Thursday, 18 August 2016

NCN11 South from Cambridge, Part 2

The route south from Cambridge along National Cycle Network 11 makes a good commuter route for several villages to the south. The combination of separate active (not specifically cycling) infrastructure, quiet roads, some "converted" footpaths (as in with a sign only) make for an interesting mix. It's mostly good but there are some awkward bits where it's not really been thought through. I've written previously about this route, comparing to local road routes.

South from the City

So this is south from the city, here's the part south through the city.

Here's an interactive map (click to open).

NCN11 from Cambridge (green on map). 

This route starts at the railway station although this blogpost looks at other starting places and routes in the city. The NCN11 route really joins at the Long Road tunnel. It heads south the Whittlesford and beyond. This is a good route. However, there are lots of little niggles along the way.

From the railway station the route heads south along the Guided Busway, which is quite good active infrastructure. It's clearly not just for cycling but the width is fine for the current levels of traffic. Actually more people use this first section for walking to various places nearby, including Long Road Sixth Form College.

At the Long Road tunnel, the main NCN11 route really joins. From the city centre it uses to Coe Fen and Trumpington Road to get south, rather than the via the railway station. From there on the route turns up and over the railway on the Addenbrookes Guided Busway spur, at the end of which the infra runs out.

Francis Crick Avenue Oddity

It is rather bizarre and ironic that at Francis Crick Avenue, good infrastructure for people cycling suddenly disappears for a quarter of a mile. This is the section that was built for the local hospital trust, which is growing to being the biggest healthcare area in the country. A place that would benefit from promoting health simply didn't see fit to do this, despite the vast amount of space available to do so. I've written about this before.

As you can see from the video, I correctly cross over the road to join in with traffic, and cross back 1 minute later. Although it's a 20mph speed limit, it's very rare to see anyone driving obeying it, compounded by the road environment simply not encouraging it. Also you'll note that many people simply don't see the reason to cycle like this and stick on the path. This is so prevalent that the building site operators have set up manned entrances to the site to ensure lorries coming in are fully aware of people cycling on the pavement.

The building site is for AstraZeneca, whom I happen to know are very keen on helping cycling. One can only hope that they might bring it up for the hospital trust and point out the error of their ways and get the wide area just outside their building converted to shared space at the minimum.

Addenbrookes Genome Path

After this is the Addenbrookes Genome Path, so named because of the local discovery of the BRCA2 gene matching the 10,000th mile of the National Cycle Network. This path was great and still is good. However, it's rather a victim of it's success. There's now too much traffic for it's width, especially factoring in people walking along here. At the end there's a crossing of Granhams Road to negotiate, although it's either stopped with traffic (fine) or empty. A last little section of the path before a quiet residential area.

Mingle Lane

At the end of the residential area there's a wiggle through to Mingle Lane. This is usually okay to ride along, although I've encountered some pretty poor driver behaviour here. Notably at the straight section where speeding is very likely. However, it's luckily quite quiet. The twisting section of Church Street can make it very difficult for drivers to see round, so be prepared to have them behind you for a while. This is usually not too much of a problem.

"Converted" Path

At the main road, cross into the "converted" footpath. This is a conversion in name only, there's no specific activity to make it a proper shared-use path. It doesn't have very many walkers but it's quite narrow for passing riders. It is good to be off the road, though. Just leaving the built up area brings in two more poor parts of this "infra", two awkward side roads. One with little space, which could have more allocated, and the other with a odd priority for a side track that's hardly in use. Again, it's good to be off the road but I wish they could spend just a little money and thought making this good infra.

Poor Junction

As it gets fully clear of the village, the path stays the same width but feels better as it's open. You can see that the path is used quite a bit still, as kids go to the secondary school in Sawston. The junction in between the village has a rather awkward junction, where the cyclepath needs to cross one road, but decides to cross two roads, one in two jumps with awkward sight lines in between. I've written about this junction before. Since then it's been redeveloped, sadly with little improvement. It still means crossing roads twice, which means waiting is inevitable. A lot of people riding here abandon the infra and use the road.


The path now veers off the main direction of Whittlesford to take in Sawston. This is great for those wanting to go to Sawston, like schoolkids, and I applaud that. However, it's twice as long as the road route using the Sawston bypass. Using the Sawston bypass has it's bad points. Drivers really don't expect riders there and have pretty poor behaviour around riders (see clips).

In the village, the cycleroute runs out at the school. Getting onto the road isn't too easy and once on, it's pretty busy at rush hour! Most traffic seems to be pretty good here, possibly because they are mostly dropping kids at school. Notice I ride centre lane when there are parked cars on the other side, thus giving very limited space. This is to dissuade people from thinking there's enough space to pass from either direction.

On the outskirts the speed limit goes up quickly. It's not far to the bypass and crossing to the level crossing for the final path to Whittlesford. This level crossing timings are based on a section of track, which can mean a long wait. 4 minutes for one train can extend to a 8-minute wait with two trains together. Although it's good to get people off the tracks, this seems excessive.

To Whittlesford

The path from Sawston to Whittlesford is a great example of converting to shared-use infrastructure! It's smooth, wide, gives warnings of bends and to slow down for people walking (without the ubiquitous poor blue "Cyclists Dismount" sign), and is a long way from a road! Under the trees it can get a bit wet and have some awkward debris, but that worry really disappears given the pleasant nature of this path. It may be a little narrow, if it gets more popular, but has expansion space if needed.

On entering Whittlesford there is an odd development. The path goes through the churchyard. It seems odd to be in this space that's designated for quiet reflection. The signs on the entrance are a little confusing, but generally fit into the blue "Cyclists Dismount" sign rules. So, slow and considerate riding is expected, get off if needed. Sadly, at the other end of the churchyard, this is pretty much required. The gate is locked with only a tight "kissing" gate space to get through. This blocks anyone coming this way that's not on a standard 2-wheel format bike. This is pretty bad as there's a great rise in parents using cargo bikes to transport kids to school, simply not feasible here.

After wiggling though a residential, quiet area, the route heads up onto the bigger road south towards Duxford. Again, there's lots of space to put in a separate cyclepath to, at least, the A505 maybe even onto the busy villages of Duxford and further south.

NCN11 from Cambridge (music warning!) (Go HD see * at bottom)

0:00 Setting off
0:07 Crossing into infra, watch out for speeding buses
0:35 Long Road Tunnel, NCN11 really joins here
0:51 Turning up Addenbrookes Guided Busway spur
1:09 Turning into Francis Crick Avenue past AstraZeneca
1:17 Turning onto Addenbrookes Genome Path
2:06 Crossing Granhams Road
2:22 Wiggle to Mingle Lane/Church Street
2:50 Onto "converted" path
3:05 Bad side access crossings
3:19 Bad junction and long way through Sawston
3:59 Passing the school and road
4:18 Faster roads outside the village
4:25 Railway crossing
4:37 A good converted path
5:06 Churchyard
5:31 And onto the main road

Sawston Bypass (orange on map)

So the route through Sawston is great for getting into the village, and that is fantastic for supporting schoolkids getting to the secondary school here. However, it's 1.6 miles to go through the village and 0.8 miles to use the Sawston bypass. Here's a couple of clips showing what happens on the bypass.

Going South (Go HD see * at bottom)

Going North (Go HD see * at bottom)

Sadly, a large enough proportion of people driving are simply not aware of their actions influence on the world around their sealed and quietened interiors. When threatened like this no one is going to cycle down here. There is plenty of space on this bypass, why not build infra alongside to improve the environment? There are plenty of businesses down this link from Cambridge, it's ripe for improving cycling. And likewise getting people into Cambridge from these villages.

* How to go HD.

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