Note: The Cottenham-Histon cyclepath has now been upgraded and this post does not reflect its current state.
Part 1 - Cottenham to Histon boundary
I have been using the B1049 Cottenham to Histon cycle path for six years. It's bad for cyclists. This has been recognised, it is being upgraded, but unfortunately only some of the problems are being solved.
In its current state, a cyclist feels compelled to use this cycle path, even though it adds inconvenience and danger to their journey. If you use the road, you will be hooted at in anger by a small minority who obviously feel that because there is a sign that says cycle path you should be using it.
Of course, once the upgrade has happened, there will be even more pressure to use it, even if it still adds danger. Those drivers who don't use it, will not understand the issues and will be trying to intimidate cyclists off the road even more than before.
What follows is a detailed break down, from a cyclists perspective of the cycle path. As you follow, think about the different users, confident adult cyclist, timid/inexperienced adult cyclist, and teenager. Would you want your child to use this cycle path ?
The cycle path starts at the edge of the 30mph zone, also the end of the village.
Before the cycle path starts, you must cycle on the road within the 30mph section. However, you do get close overtakes from frustrated drivers. Twice now, I have managed to speak with drivers who were dangerously close (actually one threatened to run me off the road) and they both thought I should have been on the cycle path - except there isn't one within the 30mph zone. It an easy mistake to make, the shared use cyclepath looks like a footpath, and to be honest, it is a footpath with a blue sign erected.
When arriving in the village, a lot of cyclists continue on the footpath because it can be difficult and dangerous to cross two lanes of rush hour traffic. Because you have to do this twice (first in Histon), it can be safer to avoid crossing and take the road.
The initial plans for the upgrade to the cycle path had a traffic light crossing. These were removed from the plans due to cost.
The path continues in a straight line next to the road. Something you notice as a cyclist is that the surface is not as smooth as the road, and this sapps your speed and makes cycling harder work. On a bike with racing-thin tyres it can be uncomfortable. On the way into Cambridge it is rare to see a cyclist on the road - you feel compelled to use it.
One of the rare times I cycled on the road, a woman wound her window down and swore many times at me. You would imagine from her anger that she was held up for a long time but this was not rush hour and there was no oncoming traffic. This kind of behaviour is somewhat like racism but sadly is not that uncommon.
When wet, it can be a little slippery. The slipperyness isn't a great problem, until the day you have to make an emergency stop.
Even with mudguards, your feet and panniers can end up splattered with mud. When dry, large vehicles kick up dust as they pass.
Prior to this post, it has been uncleaned for about three months. A few weeks ago, I notified the council, but this is obviously a lower priority than pot holes and other maintenance.
Notice the ditch to the left. I know of one person who has ended up in that ditch whilst cycling ... but he was drunk at the time.
A second problem is that the road is also fairly thin. Sometimes, you get the 50mph wing mirrors from buses and HGV's overhanging the cycle path on this corner - at head height.
For comparison, compare my wheel to the wheel in this cycle path in Holland and you can see how thin our cycle path is. If overlaid, it would cover only a tiny strip of the Dutch cycle path. This is a small part of how cycling in Holland has been made so popular.
The picture is borrowed from a fascinating post in another blog I follow by David Hembrow: How wide is your cycle path
You've seen above how thin the cycle path is. Now try to imagine cycling this at night, perhaps with only a weak spot from your cheap light illuminated in front of you. Now there is oncoming traffic giving you temporary blindness. For extra fun, its raining and you are wearing glasses. Occasionally a totally invisible pedestrian or road works sign will appear from nowhere.
It is really hard to capture this on film. This is the best I have done so far.
[ continues in Part 2 - Histon boundary to the A14 ]