Sunday, 24 November 2013

A Cambridge Rider's Perspective on London Cycling.

I've just spent 24 hours of my weekend travelling around London by tube, bus, bicycle and on foot, but a few hours was by bicycle. Normally I ride commute in to, out of and around Cambridge, one of the UK's most cycled cities.  How does London stack up?

Every rider is different. Cards on the table ... I ride a lot and I can go fast, commuting on a touring bike, but I can also be found on a road bike, mountain bike, and motorcycle. I also spent a few years commuting in London in the 90's prior to the congestion charge. So this is the first time I've ridden London's roads in two decades.

We used Boris Bikes (TfL Barclays Cycle Hire). You can hire on the street without pre-registering and its cheap - can be as little as £2 for 24 hours if you complete each journey within 30 minutes. If you have an Oyster Card, the tube costs from £2.10 for a single journey capped from £7 per day;  buses costs are £1.40 a journey, capped at £4.40 per day.  It took us a while to get the bikes for the first time, just yank really hard after the green light.

Getting around

I've driven in London and know the roads are a dog-eat-dog kind of place so I tried to take us on quiet routes. If you visit the OpenCycleMap layer of OpenStreetMap you'll think you've hit the jackpot.

Central London has loads of quieter cycle routes. The local cycle routes are marked with a darker blue on OpenCycleMap.  But, just like Cambridge they are hard to follow and can be indirect meandering with many left and right turns.  I was armed with a Garmin GPS and a phone with OpenCycleMap and I was struggling. I'm not quite sure what the typical Boris bike user does.  

I also noticed some aspects of filtered permeability, i.e. no though routes for motor vehicles but bicycles and walkers can get through.  It works really well for short local journeys, keeping us well away from fast traffic. 

If I had one tip for London.  Get these local cycle networks really well signed. If you want to splash paint about, this could actually help.

Longer distance

Even following local cycle routes we found ourselves following major roads and crossing them.  I'm used to riding in Cambridge traffic but found the London drivers way more assertive. This is ok when driving, it seems to work, but on a bicycle I found myself unable to merge with traffic as easily as normal.  Part of the problem is that I was riding a slow upright bike. Merge into traffic with such as speed difference is like a leap of faith.  We quickly found ourselves making right turns not by crossing multiple lanes of traffic, but dismounting on the left and using pedestrian crossings. Safe but slow. It felt like a poor man's Dutch junction.  No wonder most commuters are males on fast bikes.

Thankfully I didn't have to cycle the CS2, but did see it from a bus on a Sunday.  I've seen it described as just paint and giving a false sense of security.  From the top-deck I could see there were so many parked cars in the bus and cycle lanes on a Sunday and that any rider would find themselves merging into traffic constantly causing conflict. 

We also passed a yellow Police sign asking for witnesses to a cyclist fatality I read about on the web, and realised we were not too far from Bow roundabout where there has been a three fatalities now. Pictures of CS2 can be viewed at Cyclists in the City.

The nearest you'll get to London's cycling environment in Cambridge are the dual carriageway sections of the ring road and Elizabeth Way, the bus lanes on Newmarket Road, and Queens Road for all its parked cars. Often in Cambridge there is a cycle path somewhere nearby. Traffic in Cambridge is far more easily controlled and rarely comes as close - when riding fast at least.

That day I found myself having to move out around parked cars to merge with fast approaching coaches on Grays Inn Road. I also watched a taxi drive very close behind my partner off the lights after we waited in an advanced stop box.

The worst mistake I made was at a traffic lit T junction near Limehouse (pictured below). The lights went amber as I crossed the line and I continued. Before I'd even made it to the first traffic lane I heard engines roar. There could have only been a precious second or two between light phases for vehicles to clear the junction - designed for vehicles at 30mph. Time limited for traffic flow over safety.


Would I cycle in London again?  On the local cycle routes, yes without a doubt.  Would I as a commuter?  I wouldn't want to on the more main routes, but faced with packed public transport, and as an experienced, committed and fast cyclist I would reluctantly learn how to survive. It's not for normal people.

Monday, 18 November 2013

London's Cycling Fatalities by Hour of Day

Fifth cyclist killed in nine days. HGVs and buses are disproportionately represented in cyclist fatality statistics and 2013 is particularly shocking with so many killed in a short space of time. The number of cyclists on London's roads is increasing, as are the resulting death and injuries.

One of the themes being discussed amongst cyclists ask if there is something immediate that can be done until better separated infrastructure can be built. Should HGV's (Tipper Trucks in particular) be banned from the rush hour when the most cyclists are commuting?

One site I read (memory fails me) suggested that London's night-time lorry ban caused HGV's to come onto the road just at the same time that cyclists are commuting. London does indeed have a Lorry Control that bans HGVs of 18 tonnes or more between 9pm-7am Monday to Friday, and from 1pm Saturday right through to 7am Monday. In 2011 Paris has had zero cyclist fatalities and people are now looking to emulate their HGV ban.

I have a copy of the government's STATS19 collision database and have the ability to query the data for myself. I decided to see if the data supports an immediate ban of lorries during rush hour.

A few things you should be aware of:

The graphs I show below are for fatalities only.

I initially pulled data for the Inner London boroughs where most of the cycling deaths that have hit the news have occurred. The numbers were too small for any reliable patterns to appear so I have expanded to greater London. The data below is for the 33 London boroughs shown on their map.

Again to get a acceptable amount of numbers I have used the years 2005-2012.

To see the raw numbers I have been working with. See my Google Docs spreadsheet.

Fatalities per hour of day

The first graph I have created summarises the fatalities by:

  • hour of day along the X axis. 8 means 8am-8:59am.
  • shows the quantity of each vehicle type stacked on top of each other (not all reaching up from a zero base) that were involved in fatal cyclist collisions.

At the bottom, dark blue shows the number of fatality collisions involving cars and taxis.

The orange colour shows HGV's greater than 7.5 tonnes. From 8-8:59am, there were twelve HGVs involved in cyclist fatalities.

Green are buses involved in fatal cyclist collisions.

We can see a pattern emerging - the morning particularly between 8 and 9am is bad.

Adjusted for number of vehicles

Ideally we would cross reference this data with the amount of cyclists and other vehicles on the road during each hour.  I haven't yet found a source for that data.  However, I have found:

TfL: Average daily traffic flows on major roads in London by vehicle type.
I used data from 2010, see table 2.

Vehicle Type1000sPercent
Pedal cycles0.461.54%
Car and Taxi23.779.24%
LGV <7.5t3.5511.87%
HGV >7.5t1.344.48%
Bus and Coach0.662.21%

The numbers tell us that 79.24% of the traffic on London's major roads are Cars & Taxis, with HGVs just 4.5%, and buses 2.2%.

To get a sense of how much danger each vehicle type is bringing to the roads, I have divided the number of fatalities by number of thousands of vehicles. For example, the 12 HGV's 8-8:59am divided by 1.34 equals 8.96 fatalities (over 8 years) per 1000 HGVs per day.

The effect of looking at fatality rate per vehicle type is that cars and taxis because there are so many almost disappear from the graphs.  

What immediately pops out is the amount of danger brought by HGVs 8-8:59am, and also a disproportionate amount of danger throughout the morning.

Bus danger also pops out, but not so consistently.  There may be some interaction with the number of cyclists on the roads at these times. It requires further investigation before any conclusions can be made.

Motorcycles are also bringing some danger during the morning and evening rush hours.

But overall, London does have a measurable problem with HGVs causing cyclist fatalities. Separating them by hour of the day could reduce fatalities and serious injury significantly.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Are unlit Oxford cyclists putting themselves at risk?

Oxford has just had a crackdown on unlit cyclists in the name of safety. It's good advice to use lights to maximise your chances of being seen but policy makers thinking unlit cyclists are putting themselves at much greater risk should think again.

The following numbers are the casualties in the years 2005-2012 from the government's STATS19 database.

For each casualty type, the table below shows a count of the number of casualties during daylight, and in darkness.

Car occupant9764561432

The numbers below show for each casualty type, the split of their accidents between light and dark. As a proportion, cyclists are safer than the other travellers in Oxford. Significantly safer than motor vehicle occupants at night. The same effect is seen in Cambridge.

casualty_type% light% dark
Car occupant68.2%31.8%

Why cyclists are proportionately safer at night is a mystery.  Could it be that Oxford cyclists travel less at night compared to other road users?  This doesn't appear to be the case in Cambridge. A theory I have for Cambridge is that unlit cyclist realise their increased vulnerability and move away from roads to cycling on pavements, away from motor vehicles. It's an effect known as risk-compensation, also seen when using safety gear.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Operation Pedalo 2

Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Graham Bright made an appearance on the Andie Harper show on BBC Radio Cambridge on 1st November 2013.

The entire 3 hour show is available for the next few days (ends 8th Nov?), here:

The introduction (starts 37m00s) is from a window cleaner who has been hit for the second time by a cyclist. He describes the cyclist getting up and leaving the scene. He also explains that there was CCTV nearby, he reported it to the Police but they were not interested.

At 38m05s the introduction to Graham Bright begins.

Andie: How do you define anti-social cycling? What did you crack down on originally? 
GB: We cracked down on people being reckless, and in particular people riding in the dark without lights. [states Operation Pedalo 2 will start next week]
We are going to have mostly the Specials out, looking for people riding without lights, putting their own lives in risk, and obviously giving motorists a nightmare, but also those that ride on the pavement; those that jump red lights; those that ride through the pedestrian shopping area; those that just don't care, and that's what anti-social cycling's about.  
And of course, now we've got a new issue. Now that we've got a 20mph limit in the city, it's more than possible, infact I've seen it myself, by driving at 20 you get cyclists overtaking you. We've just got to get the cyclists to understand they have to obey the law like everyone else does. Cyclists texting on their phones when they're riding is not good news and its absolutely dangerous and if a car driver does that and I've asked my level best for the Police to start pulling that in and they are, pulling in drivers who are texting. It's all anti-social behaviour. 
[discussion of Police manpower. About to have a concentrated effort, a 'blitz']. 
It's not just cyclists, its cars aswell.
My first concern is that our PCC appears to be on a personal crusade by ignoring evidence of danger compared to use of lights. It is illegal to ride without lights, but he is misguided and playing politics to use the word reckless to describe unlit cyclists. It is simply not true, infact the opposite is true, Cambridge cyclists are safer at night, despite so many being unlit.

Secondly he mentions those who ride on the pavement. We've already had a Police Sargent report that the signage is a mess. It is very hard for Cambridge cyclists to stay 100% legal whilst following shared use paths in Cambridge.  If the priority is that woolly, too many innocent people will be caught and fined.

It is unbelievable that Graham Bright has started to think about targeting cyclists who cycle at more than 20mph when we have had so much inaction on 20mph for motor vehicles. For anyone who walks around the city it is very clear where priorities should be on 20mph. What we have here is a throw away comment to try to garner some support. Realistically it would be a waste of Police resources because: few Cambridge cyclists can cycle over 20mph for more than a few seconds; and there is no general speeding law that applies to cyclists. The Police would have to ticket for an alternative offence that would require some evidence.

Again, to ticket cyclists who are texting or using their phone, because it is not illegal, officers will have to gather supporting evidence.

Outside broadcast from Peterborough.

A later set of clips from Peterborough shine a light on the thoughts of the general public, how they view cyclists, and are likely to be how they get complained about to our PCC.

1h37m42s Outside broadcast from Peterborough begins, voiced by Jonny D.

JD: I'm at Bridge Street, Peterborough, a hotbed of anti-social cycling ... [describes sign indicating no cycling during the day]
See Google StreetView of Bridge Street
Gentleman: We've got those cyclists who are responsible and get off their cycle and we've got those I'll describe as Lycra Louts who really do cause the problem, so I think something needs to be done. 
First up, Lycra Louts is a term the public use to cast cyclists as an out-group.  I know many road cyclists who dress in lycra, it is rare for someone who enjoys racing their bike to attempt to do this in a shopping centre. More truthfully, the people observed on bicycles near shopping areas are everyday people in normal clothes. As proved by the next line:
JD: I've seen 4 in the last 5 minutes go past and I admit to you, not very fast. Look there's another one behind me now. He's on a mountain bike not going very fast, I'd say he's in control of his bike, he shouldn't be on it should he?.  
Gentleman: No, no, it does cause a danger to everybody in the pedestrian area and at this time of year when we're getting a high incidence of pedestrians both adult and during the school holidays they are a danger. 
Jonnie D has just described a cyclist going slowly and in control, yet he is still described as a danger. When Graham Bright talks of reckless cyclists, this is the sort of rider who will be caught by the Police. Technically they are breaking the law, but doing any harm? Well, it is not said how busy it is but nobody in the clip is alarmed by the cyclist's behaviour. Risk appears to be low. But on the ground, Police would have to ticket this cyclist and we have seen that happen. We should not forget that cyclists are used to sharing pavements with pedestrians on shared-use paths, often footways made into shared-use by a TRO and putting up signs even if not very appropriate.
JD: Does it mystify you that laws are made, regulations are made but there's nobody to police them? 
Gentleman: I think it's a matter of priorities. The Police have different priorities, but I think it's nuisance value to the general public. 
Spot on. If prioritising, this is low level in Peterborough.
JD: Do you know anyone who's been injured along Bridge Street?
Gentleman: To the best of my knowledge, no, but I would say its only a matter of time before it does happen.
Confirmation that there have been no injuries witnessed by the Gentleman. I'd question why we've gone from nuisance value to injuries being only a matter of time. It's a mixed message.

A second selection of clips from Peterborough includes:
1h51m10s [discussion of no-cycling sign] 
JD: Do you see a lot of cyclists along here? 
Female 1: Yes 
JD: So they are ignoring it, aren't they? 
Female 1: They are very annoying. And its dangerous when you've got young children. 
JD: Have you had any near misses, close shaves? 
Female 1: Not personally, no, not yet anyway. 
JD: Seen any? 
Female 1: I have actually. 
JD: You've seen anyone knocked over? 
Female 1: Not yet. 
JD: Only a matter of time. 
Female 1: Yeah.
Again, confirmation of no injuries witnessed. This time, the lady has witnessed a near miss. Unfortunately we learn nothing about the circumstances that lead up to this or the type of person or their age. Without that, the out-group of cyclists will be blamed.
Female 2: No bikes between 9 and 6. 
JD: What are we now, about 10 o'clock. 
Female 2: Everyone's cycling. 
JD: Everyone's cycling. 
Female 2: And they knock us down, and do everything. 
JD: Have you been knocked down. 
Female 2: Not really, but nearly. Because I can't hear properly and they don't have a bell on their bicycle. 
Male: They come flying out. 
JD: They come flying out, do they? 
Male: They come flying out of here. Then they come flying out of Rivergate.
There are some genuine concerns here from vulnerable and timid pavement users.  I doubt that the complaint applies just to the shopping area. These are a class of user who suffer when cyclists are shifted inappropriately from road to shared-use on many routes, typically where there is little room to pass each other.

Thankfully, they knock us down is interrogated further and we discover it is not true. Unchallenged anecdotal stories are very common in the press and spread prejudice.

Their description of flying [fast] cyclists, if true, does sound like anti-social cycling without due consideration to others. Worthy of a ticket.
JD: So I've got a gentleman who's actually riding a bicycle along Bridge Street. So I've stopped you here.  Did you realise what you were doing?  Because you're breaking the law technically. 
Male Cyclist: I rode the bike up to here. You can ride the bike up to the other bit there, to the Square I think, then I came here, and I just realised there was no cyclepath with all these people and I looked around and though yeah I'm doing wrong.
[short exchange about hearing BBC Radio Cambs were on location here]  
Male Cyclist: I was just daydreaming basically.
[discussion of £30 fine he would receive] 
JD: You've got an argument, you weren't going at a fair speed. 
Male Cyclist: No, I was going slow, in-fact when I was up there I saw somebody with children and they was running around, and I was barely staying on my bike because I was going that slow. I was going round them.  
JD: You could argue the case, it's a big wide area, 50ft across. 
Male Cyclist: As I said I was just daydreaming ...
This is a description of a normal person on a bike who is not doing anybody any harm, quite the opposite. He drifted from shared-use into a pedestrian area. This is very easy to do but doesn't change how carefully someone looks out for others.  If he received a ticket, he would not be able to challenge it.

I support ticketing anyone who endangers others, but when it comes to Policing cycling on pavements, it requires discretion. Ticketing pavement cycling by technicality is not a route to happy safe communities.

One of my concerns is how motoring offences are rolled into general every day policing, but cycling issues are dealt with by means of very public crackdowns. It's a political football that gives the impression of cycling being far more harmful than can actually be observed or proved. When you get on a bicycle and others see you as a scofflaw - even if you are not - it breeds contempt, a justification for treating you badly on the roads. We saw this with the slowly dying [mythical] Road Tax argument.

And for the window cleaner who was hit by a cyclist who then left the scene, it doesn't matter to me if it was on a pavement, shared-use or on the road, if you hit an easy to see stationary object you were careless, possibly dangerous. It's worth noting that the complaint about not being able to identify the cyclist is also true of pedestrians who injure, and also of vehicles - the plates are difficult to read at speed, try it.  I have sympathy with his attempts to get the Police to investigate, they do that with all but the most serious of cycling incidents too.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Perne Road Roundabout proposal

Cambridgeshire County Council are consulting on safety improvements at Perne Road / Radegund Road roundabout in Cambridge.

The proposals can be viewed here.

Perne Road is also the A1134 Ring Road. All of the Ring Road roundabouts are statistically bad for cyclists' safety and the council want to fix this. That is not in dispute.

The proposals involve moving cyclists onto shared use paths which cross the arms of the four junctions of the roundabout where they would have to give way crossing the arms of the roundabouts.

Just off the plans, the busier north and south arms of Perne Road already have pedestrian signalled crossings about 40 metres away from the centre of the roundabout. The online proposals do not mention upgrading these to Toucan so people on bikes can legally use them.

Cyclists would have to choose using the shared use pavement for safety, or remaining on the road. Shared use is popular with cyclists when uninterrupted, but disliked for the amount of give-ways and hold ups they introduce. Vulnerable pedestrians do not like to share pavements with cyclists, and is a source of constant complaining.

The Dutch have solved many of the issues of two-tier provision, with a three tier provision in busier locations,  clearly separating pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.

One of the arguments against three-tier provision in the UK and Cambridge is that it requires a lot of space, but that is not the case at this roundabout. Below I make a crude comparison of size with a roundabout from Groningen in Holland.

The following pictures are taken from Google Maps at similar zoom levels, rotated for easy comparison.

Google StreetView links:
Perne Road / Radegund Road, Cambridge.
Bakboordswal / Loefzijde, Groningen.

Perne / Radegund Roads, Cambridge

Bakboordswal, Groningen, Holland

Both images combined. Similar sized roundabouts.

I will hold my hands up and say, I do not know if the Dutch roundabout works in practice. I believe the Groningen roundabout is is what cycling campaigners want. It is a subtle change from shared use but has very clear separation. A big question is will the road markings across junction arms work in a UK context on a Ring Road? See the view of a roundabout exit (note driving on right)

My reading of Dutch design is that filtering of traffic is a big part of what they do and cannot be captured from Google Maps.  My gut feeling is that the Dutch route has far less traffic than the Cambridge Ring Road.

The two-tier proposed solution is commonly used in Cambridge and can be safer if you are prepared to stop at side roads and look very carefully but its inconvenient. I find myself unable to use safe facilities for cross city journeys - it just takes too long - and as a result I find myself switching to car or motorbike when I am not in the mood or don't have the legs for fast highly assertive riding required to keep me safe on direct routes.

I'd label shared-use with Safety through Inconvenience. If we could fit in a working Dutch roundabout we could have safety AND convenience. Solutions like this make more journeys viable by bike.

If Cambridge really wants to improve cyclist safety and traffic growth, it needs to be braver with its junction design.

Responses to the Perne Road roundabout proposals have also been made by Cambridge Cyclist and RadWagon.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Pavement Cycling fines in Cambridge

A local newspaper has published some data from Cambridgeshire Constabulary on tickets issued to cyclists found to be Cycling on a Footway.

I have made a Freedom of Information request to get the data, but until then the only source I can find is via the newspaper.

Issuing tickets to cyclists by crackdowns and local Police priorities is common in Cambridge.  Some of those tickets will be justified but others will not.  I have previously argued that simply ticketing cyclists in Cambridge for being on the footway is not a sound strategy. Councillors should be looking to understand the root cause of footway cycling and its level of harm in a particular location.

To learn something, I have combined three datasets for a very rough correlation.

  • Cycling on Footway tickets. Three years.
  • Amount of collisions pedestrians and cyclists are involved in. Note, the majority of these will be cars colliding with pedestrians or cyclists. Three years, STATS19 data.
  • Speeding tickets, mostly from automated cameras. Unspecified amount of years in the FOI.

Footway cycling tickets vs no. of collisions affecting pedestrians or cyclists vs speeding FPNs issued.
Road & Desc Tickets Collisions
(ped or cycle)
Speeding FPNs
Arbury Road2912
Mill Rd2468
Milton Rd/Arbury Rd junction9(repeat data?)
Milton Rd7471757
Huntingdon Rd633 est350
Sidney Street, Petty Cury, Histon Road4Histon Rd=19Histon Rd=583
Magdalene Street, Round Church Street, Silver Street, Jesus Lane, Burleigh Street4
East Road, Mount Pleasant, St Andrew’s Street, Trinity Street, Union Lane 216 est
Panton Street, Parkside, Regent Street, Warkworth Terrace, Northampton Road1


  • Arbury Road - hostile rat run, riding feels like you are on a motor racing track. Start/stop shared use paths.
  • Mill Rd - congested busy, hostile road, particularly at rail bridge where cyclists are slowly ascending. Aggressive taxis.
  • Milton Rd/Arbury Rd junction - shared-use paths join here. Unclear signage led to cyclists being unfairly ticketed. Busy A road, artery into the city. Very common for follow through Red light jumping cars. Cyclists sharing pedestrian phase
  • Milton Rd - Mostly shared use with a few gaps where timid cyclists will have to move onto arterial roads.
  • Huntingdon Rd - Major artery, speeding traffic. Pinch point traffic islands. Popular quiet cycling routes cross this road via staggered routes. Tempting to cycle to nearby pedestrian crossings help get across safely, eg near Storeys Way. Illegal to cycle to?
  • Sidney Street - part of the awkward city centre one-way system.
  • Petty Cury - no excuse, clearly a pedestrian shopping zone.
  • Histon Road - frightening bus corridor with dangerous 1.0m cycle lanes.
  • Magdalene Street - scenes of conflict all round. Student rush often brings cyclists ignoring direction priority but also taxis and buses driving aggressively at cyclists.
  • Round Church Street - part of the awkward one-way system but also part of the bus routes.
  • Burleigh Street - part time cycling restrictions.
  • East Road - Can be hell for cycling. Its an inner ring road threaded though a shopping area, past Anglia Ruskin University, with some of it dual carriageway.
  • Other locations are unremarkable. Tickets here a low in number.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Cycling related Police priorities at the Cambridge North Area Committee.

Richard Taylor filmed the North Area Committee Meeting on October 3rd 2013.  I have attempted to summarise and partly transcribe the sections relevant to cycling.  

The Neighbour Policing is lead by Sgt Wragg and refers to a document made available prior to the meeting:

Section 5. Recommedations:
  • Prevention and enforcement work to reduce cycle theft.
  • Combat dangerous / no lights cycling as autumn / winter approaches.
  • Tackle drug dealing on the North area.

0h29m34s Police report starts, interrupted.

0h30m33s: Member of audience explains she is sight and hearing impaired tells councillors of her concerns getting navigating around the city. Starting with new on-street bicycle parking, then street clutter, including an anecdote of a specific thin path near a cafe where her problems also included pedestrians overtaking from behind and tripping over her cane due to restricted pavements, and two cycles coming towards her and her 90yr old mother.  She refers to Catholic Church and Regent Street, areas. She ends reiterating her concern is pavements littered with obstacles and street cafes.
[note: Catholic Church and Regent Street are outside of the North Area neighbourhood]

0h36m51 After other councillors respond, Cllr/chair(?)  adding to responses to audience member: This committee has, in the past, set Anti-Social cycling as a priority for the reasons you've outlined. I don't think cyclists realise how scary it can be for various groups of people to have someone on the pavement with them.

0h37m31s Sgt Wragg restarts the Police Priority section.  Starting with statistics showing cycle theft has reduced from 177 last year to 115. Two cycle thieves have been locked up.

0hr44m25s Sgt Wragg talks of working with Cllr Manning on improving conflict/complaint areas involving combinations of pedestrians/cyclists/drivers, improving junctions to make them safer for all road users. Specific example, Milton/Gilbert Roads. 

0h58m45s Film maker Richard Taylor reminds cllrs of anti-social cycling priority one year ago, causing him to report unclear and missing signs and road markings where not even Police could tell what was legal. Much nodding from Sgt Wragg. Also says he would rather see priorities based upon cost or injury, something about burglary.

1h00m06s Cllr/Chair? Comments/asks if Burglary is a still city wide priority.

1hr00m50s. Sgt Wragg: ... we remain very even handed, we've got a fair degree of discretion ... to achieve greater safety on the paths and the roads.
1hr01m35s Where he uses the phrase "walking round the corner into on-rushing cycles" I think he's saying they won't ticket in areas of confusing signage.
1h02m00s Sgt Wragg The priority of anti-social cycling was pretty much city wide at the time [1 year ago]. We had to send a strong message, we've now moved back away from that, if we have to ticket again to achieve our goal we will, we try to police in a proportionate way.

1h02m50s Female Cllr (O'Reilly?) Proportionate and reasonable to focus on cyclists without lights.

1h04m20s Sgt Wragg shares an anecdote of cyclist observed circumventing a red light, by switching from road to pavement [pedestrian crossing] forcing a pedestrian out of the way then back onto the road. "Very brazen, right in front of a Police vehicle, danger to a pedestrian, he did everything wrong. That's the sort of person who could expect to get a ticket".

1h04m57s Sgt Wragg: Cycling with no lights is a massive, massive problem this time of year and a lot of people who get hit by cyclists don't report it ... I'm aware colloquially that it does happen ... And the majority of them will be getting away with just a warning.

1h06m00s Male Cllr tells anecdote: "I stopped at a red light at the Milton/Gilbert Road junction as someone on a bicycle went straight past me, dodged the cars [going around gesture], onto the pavement presumably because she thought it safer, blatant disregard, a very clear sign red light, [others laugh] that you shouldn't be on it. I cycle backwards and forward to work everyday and I see it a lot. I gave up the car a year ago. I see a lot of bad and dangerous cycling".

1h09m52. Cllr Ward adds agreement with [3 other councillors]. Something about time of year, "educating incoming cyclists without lights and about skipping through a red light on the pavement at the same time and I think that's a reasonable and proportionate thing to do".

1h10m18s. Sgt Wragg responds: And just to add to that, we do pick up stolen bikes while we are stopping people with no lights, and sometimes drug dealers too ... its a very good way of practically policing. If you give us an excuse to stop you, expect scrutiny.

1h14m45s. Cllr Manning: "I'm not very comfortable with the 2nd one, dangerous seems a very nebulous word, hard to define. No lights is very easy to define. Why are we concentrating (coming back to Mr Taylors point) on dangerous cycling and not dangerous car driving ... The hard a dangerous driver can do is far greater than the harm a cyclist can do, that's not to say cyclists don't do harm ... if doing things proportionately ... I'm uncomfortable with the mashing up of dangerous and no-lights.
1h15m55s. A lot of the time the dedicated fascilities are not there for the cyclists, there's a shared use path or cycle path on the road but that is not a dedicated fascility for cycling ... and we've got to take that into account and if we're going to set something, lets set something we can clearly define. I do not understand why we are setting and priority of dangerous cycling and not setting a priority of dangerous driving".

1h18m52s Cllr Gerri Bird:  "And the recommendations, combat dangerous cyclists yes please, they are some of them are so ignorant they don't care who's on the pavement, they knock people over, ok sometimes cars are involved. I don't ride a bike [films shows her sitting in a wheelchair], I'd like to have a go you know just see what its like, probably fall off. But cyclists need to understand pedestrians are on them pavements, to get off their bikes and walk their bikes would be fantastic.
1h19m24s My other big problem is Parkers Piece when we have the events and we've still got cyclists on pavements with children running about, I can't understand why cyclists are allowed to use them areas when events are on. And it would be nice to see more police around there then.
[note: Parkers Piece is outside of the North Area neighbourhood]

1h19m44s Cllr Fiona Onasanya: on combatting dangerous cycling, I think its important to note that [Sgt] Jason [Wragg] said it will be reasonable, proportionate and evidence based. If those factors are taken into account I don't have major concerns with it, however I do understand that it can be a bit concerning if you just say dangerous, its quite vast and its not very specific, but if you consider it in light of the three things then I think that its actually very reasonable.

1h24m24s. Cllr Manning proposes changes two suggestion to changes to dangerous priority. 1) Changing to combat dangerous for all modes of transport. Or 2) Striking the word dangerous from combatting dangerous cycling.

1h25m44s Sgt Wragg: ... perhaps dangerous is the wrong word, a dangerous word, but the anti-social cycling, the going through red lights, lets face it I say colloquially we've all seen it all the time. I seldom see a car going through a red light ... 
Cllr? I beg to differ on red lights, the Cambridge rule 'the first one doesn't count' applies at some junctions.
[Sgt continues]
...spoken eloquently about, cycling on paths the issues that causes, students returning, we can hopefully make a difference for residents. But, dangerous is probably the wrong word to be using.

1h26m37s. Chair Introduces voting. Interrupted to take a point from Cllr Sales sitting in the audience (to avoid being filmed).

1h26m43s Mr Bond from audience. I would like to point out that dangerous applies to the cyclist themselves. I've had one off, I've very nearly had another off. [positive nodding from Cllr/Chair verbally says he agrees].

1h27m17 Voting for inclusion of the word dangerous. 14 for, 1 against (Cllr Manning). 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Please attend Cycle Safe debate. Response from Andrew Lansley MP.

On the 22nd August I wrote as a constituent to Andrew Lansley MP for South Cambridgeshire asking him to attend the Cycle Safe debate. I received a reply on the 2nd September.

Dear [my name] 
Thank you for contacting me about the 'Get Britain Cycling' debate, taking place on 2 September 2013. 
Unfortunately, due to other pressing commitments in my diary, I will not be available to attend this debate. However, I fully agree that we need to get more people cycling.

I can also assure you that the Government is already doing a great deal to help increase safety for cyclists in the UK. For instance, in the last 12 months Ministers have allocated £107m of new money to support safety and community links that encourage more cycling. This is over and above the £600m Local Sustainable Transport Fund where 94 out of the 96 projects contain a cycling element.

There has also been the introduction of measures to make cycling safer, including flexibility for Local Authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits in residential areas and a process for applications for further rural 40mph zones. It has also been made easier to install Trixi mirrors to improve the visibility of cyclists at junctions.

This has been part of a cross-departmental effort by the Department for Transport to promote cycling, in particular with Defra and the Department of Health. For example Transport and Health Ministers shared a platform at the Leicester Active Travel Conference in November to promote better working between public health and transport planners. There are now plans to take this further by establishing a project team involving more departments and stakeholders.

Finally, you will be pleased to know that the Government is working on making the UK's towns and cities more cycle friendly. In January it announced The Cycle City Ambition Grants and has invited cities outside London to bid for a share of a £42m grant. The guidance requires cities to demonstrate local leadership and set out a 10 year ambition for more cycling.

Successful bids will receive a cycling budget equivalent to £10 per head, which is the level of support the 'Get Britain Cycling' report recommends. The £42m grant will also benefit National Parks who have also been asked to develop schemes to improve cycling facilities to help support the message that cycling is normal and fun. Successful bids should be announced later in the summer.

I do hope that this information helps, and thank you again for contacting me about this issue.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Lansley

On hearing I had written to Andrew Lansley, a Twitter user responded with:
I wrote to James Paice (SE Cambs) but he will be unable to attend due to "prior commitments". Copied-in govt spiel.

Cambridge City is a Lib Dem area, surrounded by the two constituencies, South Cambs and South East Cambs. Both Andrew Lansley and James Paice use the same office in Hardwick as their point of contact. Both have "prior commitments" and copied in government spiel.

The areas surrounding Cambridge City have high cycling rates compared to the rest of the country. They may be able to offer some valuable knowledge and experience to the Cycle Safe debate.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Thetford Summer Enduro

Thetford Summer Enduro - racing solo for the first time.

Mountain Biking. For me it provides the most reward and epic riding of any cycling discipline, and usually when we go on mini adventures. One of those is the only race I've ever taken part in - the Thetford Dusk 'til Dawn, mainly for its unusual format, it's cycling through the night in a forest with a whole heap of like minded people. It's hard, especially when it rains, but amazing.  I've entered twice now, both times in a team of three racing a 12 hour relay race format - that means 4 hours of riding per person plus rest. The premiere category is reserved for the solo riders who I am always in awe of.

Once upon a time, even I thought we were nuts entering the Dusk 'til Dawn, but after the last I found myself wondering what would I be like, riding solo for 12 hours through the night, how would I perform? This wasn't even a regrettable alcohol inspired plan made in the pub, I was that serious even though I had seen first hand the suffering on the faces of the finishers.

My crazy idea to ride the Dusk 'til Dawn solo was greeted by a friend - who normally eggs me on - with great caution. Weeks later the perfect test landed in front of me: the Thetford Summer Enduro. You ride in daylight and the summer weather should be ok. The only decision was 10hr, 8hr or 6hr?  I nearly went for 10hr but backed off to 8, thinking the most serious riders would be riding 10 hour and 6 might be a bit too easy, similar in length to a day ride.

A few days before the race, I checked the entrants list for the 8hr solo category, to my surprise 20 of the 25 entrants were sponsored by bike shops or associated with a cycling club. A more serious race than I had expected.

A month before the race I had ridden the South Downs Way with friends, 100 miles over two days fuelled by ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches plus dried fruit a nutrition plan perfected over the years. I scoff at those supping gels and bars on recreation rides, who needs 'em, enjoy real food I say.  I took the same nutrition plan to the start line, adding some fruit jellies for a quicker energy hit if required.

The course was 9 miles long through Brandon County Park. For mountain bike races you have to ride unsupported but in this format, you are allowed outside assistance at the start/finish area where you can also replenish supplies. All categories finished by 8pm, with the 8 hour starting at midday.

The race

At the start line I queued at the back, being the only one with a plain top (no adverts). Other rarities were, a backback, 26 inch wheels, and full suspension. I obviously wasn't going to compete for the podium and was happy to not fight it out and remained chilled out rather than race stressed.

The first two laps went fine, a few slow moving queues at first but it soon spread out. I was not pushing hard, and consequently did almost no overtaking until the 6 hour folks were released onto the course two hours after us.

I found myself riding at the same pace as another rider for the first two laps, we spoke and he was riding 8hr solo too. We had a great natter during the race :-) He was riding a 29er and I realised that either he had more skill or his machine was carrying speed through bumpy corners far better than my 26" while I burned energy to get back up to his speed.  I also noticed he was having a slightly easier time on the straights too, or was fitter.  This chap revealed his lap times improved significantly after switching to a 29er. I've since test ridden one and they are impressive, its like cheating but everybody's doing it. On that test ride I got a whole load of personal bests on Strava without busting my lungs.


There are some quick riders on the course, many of them operating in a pair so they have a flying lap then a rest.  As an inexperienced solo rider, I was overtaken a lot.  Everybody but one overtook politely and safely with gratitude and thanks all round when I moved over - I love the friendly MTB scene.  The usual drill was to move aside at an appropriate wider point or the rider behind might call out a side to overtake on. The only overtake I objected to was through some whoops (many fast undulating depressions) where I moved far right but still on the racing line leaving the overtaker room to sprint past on the left. At this point they called out 'on the right please' even though there was clearly room on the left. Being overly polite I went left for him and found myself in deep slippery pine needles and lost all momentum. [Grumble]. Isn't part of racing your ability to overtake wherever that might be?  I decided I wouldn't be asserted off-line like that again but thankfully it never came to that.

Lap Performance

My race aim was not ambitious, it was to average one lap per hour an make it to the end. For me this was a learning experience.

The first two laps went to plan, taking 45 minutes each. but my back started to ache only 2 hours in. The next two laps I had to stop, stretch twice and eat a little costing me around 10 minutes a lap.  By the end of lap 4 my back was in agony even with full suspension so I stopped for 20 minutes rest for stretching and food.  At this point I was cursing all of the effort I'd put in nursing some knee pain with strengthening and stretching exercises, but totally neglecting my core muscles - I was road bike fit, but not mountain bike fit.

Laps 5, 6, and 7 were all just over 1 hour of time once I'd left the pit area. Still stopping and stretching but also now finding myself running out of energy.  I'd knew the signs of running on empty from all-day recreational rides, you just stop and eat something, sounds quite obvious but endurance racing provided some interesting obstacles.

I found normal food went down well throughout the most of the race, that was white rolls with ham and pickle, plus the odd pork pie. I was careful to drip feed but over ate once feeling sick for about 5 minutes because that full tummy is jiggled about on the bike, without any rest time for easy digestion. My slightly faster release energy food that normally works is dried fruit (with nuts for some favour) but my body did not find this appealing after 5 hours, preferring the instant sugar hit from jelly sweets which provided energy for about 15 minutes.  I found all of my food just too chewy to eat whilst riding and breathing and I can now see the advantages of gels and liquid energy. I had found the limits of normal food. On a recreational ride there is always time to stop and eat whilst admiring the scenery but this is not a racing winning strategy.

Final Lap

My final lap started 6h45m after the start. My previous two laps were over an hour so I had enough time to complete it before the 8pm cut off, but started to worry that if I had a mechanical issue and was running low on energy there was a small chance I wouldn't make it.  I decided to keep moving where possible and forget about stretching my back.  I stopped once for jellies, and managed to consume a few on the move.

The final mile was up the 'Plumb Buster', normally a trivial incline but found myself dropping onto the granny ring of my triple and ever so slowly reeling in a rider ahead of me. If he was in my category I could gain a place. The competitive spirit kicked in, unfortunately he had the same idea after hearing me drop gears, and so his pace went up. I pushed on the pedals and my muscles groaned, 7 hours and you want more?  My brain won the mental battle over my legs at the top of the climb and now we were into a 500m open track dash for the line with two right angle corners. I reeled him in and on the final straight he was just or is that still(!) three bike lengths away, we both dug deep, I stood up and sprinted  - where did that come from? should have gone harder earlier - and I pipped him to the finish line by about a foot.  What category are you in ?  10 hr. Me 8hr.  My joy subsides.

The end

My placing was last by about 10 minutes, but even so I was happy with my efforts, buzzing even.  With plenty of room for improvement, I can work on that and have another crack.

I'm not really cut out for full-on racing but enjoy beating my own personal bests and targets and it motivates me to continue keeping fit.  I'll be back for next year now I've laid down a marker, I might even give the Winter Series or Mud Sweat and Gears a crack.  Dusk 'til Dawn 12hr solo?  Hmmm, maybe not this year, just don't ask me after a couple of pints, I might just say yes.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The quiet, anti-social cycle routes of Cambridge

Cambridge has a whole load of cycle routes that avoid the main motor-vehicle routes through the city. My previous testing found they take longer but are are safer due to the limited amount of traffic. This is great if you live in the city and are making local journeys.

I've been trying to learn some of these local routes whenever I do short journeys within Cambridge. I briefly plan the journeys on OpenStreetMap, the OpenCycleMap layer, or CycleStreets which highlight the cycle routes. On OpenStreetMap, look out for blue dashed lines.

There is huge variability in the quality of the cycle routes across the city.  There are the typical wider dual use cycle tracks, sometimes with a painted white line to separate pedestrians and cyclists, sometimes not.  Some pavements are not wide, but have been made legal via signs and Traffic Regulation Orders in cases where it keeps cyclists off busy roads or provides useful connectivity.

There are also many cases where the council has put up signs to allow cycling on pavements, but has not issued a TRO to make this entirely legal - cost and bureaucracy must be why.  There are paths that make use of tight but short cut-throughs between houses. 

My point here is that a cycle routes in Cambridge are visually so variable, they often look just like footpaths. You know the Duck Test ?- If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck - my experience of legal Cambridge dual-use tracks leads to footways looking like a duck dual-use track you've used somewhere else in the city. 

As a user of dual-use cycle routes you get used to cycling in tight spaces amongst pedestrians. Sometimes the dual use routes end without an obvious warning and you drift into cycling on a footway.  This is called 'Anti-social' cycling and has been the target of local Police priorities.

Here are some examples, I've found.

Milton Road

Starting from Milton Road's junction with Gilbert Road you can head northeast towards the Science Park some 3km away. This is a major artery in and out of the city with very busy traffic. That's why it has dual use cycle track.  Except for a few gaps.

Near the Arbury Road shops where Cambridgeshire Police ticketed cyclists for anti-social cycling. My observations were that cyclists are ambling along the dual use track and drift into the footway past the shops over several busy driveways that lead to car parking. This lead to Richard Taylor's post Cyclists Branded Anti-Social for Trying to Stay Alive and eventually Cambridgeshire Police were persuaded that this should be dropped as a priority, not before cyclists were ticketed and one went to court and failed to make his case to the judge.

The dual use section restarts just past the junction with Arbury Road. Legal dual use tracks are at diagonally opposing sides of this junction. None of the traffic light crossings are 'Toucan' and thus cycling across them is actually illegal.

The next 1km from Arbury Road to Ramsden Square is legal dual-use track, but ends 300m before the formidable Milton and Kings-Hedges Road junction. Note that cycle paths start a small distance up Kings-Hedges Road; on the east side of the junction into Green End Road; and north-east towards the Science Park, but starting 120m past the junction next to Lovell Road. Again, none of the crossings are Toucans. 

If you were a cyclist who was afraid of the roads, it is likely you would ride through the pavements sections because they look much like other legal routes in the city and they are only  a short hop to the next legal section.

Kings Hedges Road

This one is hard to spot.  The entire 3km's of the southern side of Kings Hedges is dual use, except for this short hop around a bus stop at Kirkwood Road. It's almost impossible to spot heading west-to-east. I'm not entirely sure what the council expect you to do. Cross over for 60m then cross again, or walk through this section?

Campkin Road

Campkin Road on its south east side is what looks like a footpath despite a few sparse shared use signs. Somebody has made an attempt to rub out the cycle on the share use sign near Arbury Road. I have checked through the TRO's carefully and this is legally a shared-use path.

Check this section out. Footpath or Cycle-path?

St Andrew's Church, Chesterton

I thought I had spotted a great example of quiet cycle route between The Fort St George to Chesterton via Pretoria Road, Montague Road, then over Elizabeth Way and past St Andrew's Church. It's a fabulous link mostly with wide paths past Chesterton Recreation Ground and through the church grounds, many cyclists are using it. So many, Cambridgeshire Police use it to trap cyclists not using lights. 

Someone had the confidence to mark this a cycle route in OpenStreetMap. It sure does pass the Duck Test. Turns out, this is not a legal route. It's better than many I've legally used in Cambridge.  


It is impossible to for any normal person to stay legal on the dual-use paths of Cambridge.  It leaves me with mixed feelings about using these routes - they keep you safer but you can fall foul of the law so easily and most people want to stay on the right side of the law. I often find myself drifting onto footways and wonder if I am now branded an anti-social cyclist and the target of the Police.

And for those who find themselves drifting onto the wrong side of the law, does it make them more likely to intentionally break the law?  It might start with just riding any footpaths they want to, but then may lead to red light jumping, and spiralling downwards. If anyone has any further reading in this area, do comment and share your links.

I have been involved in conversations about anti-social cyclists where it turns out the complainer did not know the route was legal. I've also witnessed first hand a Police Officer saying they couldn't tell which paths were cycle routes or not. It's a mess and just feeds animosity in the city.

Ticketing cyclists for simply being on pavements is not a sound strategy in Cambridge.  I would, however, support ticketing those who are not taking due care around pedestrians regardless of the legality of the path. That is the end game isn't it, allowing people to travel safely regardless of their transport choice?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Reflecting on my Cycle to Work purchase.

It four years since I purchased my Dawes Super Galaxy using the Cycle-to-Work scheme. It was an expensive purchase for a commuter bike, but I wanted to own a quality bike for the first time in my life and dreamed of doing some cycle touring. A self-justifying cycle buyer once told me that you would ride a quality bike more. They were right.

Never before have I worn a bike out so quickly. I'm on my second set of tyres; I've just installed a third set of brake pads; whilst doing that I noticed the back wheel rim is down to the wear-limit; I checked the chain and she needs her third; and now the bottom bracket has just stiffened and I shall replace it.

I've probably ridden the Galaxy about 3000km a year, mostly to work and back, sometimes taking the long way in summer as extra fitness training, and usually direct through winter.

The Galaxy has only been on two cycle camping tours so far, but they were epic, Wales bottom to top over three mountain ranges, and another week long trip through Normandy. I only ever had rear panniers and all that static weight was on the back wheel. Being able to take that weight, she's also done me proud on many supermarket shopping trips.  Throughout, the wheels have never broken a spoke and stayed true. Whoever built that wheel I salute you.

She came with 32mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres (not the 'plus' model) and punctures are extremely rare. I can only recall fixing a flat at the side of the road once.  Out near Lode I was riding with headphones when I noticed the beat of the music I was listening to had gone out of time. Removing headphones I realised I'd been cycling with an arrow-head flint stuck in the tyre and with every revolution it was being hammered into the tyre, for how long I don't know.  Every other deflation was slow and only noticed after I'd parked up at my destination.

This was my first bike with 'drops'.  At first I couldn't use those damn things, being far too low for comfort but after about a year of stretching and being incentivised by seeming endless Fenland headwinds and I cracked it.

I am often reminded in pub conversations that my Dawes Super Galaxy came with a pipe and slippers as mandatory accessories. Aye, she has that image, but she is no slouch.  I'll give any carbon road biker a crack on the commute home, I've got nothing to loose, and if I do, I get fitter.  I've since discovered Strava and set many of my personal bests on the tourer, even though I now own a road bike. It's about being out there, just riding, and making the most of an opportunistic tail wind.

Since last summer, I've been putting 25mm slicks on instead of the puncture proof 32mm tyres and the have made her slightly faster, not quite as quick as a road bike, but maybe that's because I'm always riding with a pannier causing extra wind resistance.  I've since bought a cheap second hand alu-frame-carbon-forked road bike that's measurably faster but somewhere after 3 hours of riding my back aches and I'm read to chuck it in a hedge and walk home.  I can and have ridden the Dawes for 8 hours without trouble.  One day I'll try a lightweight carbon road bike, but for now I shall resist. I have a plan to attempt a 100 mile road ride, and I'll go for it on the comfy Dawes.

Many carbon enthusiasts own a winter-hack bike. I just keep riding the Dawes all year round. I love mudguards, keeping all that winter crud away from you, and besides, it rains in summer too. Even if the roads are just wet, the road bike stays in, and out comes the Dawes. No day is a brown stripe day for me.

Off-road the Dawes can take the punishment a bumpy track can dish out.  To be honest, I wouldn't swap my full suspension mountain bike in these conditions, modern suspension is just so comfy, but if you ride Sustrans routes, you'll know that there are plenty of smoothish gravel tracks and sometimes worse, surfaces bad enough that I would not risk my tender road bike spokes on.  The ability to ride the Dawes pretty much anywhere is a bonus, even if I wouldn't plan it.

To be honest, I ride the Dawes like it was an audax bike most of the time. It's slightly heavy but with so few local hills it doesn't normally matter.

The Dawes Super Galaxy is quite an all-rounder. I still love riding it and that's why she'll be getting a whole load of new parts. There's plenty of life left in the ol' Super-Gal yet.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Danger junctions, that minor victory.

Cambridge Cyclist and I have recently had a minor success. One of the Police priorities set by the North Area Committee in Cambridge has been to target anti-social cycling. Some of this was about cyclists without lights (I approve) but more controversially pavement or more accurately footway cycling.

One of the areas that was being targeted for anti-social cycling was the shopping area on Milton Road close to Arbury Road. The issue here was unclear signage, where a shared use path ends without clear signs. Cyclist are supposed to move onto the road using the 1m cycle lane past the shops, and then just 200m later the shared-use path restarts on the other side of an awful busy junction with Arbury Road.

Milton Road is a major A road in and out of Cambridge and is subsequently very busy with traffic. It has a shared use cyclepath on its western side, starting at its junction with Gilbert Road and pretty much continues for 2.35km to the Science Park. I say pretty much, because it has two holes, one of those being the 200m at the Milton/Arbury Road shops. If you are a timid cyclist, would you want to cycle in that on-road lane?

Worse, if you are travelling in the other direction trying to get round the 200m hole legally, you would be expected to cross over the road, use the 1m on-road cycle lane going straight on at the roundabout while all the majority of traffic on your right is attempting to turn left. The Google StreetView visualises the conflict. This junction is statistically bad for cyclists too.

Cyclist using the legal route over the roundabout, rather than the  illegal footway on right.
Most vehicles turn left here, many cyclists go straight on.

As a result of the criticisms, we got involved with the local political process, explained our case - badly at the North Area Committee - but then better one-to-one. Targeting anti-social cycling has now been dropped as a priority with a view to improving cycle path signs and looking at road and path layout. This is summarised well in the Cambridge News.

The good news is that the Police and Councillors understand the issues more than they did before and that they are looking at the views of not just cyclists, but pedestrians too. It is certainly not my wish to have a solution that puts vulnerable pedestrians at risk. One outcome - proposed by Councillor Manning - is to look at the root cause of any issues they are asked to prioritise. That's a great result for all, not just cyclists.

Where next?

When I went to the North Area Committee I went armed with statistics of Cambridge's road accidents. I meant to get the cyclist accidents visualised on a map, but that's partly been superceeded by the DfT's collision map.  Here's a map of Cambridgeshire's collisions involving cyclists. This tool doesn't have a way to filter to pedestrian collisions - I've already put in a request to the authors get that improved.

My other task is verifying the OpenStreetMap view of the shared-use paths in Cambridge. When correct, it can be used to show where any problems are. I've been using two sources: the Traffic Regulation Orders and actual on-the-ground signage. I've reviewed the TRO's for Arbury so far, making a few minor corrections and mostly adding legal shared use that wasn't on the map.

An interesting example shared-use path runs along the south side of Kings Hedges Road. Almost the entire 2.7km length is shared-use, except for a dodge round a bus shelter next to Kirkwood Road. Could you spot the end of the cyclepath? Here it is from the other end.

A final example is some shared-use path on Campkin Road. This is genuinely shared-use. It looks like footway, isn't that clearly marked and probably causes bad feeling for some pedestrians. Some of them may have even complained about cyclists on the footpath. Shared-use cyclists in Cambridge often find themselves in close quarters with pedestrians, on routes that sometimes look like shared-use, sometimes like footway, regardless of their legal status.

Some of the shared-use looks awful to a fast rider, but even when poor quality, many people do value being able to keep off the road such as accompanying children cycling to school. But when the speeds go up in tight spaces, that's surely when the conflict and animosity starts.

These are positive things we can do to improve the situation for all.

  • Improve signs so people understand where is legal to ride.
  • Find a way to make longer shared-use cycle paths continuous. Dumping timid riders on the road in 1m cycle lanes is unacceptable.
  • Longer term, redesign the road and path layout.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Testing Cambridge's Safer Cycle Nework

This post contains a lot of road names, one of the following map sources will help you follow:

OpenCycleMap (opens on Cambridge)
Cambridge City Cycle Map (pdf)
CycleStreets Journey Planner (Cambridge)

I hate cycling in traffic. Even with every driver overtaking you perfectly, I've always got my hearing tuned for unusual behaviour from drivers behind and ready myself for evasive action. For every 99 drivers who are excellent, there will be just one who overtakes badly, or worse gives you a close pass. This is why, when there are safer routes I want to use them.

Histon Road

Avid readers will know that I no longer take Histon Road, Cambridge as part of my commute. At the times I travel, the traffic flows freely through the worst pinch point, with inadequate 1 metre on-road cycle lanes next to a traffic lane that is the same width as a bus.

Southbound, destination city centre, I prefer to avoid the worst part of Histon Road and divert down the parallel route just to the East, along Kings Hedges Road, Arbury Road, then Mere and Carlton Way. Upon reaching Gilbert Road I take the route into town via Gilbert Road, Milton Road and Victoria Avenue. There is a safer route that continues over Gilbert Road, into Stretten Avenue and over Jesus Green Lock.

If I hate traffic so much, why do I not take the safer Jesus Lock route? I am balancing additional time and safety. The direct route from Cottenham to the city centre takes me 24 minutes. My safer route takes around 27 minutes. Going via Jesus Lock, 33m00s. Actually, when I am in a rush, I find myself having to take Histon Road to save time - a forced but pragmatic decision. To put this into perspective, the same journey by motorcycle during rush hour takes me 25 minutes. I've never done it by car.


You can already see that on my usual commute route I am trading safety for time and extra distance.  Some of us who are very skilled in traffic (Bikeability 3, CycleCraft) can save time. For normal people these routes can be safer but force them to go further. I don't expect Granny will be too happy going the extra distance in a headwind.

The more fiddly routes require effort to learn.  This is fine for a regular journeys or trips close to home but becomes a pain for cross-town journeys.

You should know that my safe route along Mere and Carlton Way turns into a tricky and dangerous route at 8:45am as the school drop-offs turn the road to chaos. At this time, Histon Road is safer because the traffic is moving slower than bicycles.  Choosing a safe route can be hard.  Not all routes are consistently safe throughout the day.

The obstacles we put in the way are a straw-that-broke-the-camels-back problem. The more obstacles we make, the less journeys people are going to take by bicycle. Many of us have a car and it competes with the bicycle on physical effort, convenience and journey time. Not many people question CO2 when you need a loaf of bread in a hurry. Need to pop across town quickly and safely? Some will choose the car because its hard to find a safe route. You really do have to be a committed cyclist to make regular journeys.

Gilbert Road via Jesus Lock to City Centre

The safer route used by many normal cyclists from Gilbert Road into the city centre arrives via Jesus Lock and crosses Jesus Green towards Park Street car and cycle parks.

The legal route across town (green dots) feels like you are fighting the one way system. The natural desire-line is past Sainsbury on Sydney St, but is illegal due to a one-way system (for motor-vehicles) and is often Policed with PSCOs handing out fines to cyclists.

A legal route Southbound from Jesus Green.
Cambridgeshire County Council's cycling map.

Mill Road

I occasionally need to do errands to the far end of Mill Road. I've previously written about it being a cycle casualty black spot.

Cambridge City Printed Cycle Map
Mill Road has a safer parallel route which is quite popular. Last time I was at the far end I wanted to take that parallel route but I'd come unprepared. I was sat on the ring road at the junction of Brooks Road and Natal Road wondering how I could pickup the safer parallel route to the city centre rather than take Mill Road. Unbelievably, I was at the exact junction where the safer route started and had no idea. I gave up and used Mill Road.

I returned with a paper map in hand determined to test the safer route, from Parkers Piece to Natal Road and back. From Parkers Piece, I started my stopwatch and headed East picking up Gresham Road, following blue signs for Cherry Hinton. It's a wiggly route but I followed my nose and another cyclist. Signs for Cherry Hinton were lacking around Tenison Road but recognised Station Road was the wrong way and followed my nose into Devonshire Road. I just missed the ramp up onto the Carter Bridge but solved by a quick u-turn and over the railway I went. On the other/east side I reached a T-junction where I was stumped. My paper map saved me and I turned left then right into Greville Road and followed a reasonably obvious route.

Off Coleridge Road there was a comically thin cut through to Marmora Road. Funny because this is a classic route that mixes cyclists and pedestrians on pavements that have been legalised for dual-use just like many locations in Cambridge, but in at other locations you can receive a fine if enough locals badger the Police with their irritation.

The final off-road link was a pavement cut through from Mamora/Hobart Road to Natal Road. I rode this route in the dark and this location was unlit with a dark corner in a quiet location. I can't imagine women cycling alone would be happy here at night.

Arriving at the ring road, I realised I'd passed just a handful of moving cars. The route took me 11m20s over 2.6km.

I returned to Parkers Piece along the direct Mill Road route, with light traffic at 7:30pm, taking 6m10s over 2.1km. The safer route had cost me 5 minutes, and 500 metres.

Would I take this route again? If I lived in the area, without a doubt. For my occasional errand, perhaps not. It's a trip that I'm always squeezing into a busy schedule and the extra delay over such as short distance is hard to swallow.


Cambridge has some very adult friendly cycle routes. The Mill Road area in particular has many one way streets for drivers and closed through routes. This does provide a useful secondary cycle network, but does require effort to learn. Improved signage would make their use much easier.

Some of the newer shared-use routes in Cambridge are far better than their previous generations - Madingley Road for example, and new off-road routes keep popping up such as The Tins towards Cherry Hinton. One of the greatest successes in Cambridge is limited motor vehicle access to the bollard protected city centre. The history of this precedes my time in Cambridge, but I bet it was highly controversial and required bold and courageous decision making - it's paid off.

But, outside of the bollard protected central shopping area, Cambridge suffers from a lack of direct and safe cycle routes. Cycles are allowed to use wide bus lanes, along routes such as Hills Road, Milton Road, and Newmarket Road, but these always end just before difficult junctions. The direct routes come into play for cross-city journeys and those commuting into Cambridge from outside the 'radial corden'.

In this city of cyclists, we still have to balance safety and journey time while traffic flow on the main routes takes priority over cyclist safety. Better junction design and re-allocating road space from motor-vehicles to bicycles are the current debates. These ideas will again require bold and courageous decision making from our local politicians.

Further reading:
Ely Cycle Campaign on Cambridge's Cycling Infrastructure and the use of a secondary network.
Cambridge Cycle Campaign's criticism of the Catholic Church junction design decision.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Cyclists' 10 worst junctions revealed

Cambridge News have published a story with collision counts at the junctions either end of Lensfield Road in Cambridge. The story contains some factual errors which have been analysed and corrected.

Cyclists' 10 worst junctions revealed

08:12 Monday 18 March 2013
Written byDebra Fox

It begins:

The 10 most dangerous junctions for cyclists in Cambridge have been revealed, with Lensfield Road the top hotspot for accidents.
The Lensfield Road, Trumpington Street and Fen Causeway junction was recorded as the most dangerous with 41 accidents recorded in six years, while 20 accidents put Perne Road, Radegund Road and Birdwood Road roundabout in at number 10.
The latest figures from Levenes Cycle Injury, the personal injury lawyers, show the number of accidents have increased at all of the 10 locations in the city. However, Cambridgeshire County Council disputes the figures.

The story is similar to one published a year ago in a number of sources. Levenes have previously published their own story on Levenes' web site dated 29th March 2012. Cambridge News themselves published a very similar story Most Dangerous Junctions for Cyclists Revealed 15th March 2012 with numbers. And the figures from Levenes were also used in a similarly named story by The Cambridge Student 22nd March 2012.

The story references the total number of collisions at two junctions, each at either end of Lensfield Road. Its a confusing set of numbers which become clearer when you see the source.

Levenes provided these numbers to Cambridge News and gave me the same data to help clear up factual errors:

The Junction2005-2010
6 years
7 years
1. Lensfield Rd/Trumpington St/The Fen Causeway3641
2. Queen Edith's Way/Fendon Rd/Hills Road Triangle3439
3. East Rd/Mill Rd3133
4. Maids Causeway/Victoria Ave/Jesus Lane Roundabout2733
5. Hills Road/Gonville Pl/Lensfield Rd/Regent St Cross Roads3031
6. Castle St/Northampton St/Chesterton Ln2627
7. Milton Rd/Elizabeth Way Roundabout2326
8. Hills Rd/Cherry Hinton Rd2325
9. Emmanuel St/St Andrews St/Downing St2022
10. Perne Rd/Radegund Rd/Birdwood Roundabout1520

Quotes from the story:

The Lensfield Road, Trumpington Street and Fen Causeway junction was recorded as the most dangerous with 41 accidents recorded in six years.

There is a mistake, 41 is the Levenes figure for 7 years, not 6 as stated.

The Catholic Church junction, where Hills Road, Gonville Place, Lensfield Road and Regent Street meet ... came fifth on the list after 31 cyclists were said to have been injured there between 2005 and 2011 [7 years].

This number is correctly quoted.

But a spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council said the Lensfield Road junction with Fen Causeway had only had 31 accidents between 2005 and 2010  [6 years] – 10 fewer than the Levenes statistics.

This number is not correct. Given the earlier mistake by Cambridge News quoting the wrong year, we cannot be sure what question CN asked the council to answer, or if there were any mistakes whilst writing the story. This could be a case of "garbage in, garbage out".

A small part of the story said:

The latest figures from Levenes Cycle Injury, the personal injury lawyers, show the number of accidents have increased at all of the 10 locations in the city

The story did not give the numbers as they did in previous years so it was impossible for the reader to check this claim.  The total number of collisions has increased - obvious given one extra year of data - but the collision rate has not accelerated.

It is worth adding that Levenes and the Council take different approaches when working out which are the worst junctions for collisions.

Levenes have simply counted the total number of collisions involving cyclists.

Cambridgeshire County Council use an algorithm score the sites which skews results towards more severe collisions. The scoring process considers all collisions and road users, not just those involving cyclists.

Last year the story was more topical as cyclists were busy marking their most dangerous junctions on The Times Cycle Safe Map with the Hills Road end of Lensfield Road having twice as many submissions as the TrumpingtonSt/Fen Causeway end. Shortly after, the council announced they had plans to update the Catholic Church junction at Hills Road / Lensfield Road.

STATS19 data for 2012 will be released to the general public around July 2013 and that is when we'll start to see the next round of updates and headlines from all the news sources. Levenes have said they will be updating their map when the new data is released.

If you spot any errors or can provide clearer information, please do get in contact.