Note: The Cottenham-Histon cyclepath has now been upgraded and this post does not reflect its current state.
Part 2 - Histon boundary to the A14
[ continued from Part 1 - Cottenham to Histon boundary ]
The northern part of Histon has this shared use cycle path alongside a 40mph road. To a new or returning cyclist, this path would seem a much better option than being on the road.
In the photo's background, there is a white lorry parked across on the path. Of course nobody wants to inconvenience road traffic, but for the cyclist using this path, they have the difficulty of merging from a footpath, onto the road without priority. It is hard merging with 40mph traffic when you are only doing 10-20mph. If you were cycling on the road you would already have priority and the worry of overtaking is with the (safety protected) motor traffic.
Blocked cycle paths and lanes are very common.
Cycling requires real physical effort, and that is one reason why many people don't want to cycle. The path surface is not as smooth as the road, and has continuous dropped kerbs which act a little like speed bumps.
The result is that cycling is about 20% faster (or more efficient) on the road than the path. A headwind is bad enough, but the combination really saps speed.
It takes an average person 30-45 minutes to cycle from Cottenham to central Cambridge. That is a consistent time, unaffected by traffic queues and A14 crashes. The time and effort that journey takes can be significantly reduced by not using the cycle path.
This photo shows a very good reason for not using the shared use path.
Driveways often have obscured vision due to plants and bushes which means that car bonnets (and people) can pop out into the middle of your path.
If this cyclist had chosen to use the cycle path, they may have been involved in a nasty accident (for the cyclist).
At the junction of Cottenham Road and Glebe way there is a popular bus stop.
This brings you into close proximity with pedestrians which means you need to slow down again.
At Garden Walk, the pre-upgraded shared use cycle path comes to an end. This junction shows a classic problem with shared use paths.
If you cycle on the road, traffic at the side road or wanting to turn in has to give way and because you have priority - you simply cycle past this junction.
For the cyclist using the shared use path you lose priority and have to slow down or stop. A bigger problem is that it is not just the side road traffic you have to watch out for, in addition you have to watch for traffic turning into the side road.
Thats three different directions over a 270° range. Garden Walk is low traffic so risk is low but you still need to slow.
With the cycle path ended, you must join the 40mph road traffic.
At the extreme right of the photo you can see potholes. A cyclist can fall off if they hit those so need to go round them. That can be dangerous with traffic that overtakes too closely.
The newly put in on-road cycle lane - at its thinnest part it is 112cm wide.
Cambridge Cycle Campaign research says that recommended widths by many different bodies should be 2.0m wide for safety.
The cycle lane legitimises close passing which increases the risk of collision. Without the lanes, you got more room by overtaking vehicles.
The cones in place, artificially show how much room is left if a car was forced over by oncoming traffic.
In general, motorists do not want to cross a white line as it is a psychological barrier - if crossed, they are in a danger area where they could have a head on collision with oncoming traffic. As a result, vehicles will try to squeeze between a cyclist and any white line.
Correct positioning of the bicycle on the road can help control the room left by overtaking cars, but with this lane design that task is made more difficult as there is pressure to use the (too thin) cycle lane.
The upgrade has started and is doubling the shared use path width to 2.4m in most places. Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to pass each other much more easily.
The upgrade will encourage more cycling by young and timid cyclists which is a good thing. One unfortunate side effect will be the increased pressure for advanced and fast cyclists to use this path which will increase danger to those cyclists and pedestrians.
Nearer to the A14, Bridge Road's on-road cycle lanes have already been upgraded. The increased width is much safer in both directions.
The final part, I will mention is the A14 roundabout. To get over it, almost all cyclists use the shared use paths around the edge. The problem is the crossing of two slip roads.
The traffic on and joining the roundabout is traffic light controlled - cyclists do not have their own signal control. They will needs to cross each slip road in the gap between one traffic light going to red, and the other to green.
Most traffic does not indicate so it can be difficult to work out which vehicles will turn off the roundabout and is compounded by the speeds on this fast trunk road junction.
There are a lot of teenage students tring to get to college in this area. They probably take more risks than adults and are unable to read the road as they are not yet drivers.
The dangers pointed out in these posts should not put you off cycling. One reason for posting them was to help point out the increased dangers so you can avoid them.
The danger from traffic is mostly perceived and your chances of being involved in an accident are very slim, especially if you get adult cycling training or read advanced cycling books like John Franklin's Cycle Craft.
The overall health benefits of cycling outweight any other risks.
All but the last photo were taken by me, and have been uploaded to the Photo Map on Cycle Streets.