Friday 27 July 2012

Silly Cyclepath Route Near Sawston

National Cycle Network Route 11 goes south from Cambridge along the fantastic Addenbrookes cyclepath. Through the leafy villages of Great Shelford and Stapleford it joins quiet roads before crossing the main A1301 in the village and joining a shared path. This is one of the better ones, although it could do with a bit more space.  It takes the rider south crossing the river Granta (a side stream that turns into the Bourn) in a nice green space called Clerk's Piece and then on towards Sawston on the side of the A1301.

The junction to the north of Sawston is a bit of a disaster area. It's clearly been designed with the idea of making sure people cycling stop before crossing either road in some kind of hyper-safe manner, whilst clearly saying that people driving shouldn't bother their little heads with vunerable people crossing, and continue to speed along the road.

Here's a satellite picture showing routes around this, although I'd recommend looking at the map in Google Maps (and below) as it's much more interactive.

View Sawston Junction in a larger map

Notice the way that the planned cycle route follows a series of tight turns. On the bike there is no need for them at all, so why are they there? The only reason that I can see for using a good perceanage more tarmac than is needed, and in such a twisted way, is to make people cycling slow down.

However, this is only done in space that is available, so it's not really a serious priority. Notice the funny loop on the east side of the A1301 is not repeated on the west side because there's limited space. So, it's fine unless digging and/or land purchase is needed. What does that say about the real importance of the loop?

What is the pratical result of this peculiar cyclepath arrangement. Well, it's quite clear that most people cycling don't use it. So, for all the posible (although arguable) safety enhancements the result is that they are completely ignored. There are 3 paths that most people cycling adopt, completely legally, to avoid the unnecessary meanderings. First, even using both crossings, there's now a well worn path (in purple) cutting the corner and straightening the route. Then, for either direction a lot of people cycling simply completely ignore the cyclepath across the island and use the road instead (green and turquoise).

Effectively, any safety enhancements planned are so over the top that they are completely ignored, thus actually making the junction more dangerous not less.

So what should be done here. A simple answer would be the red route. Taking the cycle route further down the A1301 and crossing after the junction. This reduces the number of road crossings from 2 down to 1, reducing danger considerably. It's also of similar length and reduces the need to "slow down" people cycling, something that it close to our hearts!

This could be included in a revamped National Cycle Network Route 11 that goes alongside the A1301 (yellow route) to it's eventual destination at the mill junction (next one down). For school reasons, the current National Cycle Network Route 11does a big dogleg through the village. This is still needed for the school kids, but for anyone going further it's frustrating to have to go 40-50% further than necessary!

The knock-on from the red route change is that the road junction would become more limited. By putting the crossing in that place, the turn for road traffic from the northbound A1301 (so from the bottom of the picture) onto the "Cambridge Road" back to Sawston would have to be taken away. The lane for the turn appears in the middle of the road which would be required for a crossing island. Okay, now pan back on Google Maps to see how many may be affected by losing this turn. I can see maybe 2 locations, essentially nobody really. So no-one needs to do this turn.

Then looking at what removing that turn does. It means the only required road access form the A1301 onto the "Cambridge Road" is from the north (top), which is served by the slip-lane at the north-east (top right corner). So why not make the junction one-way only? The reduces the amount of space needed for the road and could be used to improve the cycle junction.

I confess I don't know when this cycling provision was put in. I suspect the past decade. It may be a small thing, but it shows the attitude. The entire scheme smacks of a complete failure to understand any of the practical results or spot any of the obvious gains by a bit more thought. What clearly has been thought: YOU CANNOT TAKE ANYTHING FROM THE MOTORISTS! NOT ANYTHING! And with that attitude goes a whole generation of potential transport improvements for all people, including motorists.

Celebrating the British Victory

Although that title is a bit misleading. Cycle teams really don't think nationality-wise. It's about your team mates.

A few celebratory pictures from my living room.

Close up of Cav on his way to the fourth Champs-Élysées win.

Cav riding in line.

The best of British cycling together.

Oi! Bloody Right Light Jumping Cyclists!

The move onto the Champs-Élysées. Note the celebration about to happen, and may just see the Lotto bottle on the shelves. Given from the back of a support vehicle on top of the Col du Solour in 2010. It was full of a rather sweet pink, hot liquid (it was pouring with rain at ~1500m above see level). Quite what else was in the drink, we didn't know!

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.