Thursday 21 October 2010

Cambridge, Coton, Madingley, Comberton, Barton, Granchester, Trumpington, Shelford Ride

A short route round west Cambridge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The route in Bikely is here.

Hills Road, Brooklands Avenue, Trumpington Street, Fen Causeway, Queens Road, Cycleway, Adams Road.

Adams Road Cycle Path to Coton.

Coton to Madingley Road A428 Junction.

Madingley Road to Madingley.

Madingley to A428 and Comberton Road.

Comberton Road to Comberton.

Comberton to M11 J12.

M11 J12 to Granchester and Trumpington.

Trumpington to Brooklands Avenue.

New Coe Fen Cyclepath.

Coe Fen Cyclepath and Brooklands Avenue.

Cherry Hinton, Fulbourn, Worsted Street, Magogs, Stapleford, Shelford, Addenbrookes

A short route round south Cambridge

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in some sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Hills Road to Cherry Hinton.

Cherry Hinton to Fulbourn.

Fulbourn to Worsted Street.

Worsted Street to Magogs.

Magogs on A1303.

Magogs to Stapleford.

Stapleford to Shelford.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path BRCA2.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Hills Road.

Hills Road including Railway Bridge.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Round Wenhaston

A short route round the Village

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in some sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Wenhaston to Queens Head.

Queens Head Look Around.

Queens Head to Heath Farm.

Over Heath to Wenhaston.

Monday 18 October 2010

Worsted Street, Hildersham, Babraham, Stapleford, Shelford Route

A short route round South Cambridgeshire

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in the city sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Hills Road past Addenbrookes.

Worts Causeway Hill.

Worsted Street from Wandlebury to Copley Hill.

Worsted Street from Copley Hill to A11.

Worsted Street from A11 to Hildersham Path.

Hildersham Path.

Hildersham to Abington.

Abington to Babraham Path.

Babraham Path.

Rowley Lane from Babraham to Stapleford.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Cambridge, Coton, Granchester, Trumpington, Shelford Ride

A short route round West Cambridge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the full route (on Bikely) through the outskirts and villages just to the west and south of Cambridge. The view from this route will change a lot over the next few years with all the developments in this area. The West Cambridge development, the southern hospital access road, and Hills Road Bridge improvements should all make for a better cycling experience. Let's see if it delivers!

The Route sectioned into Videos.
Hills Road to the West Cambridge Cycle Path
- Brooklands Avenue
- Trumpington Street
- Silver Street
- Sedgewick Avenue
- Grange Road
- Adam Road
The West Cambridge Cycle Path to Coton.
- West Cambridge Cycle Path
- The Footpath
Coton to M11 J12.
- Brook Lane
- Granchester Road
- Barton Road Roundabout
M11 J12 to River Cam.
- Barton Road Roundabout
- Coton Road
- High Street
- Mill Lane
River Cam to Trumpington Crossing.
- Granchester Road
- Maris Lane
- High Street
Trumpington Crossing to Addenbrookes Cycle Path, Shelford.
- High Street
- Shelford Road
- Cambridge Road
- Granham's Road
Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Addenbrookes Roundabout.
- Addenbrookes Cycle Path
- Robinson Way
Addenbrookes Roundabout up to and over Hills Road Bridge.
- Robinson Way
- Hills Road

Hills Road to the West Cambridge Cycle Path.

With the work going on Hills Road Bridge, the turn down into Brooklands Avenue is a might awkward, and impossible by car. I'm not sure the cycle path comes all the way up Brooklands Avenue to the junction, but given there's nowhere to go if you are cycling up it, there really isn't anything to do but assume its okay. However, at this time of day, minimal use of it is advised as there are far too many pedestrians and side entrances to make it a reasonable cycle path.

At the end of Brooklands Avenue turning right into Trumpington Street means crossing a lane. I always find it slightly amusing how many cars overtake just before the lights only to pull up and get passed by my smaller bike. Again, a lot of people do the manoeuvre up to lights, I'm not sure how properly legal it is.

The offroad path across the Coe Fen is being rebuilt much bigger. It's been quite a time, but it's an excellent upgrade! Unfortunately, the only way round that makes any sense is to stick to the road for now. This brings up the first irk of the ride.

At 2:34 into the video, a Sainsbury's delivery van parked in the cyclepath, despite there being plenty of space to park elsewhere. Registration CE60 ORH at 13:35 on Thursday 7th October. Does Sainsbury's support this action? The danger is quite clear as a driving instructor passes me quite close as I'm having to pull out. And I do look before making the move, as with all other moves.

Now, it's not just Sainbury's van drivers that do this. Tesco's have also been spotted. Although I do find that Waitrose/Ocado seem to behave like they know that cyclists are also their customers.

Further along crossing the mini-roundabouts into town is awkward again. A lot of traffic is turning left here, and the cycle path just disappears depositing cyclists into a complex junction. At my speed, around 15-20mph, it's better to mingle with traffic as they are not doing anything too different. Even so the amount of traffic that simply passes and turns left across me at this junction is frightening. I spot the next car turning in front of me hesitating so I jump through the junction quickly. I was ready to stop if he'd had moved, but luckily I didn't get to lose all my kinetic energy.

Central Trumpington Street has it's own joys. Although starting off wide, it quickly narrows. It is also the only one of two way cars can get into the central car park, so can be quite busy. Lots of stopping and starting to pass bikes and I end up in the back end of a 4x4. The Fitzwilliam museum on the left is a nice distraction on less busy days. And the Loch Fyne restaurant on the right is fun at night too! Towards the end, pretty much all cars turn right to the car park, so some judicious moves on the side of the road are appropriate. Threading the needle between the 8 inch deep gutter and the cars looks a lot more dangerous than it actually is. At least there are no pedestrians right at the side of the road! Finally the almost traffic free Silver Street!

Heading into the student areas means a lot more cyclists and some moving reasonably quickly. Although central Cambridge is quite nice, the suburbs do have a more leafy feel. Grange Road is one of those nicer areas, although there seems to be a big increase in the amount of parking now available. Finally, waiting at the turn to go up Adams Road to the West Cambridge Cycle Path seems a little annoying. A good place for a left turn cycle slipway to avoid the lights.

The West Cambridge Cycle Path to Coton.

The entrance to the West Cambridge cycle path is almost certainly deliberately staggered to stop cyclists shooting out into the middle of a road and going under a passing car. This sounds very sensible, but actually doesn't really do anything apart from potentially putting riders going in opposite direction against each other.

After a steady drag (about a 1 metre increase in height over 100 metres, arrrgggg, so hard!) the last thing a cyclist travelling from Adams Road into the path wants to do is lose that hard-fought speed by looping around a frankly irritating wooden pillar. As you see with me, a shortcut allows the retention of that speed however putting me right in the path of oncoming cyclists. Although this is a rare event, it's not as rare as the chances of any kind of serious accident happening here.

The road is on a raised section, on a sharp, blind corner. Most cars are doing less than 10mph and when I say most, I'm painfully aware that this is around 30 or so cars an hour. Cyclists coming onto the road can see very clearly along one direction and reasonably clearly the other. The chances of them flying under a rare, slow moving car is about as good as seeing pigs fly. This is a classic example of an overplanned junction, with an eye on potential (albeit incredibly unlikely) lawsuits rather than helping cyclists have a good overall experience. This awkwardness is heightened by the complicated route ensuring you loose sight of any potential hazards whilst coming on and off the path. Why, oh, why!

Once on the path, the experience rapidly changes to one of delight. It is a joy to ride down a wide, cleverly separated path, taking you out of the leavy suburbs into the first fields of the country. The width of the path allows for cyclists to be going in both directions easily and for overtaking of slightly slower pedallers without interruption, ideal! Along with the wide cycle path, the cleverly raised footpath next to it naturally draws pedestrians out of the way without shouting, glaring, obstruficating, officious signage. It's a shame they didn't learn that one for the new Coe Fen cyclepath, a really awkward clash between cyclists and pedestrians could have enhanced that recent development so much.

The surface is gloriously smooth, allowing a good speed even into the prevailing westerly. However, despite the space and clear visibility, you still have to keep your wits abotu you when riding. At 1:22 into the video, this is ably demonstrated. A cyclist pulls into the middle of the path and signals to turn right. A the last moment he decides not to take this route and starts to pull back into the path that I'm rapidly approaching. Only a quick back glance allows us both the space to not collide.

I've thought about this since and remember the split second decision I made to keep going through which was more based on the notion that it was better to quickly get through the gap before it closed. The alternative of slamming on the anchors and still have a high likelyhood of sliding into the other cyclist who would have closed the gap by then seemed worse. This kind of thing happens in cars all the time, often with tooting of horns and raised tempers. The great benefit about bikes is that you can hear what's going on around you not just see what's in front of you.

The path narrows as it eascapes the clutches of the west Cambridge development. In years to come this won't happen for a good while longer. The expansion of the west Cambridge development will take away these fields. Although it's a shame in a way, it's also exciting to see Cambridge growing and enabling new scientific discovery to take place.

The path takes a couple of slightly unsighted corners round some small copse (I did see a black squirrel here once!) and heads towards the joys of the M11. The bridge gives a chance for a little harder work, maybe a jump out of the saddle to retain some momentum. Again, maybe a small moan about the lack of visibility just at a time when a cyclist really doesn't want to apply the brakes. This is true for the turn up onto the bridge as well as the turn away from the bridge at the bottom. Especially as during autumn there is this horrible build up of slippery leaves. Not sure there's too much that can be done about that though!

The last part of the path enjoys leavy shade (excellent in summer!) and comes out into Coton at the bottom of the green and cricket square.

Coton to M11 J12.

Turning left onto the road towards Granchester is a small relief as it starts dropping slightly allowing an increase of speed with less effort. Unfortunately, this joy is shared by car drivers who see the lack of houses as a good reason to increase their speed above the 30mph limit. Along these twisting narrow roads this seems a little scary to any cyclists and/or pedestrians. Once out of the trees, visibility improves significantly and the jumpiness subsides.

The road has been roughly resurfaced which brings me onto another of my general gripes about road maintenance. If you look carefully at the road about 50cm from the verge you can see that it is intermittently broken up. Sometimes this is slightly filled by a rough resurface, sometimes not.

The issue from a cyclists point of view is that you can't see when this happens after a rough resurface. Before the resurface it would have been very clear where the problems lay. So, the resurfacing process has evened out the tarmac for cars but made it a hazard for cyclists. Hmm, methinks that's not the best result. My action is to cycle outside this area, from about 75cm to 1m off the verge. And, yes, you've guessed it, this really irritates drivers! So, who's won?

The road heads south east which usually makes it wind-neutral. When it's not, boy, do you feel it! The M11 bridge heightens that considerably putting you another 10 metres into whatever wind is doing. Then the joy of descending the bridge into two alarming dangers: M11 exiting traffic and a roundabout that isn't for cyclists.

Taking those in order, Although there is no demonstration of it on this clip, I've had a number of drivers coming off the M11 pull out in front of me from the left rather too close. Again, it's drivers assuming that because I'm a bike, I must be doing 10mph and they have plenty of space. So, as I jam on my brakes and scream down from my 30mph to avoid pancaking into the back of their car/van/lorry, I'd like to reflect on the fact that they cannot actually go any faster than I am at time point with the impending roundabout.

The roundabout is designed for motor vehicles, with motor vehicles in mind, and carful consideration is placed to ensure anything that isn't a motor vehicle is sent away, the long way, the hard way, the "we faurt in yoore gineral directeeshun" way round.

Again, this is the "we must get cyclists safe, whatever the cost" process, where the cost is usually the cyclists comfort and ease of ride, not anything that might impinge upon those wonderful petrol engines. the one cycle route put in takes cyclists from town simply directly out of town. It takes them the long way round the junction ensuring that they have to stop for the darling gas-guzzlers at every point.

This might be fine, apart from the direction I'm going get's nothing at all! In some respects, this is BETTER! So, I mingle with traffic. I actually like this. It heightens your sense of life, gives you all kinds of flash moments, and ensures that I keep pedalling to maintain my speed throughout the experience so that I might travel at the same speed as surrounding lumps of between one and thirty ton metal. I can see that not everyone will like this.

M11 J12 to River Cam.

Ah, you say, now you're off the nasty roads and heading towards the tranquility of that worldly famous village of Granchester. Well, disallusionment follows. This next section of road is one of the nastiest bits I know. It's actually quite a nice area but the cars using it as a rat run ruin everything. Quite why it's used as a rat run is beyond me. The sections within Granchester and Trumpington are slow and have low priority at junctions. Surely the nearby M11 is much quicker?

This first section of road is very straight and will allow two cars to pass each other safely. This means that cars doing 60mph along here is not unexpected. I would perfectly well expect this and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. It's that if there is anything else on the road there is nothing like enough space. I have regularly been passed by cars doing 60mph within a few inches of my handlebars. At this speed, even a few feet away is enough for the airflow to knock my direction, so the really close ones get near to knocking me off completely.

It's not so different from this spot, where I had a really close call. Luckily, nothing has happened so far. But it's one of the roads I dread. I'm a fairly competent, strong cyclist. I can't think of how anyone who's a bit less confident would handle this bombardment. It's no surprise that despite being a very useful route very few people cycle along here. It's hardly a good advert to encourage people making short journeys to get on a bike rather than use the car.

The final fun with this section is a large manhole cover on a bend just before the village of Granchester. It appears at around 2:43 in the clip. Going anywhere apart from around the outside of it is a really rough ride, even on a mountain bike. Unfortunately, this does put you at odds with anything overtaking. Not everyone realises that as cyclists you have the right to avoid poor road surfaces and seems to assume that the space that all bikes take up is within 20cm of the verge. Maybe this is a Cambridge thing, where traffic is so used to having cyclists on the inside and expects that's where they stay at all times.

Anyway, Granchester arrives and is a fairly pleasant place. Past central green, Green Man pub, and the church then down the hill swinging to the left and to the right until passing one reach of the river Cam that runs through the mill. This is the highest point above Cambridge to which one can punt. It's a lovely pool with open banks, willow trees, and sculpture of a horse. In late spring you'll see a swan's nest with several cygnets. Across the plain to the main reach of the Cam that leads up to Byron's Pool.

River Cam to Trumpington Crossing.

Trumpington Crossing to Addenbrookes Cycle Path, Shelford.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Addenbrookes Roundabout.

Addenbrookes Roundabout up to and over Hills Road Bridge.