • An Excel tool (sorry, non-MS peeps) to allow selection of routes and clips in Google Earth (download) as well as create KML files to import into Google Maps.
These all inter-linked to create a mechanism that can be accessed in multiple ways, some visual, some textual. This should allow people to view data and clips how they would choose. The optimum use is with the Excel tool and Google Earth (download) as it's much more interactive and very 'point and click'.

The clips are made up of two sorts: a short clip usually of one or two streets taking around a minute; and a longer clip of a full route taking a few minutes. Both are sped up and the later usually is done with some kind of soundtrack. All clips have links to street start points which are clickable.


Using the two index posts gives access to the clip footage. The Streets index lists them alphabetically and shows their area and cycling suitability. The route links into the YouTube clip and gives the approximate time on that clip. The Routes index again lists alphabetically, gives some commentary on the route, and gives the approximate times for streets on that route. On both you can link to the area KML data. Sadly, only the Excel tool, with it's auto-generated KML can do more detailed level output.

On YouTube, a much fuller commentary is repeated along with the street timings. Here using the time links will jump to the right point in the clip.

The full KML file links all the above details together in a geolocated manner.

The Excel tool allows the KML to be restricted to selected streets or areas. The mechanism has not used macros (to enable easier, more confident access) so relies on the uses being able to select what they want, copy data into text file, then save and open that file as they want.

What Now

I'm going to be adding routes and updating the online resources whilst I do more cycling. So this tool with grow as I keep adding routes. This will help develop a good number of indexed clips showing different conditions (like seasons) as well as emphasising the routing statuses. The more blue a route gets, the more friendly it is, conversely red routes are worth avoiding if you can!

But that's not entirely what I mean when I say "What Now".

I've put this up with the idea that this could go further. Many people have access to GPS devices that record routes, many people are recording their cycling footage. Combining the two would give a whole host of people the ability to record the same as I've done here, either area by area, or even nationally. Of course the whole mechanism would require rewriting form the ground up. First in a database appropriate for all users and second to use the databases already in the global cloud for geo-located information. At the end of it, an App? This is where I disappear off as it's not really in my training, but I can see this being useful.

Cycling Practice

On a number of this clips you'll see some interesting behaviour. Here are some rules which I ride by to keep me and others safe on the road. Please review the British Cycling training for more details.

Don't Assume. The most important thing is to assume everyone else is capable of stupid decision-making. Don't just assume that a person driving will continue in a straight line because that's what the past 50 people have done. Equally don't assume someone walking will  know that you are about to pass them on the right side. They can easily suddenly change direction without thinking about you. One really useful thing to do is gain eye contact. That way you know whether the other person has seen you and it can give you some indication as to what they intend to do.

Give Space. Never cycle close to pedestrians, especially from behind. Give them space and slow down, just as you'd expect a driver to do for you. Of course this can be difficult on shared paths. Effectively shared paths are a trade-off, you gain safety but lose speed.

Give Way. Always Give Way appropriately and be polite, like when riding along a shared-use path or joining a new road from a road or a path. Use eyes and ears to ascertain what is going on and if any doubt, do not proceed. Conversely, "Give Way" does not mean "Stop" and don't let others tell you to do so when it's not necessary.

Dismount Signs. Do note that blue "Cyclists Dismount" signs are advisory only. It is not necessary to get off your bike. These signs are erected to warn people cycling that they are likely to encounter people walking in a tight space. There has been a campaign to change them to read "Take Care of Pedestrians" or other wordage which better expresses the requirement. There are a lot of instances where these signs are misconstrued and people riding through them get unnecessary hostility. In all occasions take a lot more care when riding and slow right down.

Door Zone. The door zone is the space next to parked cars which would be blocked if a door is opened. Always ride outside of the door zone. Sometimes it's possible to see into the car and see no-one in hte appropriate seat. Sadly, this often cannot be done in the time needed to make a decision as to where to ride. Hence it's not worth the risk. On to of that, it's perfectly possible for someone to not be visible (bending over or kids in the back) as to still open the door.

Road Positioning. British Cycling recommends using the primary and secondary riding positions for many good reasons.
  • Secondary is the normal place and is about 1 metre out from the kerb or verge. This is to avoid road edges and to give manoeuvre space around hazards that appear more at the side of the roadspace. It also makes you more visible to people driving than if you squeeze to the left side. 
  • Primary position is sometimes called taking the lane as it is the middle of the lane. This is used when passing side roads, passing parked cars, to stop close overtakes especially with oncoming traffic, or other hazard avoidance. If effectively means you control the lane for a few seconds but must be used carefully. Never just ride into the middle of a lane without planning it first. Also, if holding back traffic a lot, do seek a way of getting people driving past you. Again, do this in the best way for you and your safety rather than giving way to traffic behind you. Remember an impatient person with a ton of metal is safer in front of you than behind.

Cyclelanes Aren't Safe. On road cyclelanes are often not very safe. Do not assume you will treated with care whilst using them. Sometimes people driving think of the cyclelane as just another lane and pass within a foot or so, despite Highway Code rule 163 requiring them to be further out. Highway Code rule 163 is about dealing with cars and lorries airwash and that sometimes road debris and potholes can require avoidance or sometimes throw people cycling off. Also, in a number of cases, cyclelanes are placed in the door zone of parked cars, either on-road on on the side of the road. In this case, do not use the cyclelane.

Filtering. Negotioting between parked cars and slow moving traffic (or filtering) has a level of danger associated with it. Again, British Cycling training has good tips on this. Done sensibly and carefully it is a good way to avoid the blockages larger vehicles create for themselves. Always be aware that anything could change rapidly and plan ways out (like being able to stop dead or change direction instantly).

Traffic Lights. There's only effectively one type of traffic light when in the normal roadspace, and you must stop when at red. There are two types of traffic light on the cycling infrastructure, with quite a few variations of them.
  • First, there is lights that look like normal car-based traffic lights, 3 round bulbs aligned vertically. These are for cycles-only crossing, so the signals MUST be obeyed by law. They are often in places where crossing traffic is very busy so it is inadvisable to go when they are red anyway. Although should it seem to be clear, gettting off your bike and pushing it across will ensure you are not breaking the law. 
  • Second, there are the lights, often at hand level, which combine cycle and walk crossings. These are fine to ride across when on red. Again, if not comfortable with this, gettting off your bike and pushing it acrossis still possible.
Side Roads. On side shared-use paths crossing side roads, the right of way is often undefined and a lot of the time that is deliberate. The idea is that as neither direction has right of way, both will slow and give way in a more natural way. Sadly, this has been shown to be useless as in the absence of any instruction is the size of the vehicle that determines the right of way. Essentially dropping the road rules in this instance leads to simple bullying behaviour by the bigger danger. Take great care on these crossings. This kind of shared responsibility does work on places where traffic cna be any size from any direction, but not on shared-use crossings.

Contraflow Issues. If riding down a contraflow cyclelane and you find it blocked, you shouldn't really cycle into the oncoming lane. You are then riding the wrong way down a one-way street and that is an illegal manoeuvre. Really you should dismount and walk along the pavement past the obstruction. Obviously, this is highly irritating if the obstruction is a parked or stopped car.

Types of Path. When riding off road, it's important to know the differences between different types of route.This is done in great detail at BikeHub.
  • A bridlepath or bridleway is freely open for people to ride bikes and horses, but not drive, unless it's local farm traffic.
  • A footpath that is not next to a road is not necessarily barred from use by people cycling. However, there is no right of cycling it's just not against the law. Always take care of people walking and not to damage the route. In those two circumstances you could fall foul of the law. This may include routes through housing estates. Again, be careful as this may by countered by local bylaws.
  • A footway (or often called a pavement) is a separated section alongside a road for people to walk. Here, unless otherwise defined, is illegal to ride a bike or horse and drive a car.
  • A cycletrack (or cyclepath or shared-use path) is a defined area, usually on a pavement, that allows people to cycle on it. This is defined by a Traffic Regulation Order and should be properly signed with start, end, and repeater signs. However, this can be poorly done, so take great care. Please look at the People Walking section for a guide to using a sahred-use path/
Rural Roads. When riding on rural roads take care as people can be driving much, much faster than in the urban environment. Be aware that hedges next to the road can give poor sightlines for faster traffic and that people driving sometimes forget that other road users may be on  the road. Ride with a lot more care, emphasising primary and secondary positioning. This is much more likely to keep you safe than things like hi-viz and helmets.

People Walking. When riding both on and off road, it's important to take care of people walking. Often in town centres, where there is little chance of motor traffic, people walk into roadspace without looking, sometimes focussed on something else entirely. Likewise, on shared-use paths, it's important to share the space given. Of course this is awkward and shows up that shared-use paths are not decent infrastructure, just a yet another half measure. In either case it's important to be wary of what people walking are doing.

Just as people cycling want people driving to take care of more vunerable road users, people cycling should take care of yet more vunerable road users. Seeking eye contact, looking at the way in which people walking are and could move are both important strategies in this, as well as slowing down. It matters not that people walking are distracted but that people cycling are responsible for their progress. Smile and say "sorry" if you get it wrong. Often that's all that will take place, unlike when conflict happens with people driving.

Legal Note. The opinions expressed here and throughout these pages and clips have been checked against the relevant legal codes to ensure accuracy. However, I offer no guarentee that they are all 100% correct.


  1. Not checked every link but what I've looked at is amazing, shame this isnt done in every town or city .

    1. Give me clips, some text analysis, and a rating, and I can build a similar mechanism. I've built it as a tool that can have different data in it.