Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Road Safety Statistics for Cambridge City 2009-2011

WARNING: Before you start reading, this is a long post that deserves to be read in detail. If you just have a quick look you will likely miss a lot of the context.

Quick links to the tables below:

Casualty numbers.
Pedestrian and cyclist casualties, with other vehicles involved.
Percentage of casualties by light conditions.
Light conditions with street lighting.
Pedestrian and cyclist casualties by age.
Where were pedestrians when injured?
Where were pedestrians when injured? Vehicles and Severity.
Where were cyclists when injured ?
Where were cyclists when injured ? (A/B/C roads)
Where were cyclists when injured ? Vehicles and Severity.
Which roads are dangerous for cyclist and pedestrians ?
Which roads are dangerous for cyclist and pedestrians ? Junction detail.
Which junction features are dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians ?

Whenever I hear a debate about cyclists I hear a lot of anecdotal evidence, some of it plausible and some that is complete nonsense. I like to cut through that and explore objective information that has less bias. The best we have are the STATS19 reports filled in by the Police after collisions they attend.

STATS19 data is used in many sources, here are a few:

CambridgeshireCC Mapped Accident Data. [check Transport & Streets / Accidents ]
CycleStreets Collision Map and Reporting
DfT Road Accidents and Safety Statistics
DfT Road Collisions Map
Levenes Solicitors cycle accident map.
Raw Data for STATS19

Cambridge itself has a very different population to most of the UK, with 25% of commutes by bicycle and a large student population. Any campaign to improve safety needs to back this up with good data specific for this area.

All of the statistical results in this page are based upon STATS19 data 2009-2011 for Cambridge City. This excludes other Cambridgeshire districts such as South Cambs.  I chose a three year range as it is used by the council to score accident sites.

What is STATS19 ?

In short, it is the document filled in by the Police for accidents.  There is a lot of information and includes:

  • Location of accident: coordinates: road name(s), junction detail, footway etc.
  • Casualty information: how many, age range, sex, pedestrian or their vehicle(s).
  • Vehicles involved
The guide for filling in the STATS19 form is called STATS20.

Important information about STATS19:
  • Not all accidents make it into STATS19. It is only where the Police atttended or were informed after.
  • The data does not say who was at fault, only what casualties and vehicles were involved.
  • Contributary factors are not publicly available for each accident. The DfT have provided me with a document summarising contributary factors in Cambridge City 2009-2011. I have made this available via google docs until it can be hosted elsewhere.
Accident/Casualty Severity
  • Fatal: Death within 30 days of the accident.
  • Serious: An injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an “in-patient”, or any of the following injuries  whether or not they are detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns (excluding friction burns), severe cuts, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the accident. An injured casualty is recorded as seriously or slightly injured by the police on the basis of information available within a short time of the accident. This generally will not reflect the results of a medical examination, but may be influenced according to whether the casualty is hospitalised or not. Hospitalisation procedures will vary regionally". 
  • Slight: "An injury of a minor character such as a sprain (including neck whiplash injury), bruise or cut which are not judged to be severe, or slight shock requiring roadside attention. This definition includes injuries not requiring medical treatment".

Casualty numbers

The tables in this page focus on accidents where pedestrians and cyclists are involved. Not all accidents are listed, such as motorcycles. Car occupant casualties are shown for comparison.

casualtycasualty severitycount
Car occupantFatal2
Car occupantSerious19
Car occupantSlight348

2011 Census data shows 31.9% of people who live in Cambridge commute by bicycle. Travel for Work which asks people who work in Cambridge, and therefore include residents living outside the city estimate 22-26% of commutes are by bicycle.

Pedestrian and Cyclist Casualties, with other vehicles involved. (no blame attributed)

casualtycasualty severityvehicle typecount
CyclistFatalTaxi/Private hire car1
CyclistSeriousVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under6
CyclistSeriousTaxi/Private hire car3
CyclistSeriousBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)3
CyclistSeriousPedal cycle2
CyclistSeriousGoods 7.5 tonnes mgw and over2
CyclistSeriousMotorcycle over 500cc2
CyclistSeriousMotorcycle 125cc and under1
CyclistSlightVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under39
CyclistSlightTaxi/Private hire car30
CyclistSlightBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)28
CyclistSlightPedal cycle11
CyclistSlightGoods over 3.5t. and under 7.5t6
CyclistSlightGoods 7.5 tonnes mgw and over4
CyclistSlightOther vehicle3
CyclistSlightMotorcycle over 500cc2
CyclistSlightMinibus (8 - 16 passenger seats)1
CyclistSlightMotorcycle 125cc and under1
PedestrianFatalBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)1
PedestrianSeriousPedal cycle3
PedestrianSeriousMotorcycle 50cc and under1
PedestrianSeriousTaxi/Private hire car1
PedestrianSeriousVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under1
PedestrianSeriousBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)1
PedestrianSeriousGoods 7.5 tonnes mgw and over1
PedestrianSlightPedal cycle24
PedestrianSlightBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)13
PedestrianSlightTaxi/Private hire car7
PedestrianSlightVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under6
PedestrianSlightGoods over 3.5t. and under 7.5t2
PedestrianSlightMotorcycle 50cc and under1
PedestrianSlightMotorcycle over 125cc and up to 500cc1
PedestrianSlightMotorcycle over 500cc1

The table above does not attribute fault but using other data sources we can infer some likelihood.

With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time. (cites TRL research of data 2005-09)

DfT data tells us the largest contributary factor in collisions is 'failing to look properly'. For Cambridge City this amounts to 335 of 695 or 48% of accidents involving all vehicle types.

Another DfT document looked at two vehicle accidents and the blame is heavily skewed towards cars and LGVs. Source: 
RAS50014 Two vehicle accidents in which a driver or rider had "failed to look properly" as a contributory factor: GB 2011

Fault in each combination:

  • cycle 18% - 49% lgv
  • cycle 21% - 45% car
  • cycle 18% - 30% hgv
  • cycle 32% - 24% bus/coach
  • cycle 38% - 22% motorcycle

Percentage of casualties by light conditions:

Car occupantDark132 36%
Car occupantDaylight23764%
CyclistDark173 25%
CyclistDaylight521 75%
PedestrianDark46 30%
PedestrianDaylight109 70%

It is surprising that cycling appears to be safer in the dark relative to walking or driving. This could be that people cycle less in the dark, or perhaps those without lights are taking greater care because of their vulnerability ?

I have a theory that unlit cyclists keep off the roads at night and cycle on pavements where they are away from the danger of motor vehicles.

The DfT Contributory Factors for Cambridge City 2009-2011, show:
  • Not displaying lights at night or in poor visibility. 8 of 695 accidents (all vehicle types).
  • Cyclist wearing dark clothing at night. 14 of 695. [this is not an offence]
The low percentages for cause agree with previous national TRL research summarised by the Guardian.

Light conditions with street lighting: 

Car occupantDarkness - lighting unknown9
Car occupantDarkness - lights lit112
Car occupantDarkness - lights unlit4
Car occupantDarkness - no lighting7
Car occupantDaylight237
CyclistDarkness - lighting unknown19
CyclistDarkness - lights lit146
CyclistDarkness - lights unlit6
CyclistDarkness - no lighting2
PedestrianDarkness - lighting unknown4
PedestrianDarkness - lights lit39
PedestrianDarkness - lights unlit1
PedestrianDarkness - no lighting2

Pedestrian and Cyclist Casualties by age.

Note: age brackets are different sizes. I have grouped together children under 15. The original data has 5yr brackets to 25, then 10yr brackets to 75.

casualtyage bandcount
Cyclist26 - 35161
Cyclist36 - 4591
Cyclist46 - 5572
Cyclist56 - 6543
Cyclist66 - 7512
CyclistOver 757
Pedestrian26 - 3527
Pedestrian36 - 4519
Pedestrian46 - 557
Pedestrian56 - 6510
Pedestrian66 - 757
PedestrianOver 7512

<null> means missing data.

The general casualty numbers in the first table already showed that cyclists are involved in more accidents. In this table we can see how young people are more affected. It is slightly surprising that the peak for both pedestrians and cyclists is 26-35, past what I consider a typical undergraduate and college age.

We can also see that casualty numbers for those 65+ are low in comparison.

The Guardian article also says for child riders, fault lay with them more than three-quarters of the time. This shows the importance of cycle training and providing cycle routes away from motor vehicles where they live and go to school.

Where were pedestrians when injured?

pedestrian locationcount
Crossing elsewhere within 50m. of pedestrian crossing12
Crossing in zig-zag approach lines2
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facility30
In carriageway, crossing elsewhere53
In carriageway, not crossing18
In centre of carriageway - not on refuge, island or central reservation7
On footway or verge28
On refuge, central island or central reservation1
Unknown or other9

Crossing the road is an obvious issue, but it is surprising that pedestrian crossings and footway/verge is an issue.

Where were pedestrians when injured? Vehicles and Severity.

Ordered by location, severity, count.

pedestrian locationvehicle typecasualty severitycount
Crossing elsewhere within 50m. of pedestrian crossingCarSerious5
Crossing elsewhere within 50m. of pedestrian crossingCarSlight4
Crossing elsewhere within 50m. of pedestrian crossing<null>Slight1
Crossing elsewhere within 50m. of pedestrian crossingTaxi/Private hire carSlight1
Crossing elsewhere within 50m. of pedestrian crossingPedal cycleSlight1
Crossing in zig-zag approach linesCarSerious1
Crossing in zig-zag approach lines<null>Slight1
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityCarSerious4
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityPedal cycleSerious1
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facility<null>Serious1
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or underSerious1
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityCarSlight15
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityPedal cycleSlight5
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityMotorcycle over 500ccSlight1
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facility<null>Slight1
Crossing on pedestrian crossing facilityBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Slight1
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Fatal1
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereCarSerious6
In carriageway, crossing elsewherePedal cycleSerious2
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Serious1
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereMotorcycle 50cc and underSerious1
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereGoods 7.5 tonnes mgw and overSerious1
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereCarSlight21
In carriageway, crossing elsewherePedal cycleSlight9
In carriageway, crossing elsewhere<null>Slight3
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereTaxi/Private hire carSlight3
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or underSlight2
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Slight2
In carriageway, crossing elsewhereMotorcycle over 125cc and up to 500ccSlight1
In carriageway, not crossingTaxi/Private hire carSerious1
In carriageway, not crossingCarSerious1
In carriageway, not crossingCarSlight10
In carriageway, not crossingPedal cycleSlight3
In carriageway, not crossingVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or underSlight1
In carriageway, not crossingBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Slight1
In carriageway, not crossingTaxi/Private hire carSlight1
In centre of carriageway - not on refuge, island or central reservationCarSerious3
In centre of carriageway - not on refuge, island or central reservationCarSlight2
In centre of carriageway - not on refuge, island or central reservation<null>Slight1
In centre of carriageway - not on refuge, island or central reservationTaxi/Private hire carSlight1
On footway or vergeCarSerious4
On footway or vergePedal cycleSlight6
On footway or vergeCarSlight6
On footway or vergeBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Slight6
On footway or vergeVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or underSlight3
On footway or vergeMotorcycle 50cc and underSlight1
On footway or vergeTaxi/Private hire carSlight1
On footway or vergeGoods over 3.5t. and under 7.5tSlight1
On refuge, central island or central reservationBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Slight1
Unknown or otherCarSerious1
Unknown or otherCarSlight4
Unknown or otherBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)Slight2
Unknown or otherGoods over 3.5t. and under 7.5tSlight1
Unknown or other<null>Slight1

Typical complaints in Cambridge are:

1) Cyclists ignore traffic lights causing danger to pedestrians.
It appears that motor vehicles are implicated in 3.5 times the number of casualties:
'Crossing on a pedestrian crossing facility': 22 motor vehicle. 6 pedal cycles.
There are of course more motor vehicles on the road which results in an almost equal chance of an individual cyclist or motorist injuring a pedestrian at a pedestrian crossing.

2) Cyclists of pavements cause problems for pedestrians.
'On footway or verge': 22 motor vehicles, 6 pedal cycles. The 4 serious were by cars, the rest were slight.

Where were cyclists injured ?

vehicle location restricted lanecasualty severitycount
Bus laneSlight1
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)Serious7
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)Slight63
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)Serious5
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)Slight19
Footway (pavement)Serious3
Footway (pavement)Slight28
On lay-by or hard shoulderSlight1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneFatal1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSerious65
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlight513

Raw numbers suggest cycle lanes are much safer than roads without. It is difficult to measure their effectiveness without knowing how many journeys were made in cycle lanes, or their length.

Where were cyclists injured ? (A/B/C roads)

This table limits the road classes to A, B, and C roads.  They will be the busy routes into the city and are far more likely to have cycle and bus lanes.

Bus laneSlight1
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)Serious7
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)Slight57
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)Serious5
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)Slight17
Footway (pavement)Serious1
Footway (pavement)Slight21
On main c'way - not in restricted laneFatal1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSerious48
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlight397

Where were cyclists injured ? Vehicles and Severity.

vehicle location restricted lanecasualty severityvehicle typecount
Bus laneSlightBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)1
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SeriousCar4
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)Serious<null>2
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SeriousVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under1
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SlightCar43
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)Slight<null>7
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SlightBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)7
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SlightVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under3
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SlightGoods over 3.5t. and under 7.5t1
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SlightPedal cycle1
Cycle lane (on main carriageway)SlightTaxi/Private hire car1
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)SeriousCar4
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)Serious<null>1
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)Slight<null>8
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)SlightCar8
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)SlightOther vehicle1
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)SlightPedal cycle1
Cycleway or shared use footway (not part of main carriageway)SlightVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under1
Footway (pavement)SeriousCar2
Footway (pavement)SeriousTaxi/Private hire car1
Footway (pavement)SlightCar21
Footway (pavement)SlightTaxi/Private hire car3
Footway (pavement)Slight<null>2
Footway (pavement)SlightPedal cycle1
Footway (pavement)SlightVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under1
On lay-by or hard shoulderSlightCar1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneFatalTaxi/Private hire car1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousCar42
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSerious<null>6
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under5
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)3
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousMotorcycle over 500cc2
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousGoods 7.5 tonnes mgw and over2
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousTaxi/Private hire car2
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousPedal cycle2
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSeriousMotorcycle 125cc and under1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightCar365
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlight<null>45
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightVan / Goods 3.5 tonnes mgw or under34
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightTaxi/Private hire car26
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightBus or coach (17 or more pass seats)20
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightPedal cycle8
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightGoods over 3.5t. and under 7.5t5
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightGoods 7.5 tonnes mgw and over4
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightOther vehicle2
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightMotorcycle over 500cc2
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightMinibus (8 - 16 passenger seats)1
On main c'way - not in restricted laneSlightMotorcycle 125cc and under1

Which roads are dangerous for cyclist and pedestrians ?

Note: The council have an more intelligent algorithm for calculating dangerous stretches of roads and accident cluster sites, based on road length and considers severities.

road class road num/namecount
AA1304 Outer Ring160
AA1307 Hunt/Hills/Bab99
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/East79
CMill Road68
CCherry Hinton Road49
AA1309 Milton Road47
AA1303 Madingley Road42
CTrumpington Street41
CNewmarket Road28
CVictoria Avenue23
CCastle Street20
BB1049 Histon Road19
CGreen End & Scotland Road19
CColdhams Lane18
CHigh Street, Cambridge17
CRegent Street16
CArbury Road12
CKings Hedges Road6
CTennis Court Road ?6
CGilbert Road5
CBrooklands Ave4
CGranchester Road2
CLime Kiln Road2
CGirton Road1
CHigh Street, Granchester1
CMaris Lane, Trumpington1

Which roads are dangerous for cyclist and pedestrians ? Junction detail.

Of our major routes, roundabouts on the A1304 Ring Road score badly.

road classroad num/namejunction detailcount
U0Not at junction or within 20 metres88
U0T or staggered junction70
AA1304 Outer RingRoundabout62
AA1307 Hunt/Hills/BabT or staggered junction43
AA1304 Outer RingT or staggered junction34
AA1304 Outer RingNot at junction or within 20 metres26
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastT or staggered junction26
CMill RoadT or staggered junction22
AA1307 Hunt/Hills/BabNot at junction or within 20 metres20
U0Private drive or entrance20
CTrumpington StreetT or staggered junction19
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastCrossroads18
CMill RoadCrossroads18
CMill RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres16
AA1303 Madingley RoadT or staggered junction15
AA1304 Outer RingPrivate drive or entrance15
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastNot at junction or within 20 metres13
CNewmarket RoadRoundabout13
AA1309 Milton RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres12
AA1309 Milton RoadT or staggered junction12
CCherry Hinton RoadT or staggered junction12
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastRoundabout10
CCherry Hinton RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres10
AA1307 Hunt/Hills/BabCrossroads9
BB1049 Histon RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres9
AA1307 Hunt/Hills/BabPrivate drive or entrance8
AA1309 Milton RoadPrivate drive or entrance8
CCastle StreetNot at junction or within 20 metres8
CTrumpington StreetNot at junction or within 20 metres8
CGreen End & Scotland RoadT or staggered junction7
CNewmarket RoadT or staggered junction7
CRegent StreetNot at junction or within 20 metres7
AA1304 Outer RingCrossroads6
BB1049 Histon RoadT or staggered junction6
CColdhams LaneT or staggered junction6
AA1304 Outer RingMini-roundabout5
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastMini-roundabout5
CArbury RoadPrivate drive or entrance5
CCherry Hinton RoadCrossroads5
CGreen End & Scotland RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres5
CHigh Street, CambridgeNot at junction or within 20 metres5
CKings Hedges RoadT or staggered junction5
CVictoria AvenueNot at junction or within 20 metres5
AA1303 Madingley RoadCrossroads4
AA1309 Milton RoadCrossroads4
CArbury RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres4
CCastle StreetT or staggered junction4
CCherry Hinton RoadPrivate drive or entrance4
CColdhams LaneNot at junction or within 20 metres4
CHigh Street, CambridgeMini-roundabout4
CNewmarket RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres4
CRegent StreetT or staggered junction4
CVictoria AvenueT or staggered junction4
U0Other junction3
A1301Private drive or entrance2
AA1303 Madingley RoadPrivate drive or entrance2
AA1303 Madingley RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres2
B1047T or staggered junction2
CArbury RoadT or staggered junction2
CBrooklands AvePrivate drive or entrance2
CCastle StreetPrivate drive or entrance2
CGilbert RoadCrossroads2
CGreen End & Scotland RoadMini-roundabout2
CHigh Street, CambridgeT or staggered junction2
CTennis Court Road ?Crossroads2
AA1303 Madingley RoadOther junction1
AA1304 Outer RingOther junction1
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastOther junction1
AA603 Barton/FenC/Lensf/Gonv/EastMore than 4 arms (not roundabout)1
BB1049 Histon RoadPrivate drive or entrance1
BB1049 Histon RoadCrossroads1
CArbury RoadRoundabout1
CCastle StreetRoundabout1
CCherry Hinton RoadOther junction1
CColdhams LaneRoundabout1
CGilbert RoadT or staggered junction1
CGreen End & Scotland RoadRoundabout1
CGreen End & Scotland RoadPrivate drive or entrance1
CGreen End & Scotland RoadOther junction1
CHigh Street, CambridgePrivate drive or entrance1
CHigh Street, GranchesterT or staggered junction1
CKings Hedges RoadNot at junction or within 20 metres1
CMill RoadPrivate drive or entrance1
CNewmarket RoadCrossroads1
CTennis Court Road ?Private drive or entrance1
CTennis Court Road ?T or staggered junction1
CTrumpington StreetCrossroads1
CTrumpington StreetOther junction1
CTrumpington StreetPrivate drive or entrance1

Which junction features are dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians ?

junction detailcount
T or staggered junction305
Not at junction or within 20 metres247
Private drive or entrance74
Other junction9
More than 4 arms (not roundabout)1

It is not clear in the data which vehicle would be at the T, and which would be at a side road. The top result could be as a result of SMIDSY's (vehicle pulls out into path of cyclists they didn't spot).

The second result, not at a junction, is likely to be the result of overtaking cyclists. Close passing is a well cited problem amongst cyclists.


The statistics are quite clear. If you want to improve safety for cyclists, you should segregate from motor vehicles, or create safer junctions. If segregation is not possible, dealing with the following contributory factors would target 94% of all accidents for all road users:
  • Failed to look properly: 335 / 48%
  • Failed to judge other person’s path or speed: 126 / 18%
  • Poor turn or manoeuvre: 107 / 15%
  • Careless, reckless or in a hurry: 86 / 12%
Finding a way to crackdown on those rushing out of junctions without care and also close passing, again by people rushing would be the best way to reduce cycling casualties.

These are offences that require an officer to use their judgement before issuing a fixed penalty notice.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Vehicles per hour on the Cambridge commute

Way back in March 2011, the Police did one week automated speed surveys in Cottenham. Here are a few facts and figures with a focus for cycle commuters going to and from Cambridge. Cottenham is 7 miles north of central Cambridge.

The numbers are only for the peak hours Mon-Fri. Vehicles per hour are in one direction. Traffic levels drop off significantly outside of these hours. Averages are median of 5 days totals.

Histon Road 30mph, Southbound towards Cambridge:
08:00-08:59  762 vehicles per hour, one car every 4.7 seconds. 24% >35mph.
09:00-9:59   790 vehicles per hour, one car every 4.6 seconds. 15% >35mph.
The amount of traffic arriving at Twenty Pence Road on the northern edge of Cottenham is 74% and 76% of the Histon Road levels.

Histon Road 30mph, Northbound returning from Cambridge.
16:00-16:59  378 vehicles per hour, one car every 9.5 seconds. 24% >35mph.
17:00-17:59  566 vehicles per hour, one car every 6.4 seconds. 21% >35mph.
18:00-18:59  695 vehicles per hour, ne car every 5.2 seconds. 18% >35mph.
The amount of traffic exiting at Twenty Pence Road is 56%, 60% and 57% of the Histon Road levels.

Before 9am has always had an more edgy and rushed feel to it - my instincts are right. My instincts also tell me that 8:50am is a terrible time for speeding, worse than 8:30am and I have wondered if this is the gonna-be-late-for-work effect.

I have also noticed that traffic in the 4pm slot is running faster and I have suspected the white van effect. A quick scan of the raw data suggests that Category2 vehicles (>6m long) are only 10% of the traffic on Histon Road and do not speed more than other vehicles.  Exiting on Twenty Pence Road however, is a very different story, with a much larger proportion of vans and 10% higher speeds than category 1.

I've included the numbers comparisons for Twenty Pence Road as I sometimes wonder how much traffic is passing through the village as an alternative to using the parallel A10 trunk road.  The A10 typically queues from just south of Waterbeach to the A14 roundabout and the B1049 offers a parallel route. It is interesting to note the lower percentages of traffic passing in the reverse direction in the evening which gives a little weight to my theory.

The section of Histon Road between the mini roundabout and the beginning of the cyclepath is exactly 1km. This equates to 2-4 minutes of cycling (10-20mph range).  Assuming a rate of one car every 5 seconds, you are going to be overtaken by 24-48 cars on this stretch.  With typically a fifth of cars speeding at 36mph or more, you can begin to imagine how many unpleasant overtakes a cycle commuter must endure if they cycle on the road. It's not just the speeding cars, there are a lot of drivers simply wanting to overtake and may get frustrated by a slower cycle and oncoming traffic preventing an overtake if you ride away from the kerb. Kerb huggers will have many of these vehicles squeezing through.

You can halve the number of unpleasant overtakes by cycling at a lycra roadie speed of 20mph.  If you can't, that footpath must look like a safe haven, a necessity even.


I thought I might as well record how many cars pass me on this 1km stretch to see how it compares to the Police recordings.  I normally spend 2.5 minutes on Histon Road.


October half term school holiday week (i.e. very quiet)

Southbound Mon 08:50am. Just 6 passes in 2.5 minutes.
Southbound Tues 09:20am. 7 passes. Feels like a Ghost Town compared to normal.
Northbound Mon 18:30pm. An unbelievable 5, yes just 5.

November, during school term:
Southbound Wed 8:50am. 12 passes. (plus queue after I pulled onto path)
Southbound Thu 9:00am. 11 passes + 7 queued behind.
Southbound Fri 9:00am. 6 passes.
Southbound Mon 9:30am. 12 passes. (very little oncoming traffic, overtaking easy)
Southbound Wed 8:55am. 8 passes.
Southbound Thur 9:05am. 9 passes.

Northbound Wed 6:50pm. 6 passes (had to wait for traffic to clear)
Northbound Fri 6:00pm. 0 passes (very unusual!)
Northbound Wed 7:00pm. 4 passes.
Northbound Thurs 7:30pm. lost count, was distracted by overtakes at high speed.

I give up!  I lost count too many times when distracted by overtaking cars rushing to overtake in gaps that were too small. I'd end up concentrating on staying alive rather than being relaxed enough to count.


  • Southbound, when a normal busy week there is enough oncoming traffic to prevent cars overtaking if you ride out from the kerb. If you ride in the gutter the queuing cars will squeeze through.
  • Lack of overtaking opportunities because of oncoming traffic leads to frustrated drivers sitting on your tail right where you can't see them and where you feel most vulnerable.
  • Northbound, at the end of the cyclepath there is often a wave of traffic that has been released by the traffic lights in Histon.  Sometimes have to wait for the traffic to clear, sometimes it is clear then you get engulfed whilst on the road.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Dusk 'til Dawn 2012

The Dusk 'til Dawn (D2D) is a 12 hour overnight cross country mountain bike relay race held early October at Thetford Forest.

I took part in the D2D last year, and it was my first ever mountain bike race. It threw everything at us, rain, mud, cold, I got cramp for the first time ever, I took a tumble, I was ill the week after. But out of this hardship grew a challenge that presented itself not just at a personal level, but also at a team level which pushed me further than I would ever push myself and kept at bay that giving-up feeling. The event is completely devoid of bad attitude and from top to bottom of the leader board there is a really friendly atmosphere. It is such an inclusive event, challenging and fun at the same time with a whole heap of camaraderie.

Last year we put in some terrible lap times, but simply by not-giving-up and continuing as a team we pushed ourselves to just below average in the 3xMale category, 31st of 57. We were unbelievably chuffed with our first-time efforts and spotted that just one more lap would have boosted us to 16th place. We all knew we had room to improve and would have to come back in 2012 and give it another crack.  The Falloffalots would return.

2011 Lap times - Falloffalots
Lap 1 includes the pre-lap. My laps in bold.
(1) 01:12:33, (2) 01:15:40, (3) 01:08:16,
(4) 01:14:36, (5) 01:35:17, (6) 01:19:58,
(7) 01:42:49, (8) 02:20:29, (9) 01:35:30
Total time: 13:25:08
31st of 57


My normal training mostly consists of a 25 minute leg-it-to-work-and-back by bicycle in winter, and in summer I lengthen my commute in one direction to 45-60 minutes depending on the time I have available. I may also grab 1-2 hour ride every other weekend.

Some months before the D2D, I and one team mate started riding Thetford regularly together. Our aim was to get used to riding the terrain at a faster pace than we would on a social ride. Our abilities were not evenly matched which had the effect of making the slower rider sprint to keep up then have to go slow to recover, and the faster rider would have a sedate ride. We solved this by having a social ride to warm up and enjoy, testing out a few bomb holes, and then to finish an evenings ride with a full on blast round the full 10 mile Beater Trail (formerly the Red). At the same time we discovered Strava which added a fantastic virtual challenge. In the end I managed to achieve a 7th place overall on the Long Red segment.

As October approached, we got more practice in darker conditions and in the final two weeks before the D2D the car parks in the weekday evenings went from lonely to heaving.

Race Weekend

Logistics began by pitching our tents on the Friday night then returning home.  I'm glad we did, it was quite a chilly night. Kudos to those who were camping without heating on the night prior to the race. The third member of our team also arrived in the country, this time with two children in tow. In total there would be 3 racers and seven cheerleaders consisting of 2 wives, and 5 children.

I went first last year, and handed over the responsibility to our foreign team member. This year I was able to watch the start with my family. We all arrived and registered in good time, and from the arena I watched many riders go out to view the course in daylight. Same as last year I conserved energy by not bothering to view the course as I know my way round most of Thetford Forest. The race briefing came and went at 6pm then I watched as my team mates tried to get ready - finding black cycling clothes in a dark tent by torchlight - while bored children chased and screamed around them. Stresses and faff levels were high. Somehow I managed to maintain a zen like state and agreed to meet my wife and children at the start so I could prepare alone and think clearly.

At 7:30pm our lead out rider had escaped the family chaos and had already started queuing at the start line ready for the 8pm start.  When I showed, he was on the front row.  Last year we achieved similar lap times and considering we were completely average, I was starting to wonder if he had put in some serious training!

Get set, go !

7:55pm and I failed to find my family and bad reception meant I couldn't phone them, but did find my team mates family. At 8pm the gun went and all the riders chased the organiser's quad bike thing on the pre lap (used to spread the riders out before hitting single track). The line of riders went on for aaaaages.

Dusk 'til Dawn 2012 start

I found my family in the break and after about 10 minutes, the lead riders came back through the arena for their first full lap and boy they were flying. I wanted to spot our rider so I could judge how quickly he might return from his first full lap, but failed.  As the midfield came through, the audience decided that because they didn't know anyone, they might as well have a guess at names and shouted 'come on Dave!' to every rider.  My children loved the start, and my 6yr old boy was inspired - mission one accomplished - he wants to take part next year.  I said goodbye to my family who were returning home and very much looking forward to their warm beds and went to gather my things for my first lap.  I'll obviously need to work on the family if I am to get a pit crew.

Lap 2 - my first.

I came back to arena, had a chat with Wilburton Dick and my other team mate then rode around a little just to get my legs stretched.  Next I went into the corral waiting area in good time and went to find a place to park my bike.  It was heaving and there was nowhere to lean a bike on the fence.  Every time a rider went out another rider would arrive in the corral and manage to get their bike in the only free slot before I got there. After about 5 minutes I managed to park my bike.  I then waited with about 75 riders while bright lights arrived on the top of silhouette heads. After 15 minutes my team mate arrived. We exchanged band, and off I went, turning on my lights as I walked then jumped on the bike and onto the course for the first time.

Almost immediately I noticed I had an issue with my main light mounted on my head.  I've got cheapo Deal Extreme torches and I think one of my older batteries has a fault in the circuitry - giving it a bash made it bright again for about 30 seconds. I spent much of the first lap bashing myself on the head.

The initial part of the circuit was hard packed fire trail and was nice to warm up the legs, I was a little stiff and cold from standing around in the corral. I passed a few riders and felt pretty good. The course turned first to a straight grass track with a slightly slippery mud, and then into twistier single track, also with slippery mud. I saw a few fallers in this section.  It wasn't raining during the race but had the night before and the course was showing signs of wear, but praise-the-lord not wet!

Dusk 'til Dawn 2012 route

Somewhere around halfway into my lap, sweat had saturated the forehead foam in my helmet and was now constantly running into my eye.  This eventually caused me to lose a contact lense and I was having difficulty with depth perception, coupled with my light issues!  I locked onto the back wheel of other riders and used them as a guide, leap frogging ahead where possible but not being a hero.  I fell at low speed due to slipping on the side of a deep trench and landed on my ribs - ooof! They still hurt if poked three weeks later but not much during the race itself.

I recall Tom's pit being tricky, but managed to exit with only one dab at the top. I locked onto the wheel of a rider going a similar pace to me,  following for about 15 minutes and eventually got the confidence to pass after the Double Shocker. Almost immediately I fell again, slipping on a large tree root 45 degrees across the trail but immediately after a sharp corner, with my light I had no chance of seeing it. Hearing the music in the trees I knew the end of my one-eyed lap would be over soon, then through a tunnel of hanging colour array of glow sticks.  I came into the arena, whoohooped at the fabulously enthusiastic cow-bell ringers and handed over after 53m55s lap.

My gears were suffering after one lap so I rinsed my drive train under the dog tap, then returned to the tent. First changing into dry clothes, then having a cup of tea and a bagel with peanut butter and a Delia home wife-made energy bar, mmm nutty date apricot chocolate consensed milk yummy calories - no scientific gels or bar things for me. I chatted to our lead out rider before he went out again listening to his worsening cough, not good for the team. I got into my sleeping bag and just as I was dropping off it was time to get up again.  We knew that this years better weather would bring faster lap times, and less sleep time, but all teams were in the same boat. Our theory was that it would be harder to get up the leader board with less people giving up.

I got dressed reusing some of my clothes because I don't have four sets of cycling clothes, and nearing midnight, I went to the corral for my second lap.  I'd got there 15 minutes too early again and was starting to shiver after 10.  Most other riders had brought coats which they left with their arriving team mate.  Why had we not thought of that?!?  The corral was half as full this time, and many of the riders I would see again for each of my laps.

Lap 5 - my second.

I went out for my second lap, this time with working lights and contact lenses which put me in a jolly mood.  I spoke with other riders as I went round and had a great time. In the first 10-15 minutes I recognised and passed many of the riders I saw in the corral.  A pattern that repeated with every lap.  The course had also dried a little and the course was a lot more fun to ride as a result.  I had great fun through many sections, especially Tom's Pit this year, and the join of the Moto Trail and Double Shocker.  I'd picked up a couple of following riders and as I was shouting 'watch out for this root, I fell on the last ...'  thump.  'Ow, found it!' came the call from behind.  'OK?', 'Yes!' so I carried on.

Last year my lap times had deteriorated through the night. The mud and rain was tough and I didn't know at the time, but I was taking ibuprofen for back ache but had become allergic to it and it may have affected my ability.  This year I wanted to put in consistent lap times so did not push too hard.  I remember a rider coming past who was breathing so heavily on the fire road I heard his approach about 10 seconds before passing. He was unable to speak, and perhaps in hindsight I was taking it a bit too easy.  I remember the speed at which the Giant riders passed and it wasn't a huge amount faster, but they did get on the podium. I'd also found I was just a little faster than many riders but not fit enough to sprint past where small opportunities presented. I found myself overtaking mostly on fire roads. The faster riders just had a knack for overtaking in the singletrack without waiting. The lap was completed one and half minutes slower than the first in 55m12s, now close to 1am.

My break followed the same routine as before: dog-tap, tea, bagel and energy bar, bed.  I woke for my third lap feeling chilly.  My sleeping bag is a minimal summer one, and even with a silk liner and winter coat over the top it was not quite enough to overcome the chill. Next year I must get a giant motorhome and someone to service my bike.  This time I changed into a complete set of dry clothes and took my winter coat to the corral, so much warmer this time.

Lap 8 - my third.

My third lap felt like the hardest due to the low temperatures. In the open sections of the course it was really foggy with visibility below 50 yards and headlamps lighting water droplets in the air rather than the track ahead.  The fog made for some stunning views of riders in the distance, with a halo of light surrounding them fading to pitch black. Stunningly beautiful.  My third lap was 57m32s.

On my return I checked the leaderboard - we were averaging over 1 hour per lap as a team and we were at 27th of 45. Knowing we had one team member with a chesty cough, hopes of a top 16 place were dashed.  I still had a personal aim of keeping consistent lap times.

Dog tap, change, tea, bagel with peanut butter but this time getting sick of them as they were a little dry. I'd forgotten butter and ham which would have been a nice change.  I forced it down and had a home made energy bar.  After waking I took a few jelly babies.

Lap 11 - my fourth.

My fourth lap started sometime after 6am in the dark with dawn breaking about 20 minutes in.  The Air Cadets were stirring and in a great mood, me too shouting 'morning!' to everyone of them. They were fantasticly happy for people who camped out and stayed awake all night.

I knew each of my laps was slightly slower than the last and were getting dangerously close to one hour.  I pushed a bit harder on this lap. I'd also got the knack of overtaking on single track which was handy as the solo riders were starting to struggle now.  I shouted what encouragement I could for them, 10 hours in and still riding.  I flew through the Whoops on this lap, a series of deep roller-coaster dips that which could be cleared pretty quickly with some well timed pumps but lose rhythm or line and you would be at a near standstill.

The last third of my lap was in the early morning light and the forest never looked so good.  I worked hard to overtake one rider and she stuck with me for the rest of the lap which had the benefit of pacing us both.  We chatted on and off and I discovered she was in a female pair, Cookson Cycles / Velocake, the only entrant in their category. They completed one more lap than our male 3 and were on the podium later - well deserved.  We crossed the line in jubilant spirits, happy to complete our final laps and with our personal aims of keeping all our laps under one hour complete. I finished the lap in 56m05s - quicker than the last - and although tired at the finish line, felt that with a little rest I had at least another lap in me.

Our final rider went out and completed our 12th lap in a total time of 12h50m.  We had definitely improved this year but to the heady heights of 23rd place of 45, almost exactly average this year! Just one more lap would have boosted us to 13th place  ;-)

Lap times 2012 - Falloffalots
(01) 01:04:56  (02) 00:53:55  (03) 01:04:48
(04) 01:02:37  (05) 00:55:12  (06) 01:08:58
(07) 01:07:18  (08) 00:57:32  (09) 01:14:46
(10) 01:10:00  (11) 00:56:05  (12) 01:14:42
Total time: 12:50:49
23rd of 45.

I was pretty pleased with my improved performance this year.  My laps times were on a par with teams around 10th place in our category.  I have no idea how that might translate into a solo performance, guessing mid to lower table, but nowhere near the winning rider -  Paul Fielding - who put in 14 laps alone, 2 more than our three man team, covering 147 miles over the night. Doth's cap. What an effort.

What an event !  I enjoyed every minute.  I might have to a race in The Winter Series this year.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Punctures between Cottenham and Histon

I recently punctured yet again on the Cottenham to Histon cyclepath.  A lot of other people have too and finger is being pointed at the stones scattered on the cyclepath opposite Cottenham Skips. It is theee worst location I have known for getting punctures (excluding an offroad location near Aldreth I've nicknamed Thorn Alley), and for some inexplicable reason it has been worse since the path was widened.

This short section of cyclepath has a bad track record for me.

Previously, I've tried my road bike on the Cottenham to Histon cyclepath but after puncturing twice in four journeys I decided it wasn't worth the risk. The stock Bontrager (Trek) 23mm tyres are fine on the road but no match for this cyclepath.

I normally commute on a touring bike, and for the summer I changed its tyres to 25mm Continental GP4000s to see how fast my tourer could go - surprisingly quick on the flat is the answer.  I had one slow puncture early on, I think after using them on the C2H cyclepath but otherwise fine all summer until my first night time commute, puncturing again on the C2H cyclepath. I paid the price walking the final 2km home in the rain.  I know I watch carefully for sharp stones in the light and dodge round them, but once dark you end up running over the sharp stones.

So, as much as I love the fast rolling 25's, I am hanging them up for winter and going back to my more heavy weight but more puncture resistant 32mm tyres for dark winter commutes.

My touring bike came with 32mm 700c Schwalbe Marathon (not plus) tyres and they have seen action for two winters, mostly on journeys between Cottenham and Cambridge, mixing roads and cyclepaths. This is what they look like now:

Splits after two and a half years of use.

This is the worst section of the tyre but all round there are splits of various sizes in the tyre.  Occasional  inspection reveals small sharp stones and glass embedded in the smaller splits which would cause lesser tyres to puncture. I recall how one of the larger splits happened: it was whilst cycling along White Fen Drove listening to music I became aware of an out-of-time beat. Removing my headphones I realised the sound was coming from my front wheel and with each revolution an arrowhead flint was being hammered into the tyre. My tyre was soft 10 minutes later in Stow-cum-Quy.

The Marathons have punctured on average every 1000 miles, but I discovered the root cause of most of them was a split that reached the inside of the tyre and would pinch the tube. I have since glued a patch inside the tyre.  Once my tyres are truly worn out, I might be tempted by the Plus version as a winter commute tyre despite the heavier weight.

If you don't like punctures, puncture resistant tyres can be worth the investment especially if you get a bike shop to repair your punctures.  One tyre that always gets consistently good reports is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus (£40+ per pair), with enthusiastic users quoting how many years they go without puncturing.  Recently I've also been told about years of puncture free life from Continental Contact tyres. (It is not one I heard of before but always like manufacturers to have competition or they get lazy and drop quality).

Friends at work also get saved by tyre sealants like Slime. It used to be dismissed by purists like myself but the use of sealants is spreading, as used in tubeless mountain bike tyre systems, and by pros on their winter training road bikes. I've not tried any sealants myself, worrying about potential mess and sealant lifetime I just prefer to fix a flat so long as it is not too often.

And finally, if you've ever had a fight with a bicycle tyre, you need to watch How to Fit a Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyre. This video has saved my knuckles from losing blood countless times and I've not snapped a tyre level since watching it.

Monday, 15 October 2012

What Rural Commuting Lights ?

I thought this reply was worth a separate post to collect any comments and experiences from others.

Between the villages of Cottenham and Histon it is seriously dark and even with solar edge lighting you'll want for more lighting than the weak £20 set outputs.

It's a bit of a minefield buying lights and the technology moves fast and cost has been astronomical. Bear in mind that my product knowledge is very limited.

I have fair number of lights and would currently recommend those that contain LEDs based on on XPG-R5 technology for the general commuter - having a nice friendly spot and enough brightness. For road bikers who travel at speed or mountain bikers riding offroad at night, I would step up to XML-T6 which is even brighter and has a wider flood beam, but not too friendly for oncoming car drivers because of that flood effect.

I am using some cheap (unbranded) Chinese imports that use these technologies but wouldn't recommend that unless you are the type who owns a soldering iron.  I know someone who has Exposure branded lights and they are very good quality and also lots of money but will last you years. There are a lot of other good brands out there that I am not familiar with.

My friend has an Exposure Joystick which is based on XPG-R5 and it is bright enough for mountain biking round Thetford Forest at night. If you were a casual commuter you might be able to step down the range but research carefully. Confusingly the Joystick £145, Sirius £115, Spark £95 all run on the XPG-R5 technology, with different amount of Lumens (brightness). I just don't know which would would compare to my cheap Chinese torch.

The lights are expensive but what I can tell you is that over the last few years anyone I've met over the last few years who spent under £100 on branded lights has been disappointed with the light output.  Right now, £150 will definitely get you a branded light that meets commuter expectations, perhaps £100 will too but I just don't know.

I recommend looking for sites that compare light output from different lights. Torchy the Battery Boy's light database is a good place to start.  You might find your current light on there and beam shots from other lights so you can compare.

Now you know why a lot of people are taking (quality) risks with cheap Chinese imports. Told you its a minefield!  Over to the rest of the internet for opinions.

For more details on the lights I am running, see my previous post Night Riding Thetford Forest

Update: I fell across another set of beam shots linked from this front light buying guide. There's a nifty beam shot comparison feature with prices.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

8:35am commute by motorcycle.

Following on from yesterday's bicycle commute, the other half of my commutes are by motorcycle. People try to make cyclists appear as an out group, something different and unusual but we are like everybody else - I motorcycle and a drive too.  I get to relax more on a motorcycle and I'm able to make a lot more observations of the world around.

It's 8:35am and I don protective gear head to toe, helmet, jacket, trousers and boots. If I ever crash, I should get to keep my skin on my body instead of leaving it on the tarmac. I can go into central Cambridge two ways, directly south, or via the A14, M11 and Barton Road. But the A14 is a death trap at this time. If I join at Oakington J30 the left lane is a static queue, then lanes 2 and 3 are 50mph+, its just impossible to merge safely and would be certain death if I made a mistake.

I fire up the engine and the high level exhausts, just two feet away from my nose, deliver a waft of poisonous gasses to my nose, then the wind takes it away.  I'm well aware of the pollution I'm generating on the motorbike.

I join the High Street at the Broad Lane mini roundabout, a popular crash spot.  It's a T for me and traffic from the left comes over at full speed so I have to eye ball drivers and wait for them to stop even though I have right-of-way.

Once on the High Street I have cars ahead and behind and it feels like we are an unstoppable tidal surge.  Past the Post Office and towards Co-Op corner the road thins.  A group of teenagers are on the left path which is about 3 feet wide.  The car in front just whizzes past without slowing, its wing mirror close shaving the kerb at 25mph.  I always fear wing mirrors when walking around the village.

Up towards the village college, children start to dart across the road. There is a child on a bike waiting to cross at the pedestrian reserve so I stop and let him cross.  He looks surprised that somebody stopped.  I'm slightly earlier today and there is less vehicle chaos in and out of the school but more children on foot.  As I join Histon Road, two school children are on bicycles on the path, and wow something I've never seen before, a teenage girl on a bicycle on the road.  I can see the traffic overtaking her.  If that was my daughter I'd have to think long and hard about letting her cycle on such a busy road.

As I ride Histon Road at 30mph it seems a lot quieter than yesterday.  I think it is partly because I am 10 minutes earlier and so there is less traffic, but also because I go at the same speed as the rest of the traffic and nobody overtakes me.  As I approach the end of the 30mph zone, a car catches me but is not pressuring me as usual.  Beside the cycle path I recognise a female commuter, there are not many.  In all there were four cyclists using the path in the minute or two before I get to Histon.

Just before Orchard Road the traffic queue starts.  The traffic may be lighter but the queue is just as long as yesterday.  I filter past counting 41 cars waiting for the lights.  If they got out of their cars and stood in a group, you could probably fit them in the cyclists advance stop box :-)

While waiting at the lights it is heaving with pedestrians and bicycles, so many more teenagers cycling than I have ever noticed before in Histon. There really is a bicycle culture forming here. There are still a huge amount of cars heading in the direction Impington Lane and the school.

South of the green the traffic is static. I filter past it all. It's stop-start filtering because today I don't have my own lane, just the hatched area and central islands to squeeze past.   At the next set of lights at Station Road, the lights go amber, then red and cars keep coming. The last car to jump the lights, a BMW, is now blocking two lanes and can't move because of the queue.  I manage to squeeze round its nose.

New Road is next, yesterday this was where cars were being let through and people were angry.  Again, cars come across without looking for filtering two wheelers.  More filtering, more red light jumping cars at Station Road.

I just can't trust traffic lights on my motorcycle. If blindly went across junctions on green, I'm certain I would be dead. The light jumping, amber gambling and follow through by motor vehicles is endemic and a great issue for me as a vulnerable road user.  I wish there were red light cameras. I never quite get why the world points the finger at cyclists while ignoring drivers.

Histon Road is moving, that is a surprise, non stop all the way past the Gilbert Road lights. An adult cyclist with child trailer sits in the middle of the junction while traffic either side passes at 30mph. They look trapped and isolated.  There are loads more parent and child cyclists waiting to go across from Warwick Road into Gilbert Road. I can't believe all the fuss about the Gilbert Road cycle lanes. These families need them.

The rest of Histon Road is uneventful, until the lights.  A car came across when we had green, I estimate about four seconds after the red appeared.  At the roundabout at the bottom of Madingley Road I got SMIGAFed by van coming through at 30mph. This happens a lot here.  "Sorry Mate I Don't Give a F**k" - they look, they see you, they go, perhaps because they are going too fast or in a bigger vehicle. "If we crash, I die" is what I always tell myself.

The traffic is also moving freely on The Backs, then I enter the 20mph zone.  On Pembroke Street I have an Audi accelerate hard and sit on my tail.  I am doing 20. As soon as I indicate it dodges round me and speeds up.  This would be a good spot to catch speeders, it can be hard to cross this road on foot.

Parking is not an issue, there is always a space for a motorcycle, even on the rare occasion there is no official space, I can find somewhere to squeeze it in.

That journey probably sounds more eventful than it actually was. The big difference having a motor makes, it that I don't have to worry about overtakers and close passing (just the occasional tailgater).  Almost all danger lies in front of me and I have learned to deal with that.  Statistically it is more dangerous to ride a motorcycle, but you can avoid a lot of that danger with training and experience.

The rush hour journey actually takes 30 minutes, 5 minutes longer than cycling because the filtering is harder with no dedicated lanes.  I do arrive ready to work immediately, no cool-down time required, bbut also remembering that I've had no exercise today.

I've always wondered how long it would take if I didn't filter like a car but I don't want to waste my life away.  Last time I took the bus it took about 45 minutes once on the bus but waiting for one to turn up was a big chunk of time and £5.70 return.  It's £2.50 in fuel for the motorcycle plus other costs of course.

Later that day ...

As if to prove a point I was waiting at the junction with Queens Road and Silver St the lights turned red for all directions and the entire junction turns to a pedestrian phase, you know, the green man and beeping. Out of nowhere a car ripped across the junction obviously accelerating like Amber Gamblers do but it was so late a pedestrian was already crossing in front of them.  Thankfully the pedestrian had learned like me that cars cause fatal injuries and kept watching as they walked and saw it and backed up. The car had to go around them at high speed.

The irony is that motorists complain bitterly about Red Light Jumping cyclists (not pedestrians by the way) and this junction is a very popular place to do it. Cyclists every day go on the pedestrian phase to gain convenience and to negotiate the junction without motor vehicles. I have never seen a pedestrian worried about this type of RLJ.

Vulnerable road users feel totally powerless to control the lethal behaviour of a few motorists and there is little point reporting what happened here because the Police require too much proof.  There are so many eyes out there, if only they could be used.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

8:45am commute. Cottenham to Cambridge.

I normally commute after 9am but every so often I have to leave a little before.  The traffic on the road has a very different feel to it.  Everybody is in so much more of a rush, like at 9am the world will end if you are not at your destination.

First up, I have to cross the High Street.  There is a constant stream of traffic and often I have to use the pedestrian reserve because I can only cross one lane at a time.  Then down the High Street I go, past the Post Office hoping nobody will squeeze through close to blind Co-Op corner - they sometimes do.  And past the lady and son on bikes hoping to cross here. They'll have a long wait, I think to myself.

Down towards the green, Village College children darting across the road near the pedestrian reserve.  So many cars in and out of the College road, and drop-offs at the bus stop. It's like a small zone of chaotic behaviour with motor vehicles darting around in all directions.

Next onto Histon Road.  The traffic really wants to put its foot down now.  The mini-roundabout to Dunstall field is not a great place for cycling.  Cars often pass here but don't think what might happen if a bus comes round the blind bend.  Today was fine.

Down Histon Road, with traffic looking for every opportunity to pass now.  Most give a good amount of room but some are within three feet and I hate that.  The close passers are usually the ones who set off the 30mph flasher too.  I am every bit alert as I am on an adrenaline filled Mountain Bike downhill run. This is not how a like to feel on a commute - I want mundane.

Nearing the start of the cycle path, the traffic gets faster and faster even though we are still in the 30 zone.  Then I reach the safety of the cycle path. Time to relax a little.

An uneventful run down to Histon Green, this is the norm. Dull and safe, just keep a careful eye for cars leaving driveways.  I wish the whole route could be like this.

Near Ambrose Way I catch all the cars that were in such a desperate hurry to squeeze past me in Cottenham. This is where the exhaust fumes start to build, getting worse all the way into Cambridge.  You really notice it on a bicycle and its the diesel fumes you notice most - even from the new cars.

I waiting at the lights at the green now.  I watch the last Amber Gambler go past and then we're off.  You have to assert yourself over this junction or cars come really close as you go across the junction.  Just round the corner is a queue of cars, no need to race me.

I'm following another cyclist down the cycle lane, its only 1 metre wide, not really enough room to dodge obstacles.  We weave between wing mirrors and drains then suddenly he stops.  There is a flat bed truck with a load too wide, the triangular gable end of a wooden shed is sticking out by about 2ft over the cycle lane, ready to garrotte anyone who didn't see it.  I think about taking a picture with my camera and pass it on to the Police but on past experience they are not interested until there is a collision or witnesses.

Now passing New Road, the junction just before the bridge. Queuing traffic next to me, but a driver lets across two cars.  Neither look to see if any cyclists are coming and I hit the brakes. It's such a common cause of accidents. At the same time, someone hoots aggressively, unrelated I'm sure, people get so angry and frustrated driving. I don't know why they do it.

I pop over the bridge and down to the Holiday Inn junction. Again, a car comes across, a taxi this time, and I have so much time to watch the driver I can see that as soon as the oncoming driver left a gap, he never looked up the road towards me. It's beyond a SMIDSY, he didn't even look.

Up to the A14 roundabout now and I have to cross the slip road without a crossing.  I have a guess as to which cars might be hurtling off the roundabout towards me, I gamble correctly, I'm actually pretty good at reading driving situations, but I've seen so many teenagers who don't yet have the skill.

Today, I think cars might be queuing on Histon Road, so I gamble and take the direct route to Cambridge. Blast! ... they are moving and I constantly worry that a bus might come and attempt to pass. Thankfully not this time.  Normally I take Arbury Road.

I watch more Ambler Gamblers at Gilbert Road and Victoria Road, plus a yellow box blocker.  From here the traffic gets lighter, as the city is a no-through zone for general traffic.  Then its an easy uneventful ride into central Cambridge just watching for the odd lorry back door, and zombie pedestrian.

To be honest, that is a reasonably typical commute before 9am.  That's why its still mostly assertive males 30-50 who commute by bike.

The next day I commuted by motorcycle.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

OpenStreetMap on your Garmin: OpenMtbMap

OpenStreetMap is a database full of really useful free mapping data. There are several views of the data, such as the Standard map and OpenCycleMap you may have seen on the web or via a phone app.

Some clever people have also converted the data for use on Garmin GPS devices.  There are an overwhelming number of maps which all look different.  The best map I have found for cyclists is OpenMtbMap. Screenshots are hard to come by so here are some running on a Dakota 20 ...

The overview map (see on OSM). Note the scale is 8km. The Dakota 20 struggles to redraw the map at this scale, taking around 5s to draw the map. It gets quicker if you zoom in.

Planning a route is too painful on such a small screen so I do that with a paper map or at home, saving a gpx track of a planned route and copying to the Garmin.

Zoomed in to 2km (OSM), the map data starts to come alive. The green, orange and yellow routes are standard roads, primary(A), secondary(B) and tertiary(C).

Solid black is an unclassified and paved road. Eg north from Rampton.

Other OSM-on-Garmin maps show some unpaved routes but not with any great detail, it is really hard to tell the difference between a smooth track and a muddy footpath.  OpenMtbMap does a better job. More in the next pictures.

Zoomed to 800m in near Rampton (OSM).

Red is a track of some variety. In the UK this does not mean a legal right of way. All of the tracks on this screen can be legally used.  The marking, solid or dashed is telling you something about the quality of the surface. Haven Drove G5 is a Grade5 track in OSM data on a scale of 1(smooth) to 5(bumpy and having a soft surface).

Brown and Grey (in the lower left quarter) is a bridleway. In the UK legal for bicycles to use but not motor vehicles and is an important distinction.

Dotted black is a footpath. In the lower right quarter there are a pair running either side of a drainage ditch (blue).

Very useful is the marking of the National Cycle Network (see on OpenCycleMap).  The thick black marking denotes a cycle route.

Note when selected with the pin, the name appears at the top. The menu reveals the full name "Ucl Ncn Natonal Route 51".

OpenMtbMap is of course aimed at mountain bikers.  It has a lot of special markup for hills and terrain used much more in Europe. Here in Cambridgeshire, it is an extremely flat part of the country but we have Thetford Forest locally with both marked an unmarked mountain bike trails. The screenshot area is on OSM and the OpenCycleMap layer. There is a lot of detail.  Working left to right:

 Green dashed is mtb:scale=1.  This is what I have marked as good singletrack for mountain biking. It is useful to distinguish from other paths that are either uninteresting or for walkers (appearing as solid dark red but not on the screenshot).

Thick orange is a B road.

The trail marked with a blue edge is a marked cycle route known as the Lime Burner Trail, with this small section named The Beast.

The three brown trails are all highway=path in OSM speak with subtle variation of surface.

The red dashed and straight sections are tracks. The whole forest is on a grid system and these are everywhere. The Fire Roads are wider and harder packed with many marked solid red in OpenMtbMap.

Road names also appear when clicked, such as Lack's Close (OSM). Also note the brown dashed footway which is a useful pedestrian route between houses in my village.

There is some useful data that can be searched.  In the screenshot it is displaying the points of interest in the Shopping menu. Not all shops are there, only the ones that are in OpenStreetMap but it is useful having positive information about the location of a shop when cycle touring.

Sadly, additional information such as phone numbers does not make it into the Garmin.

A few nuggets of information:

It is worth noting that postcodes are not generally in OSM data so you cannot navigate like you would with a car satnav.  Additionally, address searching by road name also does not work in my Garmin. The reason is because to get OSM into a Garmin format, the data format has been reverse engineered. I believe you can get this working if you upload the map via Garmin's MapSource software.  The work around is to find the road you want on the map, highlight it and navigate to it. Also, auto routing is very hard to do when you go off road, mostly because of the data. OpenStreetMap data is going to give you the best chance if you want to do that but you should be aware of the quirks of OpenMtbMap's routing.  One example is that it will not route you on Primary Roads (unless specially tagged). This is a good thing in my opinion but a quirk is that it prevents my Garmin routing my over this staggered junction. If you are a road or touring bike rider you probably don't want to install OpenMtbMap.  The same author has created VeloMap which should not route you over aggressive mountain biking routes.

I do not rely on autorouting. I prefer to follow a pre-planned gpx route.

You can get contours. I prefer without because they clutter the map.

If you want a plain map for just road use, the Talky Toaster OpenStreetMaps are very good. I switch to these if I need to use the Garmin Dakota on my motorcycle.  You can see offroad trails in the screenshots but you'll see they are all simple grey lines.

Installing OpenMtbMap on your Garmin: The way I install this is to download the UK build from OpenMtbMap, run an exe to build me an IMG file, plug in the Garmin via USB, and drag and drop the file onto the Garmin disk.

As a final note. Around Cambridge we are blessed with very good quality OSM data.  When I travel to other locations such as the Peak District I find lower quality map data. This is most often bridleway routes marked as footpaths, and occasionally missing routes entirely. My pattern is to plan the route (on BikeRouteToaster) using an OSM map view, falling back to Google Earth if unmapped, then save a gpx file of the planned route.  I follow that on the ride then upload the missing gpx data to OSM (you should not copy data from other map sources, this keeps OSM data free).