Thursday 11 May 2017

Arbury Road Cycle Lane Scheme - Peak Stupid Achieved

So we're not going to get dumber than this.

The way you recover native biodiversity if you really, really have to re-plant an old hedge? You allow the seeds and root stock there to re-grow and selectively re-plant local specimens in and around the shrubs and trees you carefully select based on what thrives in that specific environment and within constraints of hedging culture in that area. If you have to re-seed then you do so with specific reference to what was there before and what thrives in the microenvironment in question.

What you don't do is ignore what grows well in the local area, order in an inappropriate mix of plants from goodness knows where and plant them past the end of the season in which it makes sense to do so, which of course then necessitates that you mulch round with wood-chips to give what precious moisture remains in an arid East Anglian soil, and suppress any hope of re-growing any wild plants.

Then there are really only two ways of making that worse. One, you then don't water enough through a really dry (but not amazingly so for the location) Spring so some of what you've planted dies. Two, you put a fence up with narrow mesh to stop anyone trampling through - and you make the mesh narrow enough such that if any wild animals want through, they're boned. You don't, say, just stretch 3 rows of wire along the line (to stop people trampling through), if you really want to cock it up you turn it into a hedghog barrier too.

Its like... I dunno, they said 'post and wire' fence, they didn't say 'chicken wire' or 'stock fence'. What they've constructed is a perfect habitat for climbing plants - when it finally rains, yeah, there'll be some things grow up there. It'll be goose grass and maybe bind weed, and it'll shade out everything else that might grow around the trees, while making sure that nothing bigger than a mouse (or maybe a rat) can get through the gaps. The shading put on to the space by this growth up the mesh will mean that even if we attempt to guerilla-garden some replanting that will probably fail too.

City Deal seem intent, at every stage, on making this scheme worse. Yeah, we need a cycle lane, but here's a golden opportunity to do something solid for local ecology too - and they've buggered it up. And at each stage they bugger it up more. Its hard to see such ineptitude as accidental - I'd actually rather believe its malice than stupidity at this stage.

We need good cycle lanes down the whole length of Arbury Road and I stand by my criticism that if we're not going to get that I oppose the entire scheme on the basis that its just not good enough. What it looks like is that we're going to have an almost good enough lane along some of it, at high ecological cost and to the total disrepute of the City Deal and other cycling projects going forward.

Beyond repair. Disgusting.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Is it OK to ram cyclists?

These events tend to come along in little clusters, rather like when Wiggo and Shane Sutton were both hit by drivers in the same week. I know, its just coincidence, but the world does sometimes seem to work that way.

This time we've got two (alleged) incidences of people being intentionally rammed by people using motor vehicles. The first is the widely shared story of a cyclist being side-swiped by a van driver. The situation is simple enough - there's a double white line down the middle of the road on a wide, sweeping and actually quite blind bend. A cyclist has (correctly) taken a prominent position in the lane, and a van driver behind seems to sound a horn while getting far, far too close behind the cyclist. As the double white line becomes a single white line (with dashes on his side of the road) the cyclist is seen to be looking to find space to move aside and let the van go, but the close proximity and subsequent dangerous overtake accompanied by side-swipe at the cyclist from the van driver make that impossible. The cyclist is riding according to the law and good cycling practice as published by the Department for Transport in Cyclecraft on a road which anyone who's taken cycling training would recognise is a model for where primary positioning should be employed. And, of course, even if the cyclist had been in the wrong it is unarguable that punishing him through a collision with a freaking van is not proportionate to anything he's done - thats a potential death sentence.

The second is of a far more prominent cyclist - three times Tour de France winner and twice Olympic medallist Chris Froome.

This is of course still an 'allegedly' - the state of the bike there is pretty damn incriminating of course (something like ten to twelve grand plus of damage to that top end bike), but even though he's a sporting legend its one guys word at present.

So how has the world responded to these events? It is, as ever, mixed. There are many cyclists who are basically unsurprised and supportive of both riders, of course. Many of us have had similar incidents, and its always an uphill battle to get anyone to believe you unless you've got video footage. Bue everone else who's not a cyclist? Many are just as crap as ever.

Regarding the guy hit by a van, everyone from the BBC to fucking Godgfrey fucking Bloom have been having digs at him. The latter arguing with the Police who've been telling him flat out that he's wrong.

As for Chris Froome the internet seems full of 'I don't hate cyclists but...' comments aimed at him. People telling him that if he knew how to ride, etc.  

This all goes beyond the mutual respect fallacy and into something more sinister - we're not looking at sensible, reasonable responses to colossally disproportionate use of force. There is no reasonable way to say 'its wrong to assault someone using a vehicle but...'. There are no 'but's in this scenario, its wrong. There is not a context in which assaulting someone using a freaking van or car is proportionate to any kind of perceived 'provocation' you hold the cyclist responsible for, and it is both disingenuous and entirely insulting to insist that there is any kind of equivalency here.

I could try to analyze this behaviour in the way no doubt dozens of other commenters and bloggers will. I could talk about the sense of entitlement that comes with motoring, the fact that cyclists behaving perfectly reasonably are viewed as social 'defectors' or 'others' so therefore the behavioural bar they're expected to leap over is ever so much higher than for anyone else... But I'm not going to. 

You see, no one could believe that 'but its the cyclists fault because he made the driver angry' is reasonable. The people making these arguments aren't coming out with a fair response to the situation, the're not giving a thought through analysis of whats happened. They're being positively sociopathic - to even ask 'but who's to blame?' when someone has visibly driven a vehicle at a person is to imply that for some behavioural faux-pas hitting someone with a van is a proportionate response. And that attitude isn't one thats amenable to rational analysis because its irrational and socioapthic. 

And thats my analysis of these bozos (and there are many of them) who believe that they can reasonably say 'its the drivers fault but the cyclist was in the wrong so...'. No. No. No. You sick bastard. You sick, sociopathic, bastard.

There's not a personality test before someone drives. If we want to make our roads safer, I think we need to change that. If you believe a fair response to someone irritating you is or can ever be to threaten their safety or even assault them, you need to be off the roads. We need you not to be driving. Nothing else is reasonable. 

Wednesday 3 May 2017

Camcycle Election Survey - My Responses

Al at the Cycling Campaign asked for my answers to their election survey. So, here goes...

What experience do you and your family have of cycling? Do you have any different concerns about younger or older family members cycling than you do for yourself?

I ride a bike more or less wherever I go and always have, as does my partner. Its just how we get around - we've chunky bikes for carrying a load, light bikes for faster travel longer distances, and other bikes in-between. We commute, go out for fun, go to the shops, to the allotment, everywhere else more or less by bike. To stop us riding you'd have to physically staple us to the floor, so to understand the concerns others have cycling we have to be attentive to their needs - I see a bike not only as transport but as an excellent mobility aid. Bikes have been great facilitators for us both through periods of injury and poor health, and I acknowledge that for kids and older folk the roads we're faced with are often far too hostile, chicanes on cycle paths become more or less impassable, and the shared use facilities and narrow cycle lanes we're often faced with create a level of conflict I wouldn't wish on them. And thats before you even start on aggression cyclists are often faced with on the road. 

What challenges do people face in your area that prevent them from cycling, especially children and those using cycling as a mobility aid, and how will you address them?

In Kings Hedges we've got good and bad facilities for riding and, frustratingly, the bad ones are more visible. The Kings Hedges Road cycle lane is comically bad and very visible, whereas the many routes that can safely, legally and enjoyably be ridden through the estate are hidden from view and barely if at all signposted. I'd add to that, roads like Milton Road and Arbury Road have incomplete cycle provision, at best, and if we want to facilitate kids and people who struggle to get about riding we've got to tackle all of these things rather than, as we currently do, dash ahead with piecemeal provision. 

I think the key message is that any bike journey is only as good as its most hostile junction - so we need to think about whole journeys rather than bit-by-bit improvements. Whether its the insanity of not planning a high quality bike route down the whole length of Arbury Road, or the sheer stupidity of not linking the end of the Guided Bus Cycle Route with the bridge over the A14, its the same issue. Until we address whole journeys rather than just little bits of them, those barriers to cycling will remain.

One last thing - a big barrier to cycling in and around Kings Hedges is councillors. A reasonable response to kids riding bikes on the pavement by a hostile road is to direct the Police to tame the roads, whereas councillors in North Cambridge repeatedly direct the Police to target this as 'antisocial cycling'. Or, in other words, they're telling the cops to tell kids to go and play in traffic. Someone needs to stand up to this obscene institutionalised bullying - nothing will put someone of riding more than this.

Which aspects of current City Deal proposals do you support, and what additional measures which have not been officially proposed do you think should be explored?

I have, thus far, been disappointed with City Deal. Its not that its all bad (the route we're getting down part of Arbury Road is good) but the specifics we've seen so far have been just so lacking as to be farcical. The Green End Road cycle scheme is so bad I fear it'll kill someone, and the second stage of the Arbury Road scheme has drifted so far from what could have reasonably been interpreted from the consultation (with regards to local ecology) as to bring the whole ethos of the City Deal into question.

In my opinion all new cycle provision (City Deal or not) needs to be delivered to a high quality (for safe and effective cycling) and within a strong ecological framework. There is no advantage to approaching this any other way when cycle provision is also a superb opportunity for better urban planting schemes. I'd also look at strategic routes in and around the city, with emphasis on both routes in, and radially around the city. We need to consider a Greater Cambridge Cycling Network that is actually a network. Thats the only way we'll see further mode shift to cycling from driving.

Which junctions in your area need to be improved to increase safety for people cycling, and how what can be done to fix them?

I hesitate to say 'all of them'. So I'll say 'nearly all of them'.

Arbury/Milton/Union is dreadful - we need cycle provision on both parts of Milton Road and on Arbury Road leading to ASL's  and an extend joint phase for cyclists/pedestrians, with an experimental closure of Union Lane to motorised traffic coming in from the junction. 

Upgrades planned to the junctions on Arbury Road are generally well thought out, but we need to follow through and get them done.

Arbury/Kings Hedges/Histon Road mix is total pigs ear - as part of a cycle lane upgrade for Kings Hedges Road (which I don't think is planned but is essential) we need advance stop lights for bikes on all parts of this route. 

Science Park/Guided Bus/Milton Road/Milton Bridge area needs a complete re-design. Its almost impassable on a bike, lets dig it up as part of City Deal fixing Milton Road and start from scratch with a range of bike facilities linking all parts of it - including the woeful pedestrian/cyclist crossing to the new station from the Science Park.

All junctions on Milton Road (as part of the Milton Road City Deal scheme) must prioritise Cyclists on the 'main road' route just like we prioritise others on the road itself.

There's a simple straight line route from the back entry of the Science Park to the City Centre, following the old Roman Road route down Stretten Avenue, Carlton Way and Mere Way. I'd upgrade that as a cycle super-highway and prioritise cycling along the simplest, straightest line route linking Cambridge to the Science Park.

With Park Street due for demolition, and Grand Arcade cycle park frequently beyond capacity, where do you think a third covered city centre cycle park should be located? What other additional actions do you propose to increase cycle parking capacity on our city centre streets?

People keep blathering on about this like its complicated and it really, really isn't. There has just been no political will to solve it.

Grand Arcade hugely under-delivered on promised bike spaces - I'd make any further planning permission changes to or in that development provisional on fixing that. When we re-develop Park Street (this is City, rather than County) there's plenty of scope for more bike spaces in any new plan. 

Its frustrating that the Grafton car parks offer no bike parking - I'd like to see Grafton West car park re-developed to put at least one story of bike parking (underground or ground floor). And as Cambridge Examinations moves to their new site I'd be looking for bike parking as part of any redevelopment of that site - I'd make provision of a significant covered bike space a key part of accepting any planing proposal there. 

There's also ample space for better laid out and more bike parking on Castle Hill - the County Council site where a seemingly vast acreage is given over to nothing of great importance. And for the life of me I don't know why we're not putting bike parking on key recreational sites in and around the City Centre - there's practically nothing heading out past the Mill Pond, and there's ample space to do something there. 

What measures would you support to boost cycle commuting into Cambridge? For instance, the City Deal Greenways proposal, reuse of old railway alignments, or new bridges over main roads?

This is a huge question and its always been the elephant in the room - Cambridge has a high level of cycling within the city but that peters out as you head into the Greater Cambridge area.  The Greenways plan isn't bad as far as it goes, but its not enough.

I think we need to think strategically about bike routes coming in to Cambridge as well as those inside the city - that must include a fully segregated route to Bar Hill (which may or may not come alongside the A14 upgrade), a similar route to Ely (servicing Waterbeach and other sites en route), and similar schemes linking villages to the South and West of Cambridge. Segregated cycle routes should be included in all future road upgrade schemes as part of granting permission to build them, and if such is not on offer as part of the plan then that plan must be rejected.

As for bridges over main roads, the plan to build cycle routes to the West of Cambridge hasn't had enough of this - no cycle route should involve mixing with dual carriageway or motorway slip road traffic so where said routes cross the M11 or A14 of course bridges are needed. The current route over the A14 to Histon, for example, is much better since crossings were installed but they're still an absurdity. A bike and pedestrian bridge is absolutely essential there.

What improvements for cycling would you like to see on Milton Road?

The 'do optimum' plan is pretty good - but its only part of the answer. Mitchams Corner and the approach/crossing from the Science Park need a lot more thought. I'd consider closing some of the routes to Mitchams Corner and I'd like to turn that into a genuine public space rather than a glorified roundabout.

The contentious issue of Milton Road trees is one that keeps coming back - I'm on record as arguing that this is a huge opportunity to build world class cycle facilities and to simultaneously revitalise planting there to create a genuinely exciting city treescape too. Thats outside the remit of this questionnaire - but we should never shy away from making our city better. My fear is that City Deal is not able to understand the importance of such aspects of the scheme.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign Election Survey - Summary.

Well its on the whole better than its been in the past.

The two local LibDems I found were both good - the Kings Hedges one excellent. If cycling is your only concern look at the LibDems.

Labour? Not bad. A bit formulaic and I have to say one of the candidates was naffly self serving rather than looking to answer the questions. But the responses weren't terrible. I did come away from writing that thinking they didn't care all that much about the topic, and were getting into replying because they felt they must. If cycling is important to you look at Labour, but ask some questions.

Tories? Wipe out. I mean verging on dreadful. Not hostile, but patronisingly rubbish.

UKIP don't give enough of a toss to even answer. Don't vote for them if you care about cycling unless you're delusional.

Greens - they're sometimes better than that in these surveys, but this time round they're middling. Not bad. Not epic.

On the whole we're seeing trends emerge in local politics here in Cambridge - one is that the LibDems are positioning themselves as the cycling party because its the right thing to do, its a social benefit all round. Labour are positioning themselves as the party that listen to people and do whats asked, but they come across as being quite selective in who they listen to and their compromising language feels like one from which we might be the ones we're compromised with. Dunno about that.
Tories were always bad except for the occasional good candidate, and the Greens are up and down.

As for UKIP, they've collectively said 'oh, for fucks sake' and given up.

So there you have it. For cycling, its fairly clear who's the best option in Cambridge. I just wish I could bring myself to vote for a local party that still treats Colin Rosenstiel with respect.

Cambridge Election Survey - Greens

So the last of the parties I'll cover here is the Green party. And... Well, not a lot of respondents. A shame, really, you'd think that this would be up their alley, but never mind.

The first I find is Monica Hone down in Abbey. Her husband and her kid both cycle, although she lists no particular issues (which is odd).

Regarding particular issues...

I think the cycle lanes along the main roads are inadequate and cyclists should have priority over cars at junctions.
Well, yeah, ok. But... Which roads? Which junctions? Priority how and where, what kind of junctions?

She hasn't answered regarding City Deal (seriously? I mean this is a big, big issue in Cambridge), but does hilight the Macdonals roundabout as particularly bad.

Re. Park Street and cycle parking in the City Centre?
I would explore reducing car parking spaces in favour of more cycle parking, and reducing demand for car parking in the city through a combination of higher parking fees, improved alternative access, such as more Park and Rides, or free bike hire.
OK then, thats reasonable. But a little vague maybe? Which car parking do you mean? Where? Improved alternative access? Whats that even mean?

So not a great first candidate but not a wash out. Lets hunt another...

Histon isn't far, just yonder side of the A14. And their candidate Dan Cotterell is there.

Does he cycle, family experience thereof, issues associated...
I commute by bicycle from Impington to Addenbrooke's Hospital 5 days a week on my Giant Roam 0 Hybrid. I am also an active member of Histon and Impington bicycle club and regularly make 60-80 mile trips at the weekend on my Cube Attain GTC Pro Disk.
 Oh, really? A Giant hybrid? Yeah, I've got one of those too. Reliable. Dependable. Lots of other words ending in 'ible'. Cube Attain is a bit more flash, like. But with respect, I don't care. At all. I mean what bike you ride isn't important to me at all. I care about what issues you can hi-light based on personal experience. But never mind, I do like a bit of being a nerd too, so...

What are the challenges?

Roads are poorly maintained. Too many cars not only in Cambridge but also in the surrounding villages. Poorly designed cycle lanes with just a white line painted about a metre from the curb. This gives drivers an excuse to pass far too close as they assume as long as they are their side of the white line they are giving the cyclist enough space.
Errm... Ok. As far as it goes. I agree, but thats only part of the picture, especially for Histon and Impington (where I'd have thought the bigger issue is improving cycle links to Milton which are currently just awful, and making the route up to Cottenham better, and of course looking at how you can get more cycling within the division - which roads are currently hostile and can that be resolved).

Regarding city deal (bits they're doing he supports and other stuff)

The city deal does not go nearly far enough in providing transport infrastructure for the city. Cycling provision should always, where practical, be dedicated to cycles and not shared use. Far more needs to be done to keep commuter traffic out of Cambridge. Bus services, especially out to the villages run only once or twice per hour, providing no incentive to use them at all. Until public transport is provided as a service and not for profit this will never change. Bus and Rail services must be returned to the public sector before this will ever have a chance of working.
Well I won't argue with him about all of this, I agree with a lot of it. But renationalisation of bus and rail? Thats not what the city deal is. I do wish he'd been more specific here.

Which junctions are bad and how can he fix them?
Histon Road, Kings Hedges Road is extremely dangerous for cyclists with the cycle lane running between the the lane for traffic heading for Kings Hedges and traffic heading into Cambridge. The majority of traffic coming off the A14 at the Histon junction is heading for the science park. All of this traffic has to cut across the cycle lane. I have been actually hit twice on this junction and cut up and forced to brake hard more times than I can remember.
Thats half an answer. Its a good half. But its only half - what would he do to fix this (frankly terriying) junction? Personally I'd like a dedicated bridge from the old Histon Road on the Cambridge side to the cul-de-sac that was formerly the continuation of the road on the other side, with that access route re-surfaced on the City side to fulfil requirements for riding and walking. And I think this will be crucial ater the new houses are built right off that site.

His answer on greenways and getting more people cycling in to Cambridge rather misses the point and mostly goes into national politics, but his commitment to a Cambridge congestion charge is interesting. And his response to the ward specific question about school provision there? Ok.

So... The Greens. Not bad. Not epic either.

Cambridge Election Survey - UKIP

Sorry for the delay, but I've not had time to get back to this until now, and last I looked not a lot of Kippers had answered.

So lets have a look through to see if enough have bothered with the Camcycle survey...

No for Kings Hedges, no candidate in Arbury, even Burkinshaw down in Chesterton has let us down (BOO!). First I've found is out in Bar Hill, one Helene Green. 

Personal and family experience riding, concerns for vulnerable..?

For many years I cycled to work from Thriplow to Addenbrookes Hospital - 15 miles each day. Eventually, I had to give up because of wear on my knees. I continued on two wheels because I bought a small motorcycle which helped greatly on the hills. My son was a concern because he had several accidents when he collided with both a car and a motorcycle. In those days we wore no safety helmets and he had no official training in road awareness or rules. I fully support formal training for young cyclists which I have seen taking place today. One criticism of today's cyclists is that many do not have or use bells.
Oh. Right then. I'd go so far as to say thats messed up if I'm honest. Victim blaming crap from the outset.

No answer on specific local issues for riding (especially children etc.). Or indeed for any of the other questions. Its basically a drive-by swipe at cyclists in one poor answer. Fail. 

Had to search hard for another who's even bothered, and we get to Adrian Dent in Melbourne and Bassingbourne (commuter territory South of Cambridge - lots of folk get on a train to Cambridge, lots to London).

He does ride and does care about bad facilities it seems...

I cycle quite frequently and yes I have concerns for the younger cyclists, between our village and Royston is a very poor cycleway

Challenges for cycling round his way?

 I would look to get more cycle paths within the villages and main roads

Straight forward and to the point, but 'more'? Didn't he just say the one he's got is bad? More and better. The two go hand in hand don't they?

What does he support in city deal etc?
I have been opposed to the city deal for being to City centric, whilst the East of the county is very deprived those of us in the SOuth of the county are treated like poor cousins
Well, duh. Its City Deal. Not County Deal. Please say what you want to do thats specific to getting things better for your division within that context but you're entirely missing the point here.

But otherwise? He agrees the junctions all suck and he wants to 'take cyclists off highways' (I do hope by bringing us better facilities to ride on off road). I've got to say though, this isn't a masterpiece of brevity. Its just under-thought.

So much for UKIP. Lets have a look at the Greens...