Thursday, 25 August 2016

New Railway Bridge and Station Access

So the access to the "Carter" Railway Bridge and links through into the station have just been improved. Just how much better is it?


How It Was

This is the way it used to work (click images for video).

Over Railway Bridge from Devonshire Road
Showing limited access, conflict between directions travelled

From Railway Bridge to Devonshire Road
Showing limited access, conflict between directions travelled, and limited visibility

Station Carpark access
Showing narrow twisting space, conflicting between walking and riding

The Plans

Well the plans [PDF] have been around for a few years now. As well as some comments on Cyclescape, showing there were discussions over this plan in 2013. Interesting to note that there were limitations because of the Travis Perkins site. Given that's a time limited issue, were the plans compromised to get them in earlier (and is 3 years really "earlier"?).

So, 3 basic updates.
  • adding a segregated ramp following the same route that a lot of people on bikes already follow
  • widening the access points
  • ensuring reasonable segregation between walking and riding

In Reality

In reality, this has happened (general and markings videos below). Note that I've included the bit under the bridge into the railway station rather than the bridge, although the dimensions are a bit odd. This is the area of focus to start.

Rather than kerbed pavements, there's a lot of painted lines in the station car park. Not only under the bridge, but along the walking access to the station. I hope this is because this area of the station is under development and is likely to alter. I don't think it should remain like this. Kerbs are the best way of segregating transport modes, specifically people driving from those walking. Paint does diddly squat.

So the section under the bridge seems a little random with some interesting pavement issues. Note that all people walking are aiming for (or coming from) the section of "pavement" to the bottom right which leads into the station. On the video below, you'll see that despite the large area actually under the bridge, an amount of it is taken by motorbikes being parked (not particularly well). And there is no pavement to the right of the cycleroute under the bridge. It works it's way round 1 parking space, and 1 only. Finally, the red tarmac, usually denoting cyclespace seems to have spilled out over the pavement between the steps up to the bridge and Devonshire Road. This just adds to the confusion here.

Now, looking at where people walking have to cross people riding, the source of most conflict in a properly segregated scheme. So, if walking along:
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd, left of plan): C and D
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd, above plan): A and B
  • Bridge - Station: E
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd): E, A and D
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd): E, A, and B
  • Along Devonshire: B and D
That's a total of 13 crossings, 3 of which are doubles, and 2 are triples. There is an alternative to one triple, but it's much more likely that people will walk along their desire lines here, so are likely to walk a lot in the cycletrack (the video has great example at 0:56). So, even if not a triple, it'll be poorly segregated.

Carter Railway Bridge Update Video
Go HD see * at bottom

0:00 Devonshire Road onto Bridge
0:31 From Bridge into Station
1:08 From Station onto Bridge
1:50 From Bridge onto Devonshire Road
2:08 From Bridge into Ravensworth Gardens

And here's a brief look at the markings
Go HD see * at bottom

Markings from bridge around


First, the widening is a great relief. The small bollarded space was really difficult to negotiate when bikes are coming from both directions. This is made more important given pulling into the space from the road is not taken as a priority. This is because for those coming down from the bridge the cyclelane continues on. This potentially puts people pulling across a traffic lane at risk if suddenly they have to stop.

For someone walking, I think the width might increase the desire to look a bit more. I'm not sure it increases anxiety of crossing much. Whilst I could understand someone not liking it as much, I'm not sure if there's that much conflict here, given the numbers of people riding and walking isn't congested. It's not like a continuous stream of either mode.

Now, the additional ramp into the station. Again, this is clearly much better than before. Prior to this people riding either crossed Devonshire Road twice or, much more likely, stuck to the footway putting them in conflict with people walking. This ramp is definitely removing that conflict and inconvenience.

The section under the bridge is a big improvement on the old wobbly narrow route shared between walkers and riders, although that did go a while back. This has managed to get away from the rigid square system that is the unimaginative way of optimising car parking space. Having motobike parking here is a good thing, although it needs to be properly set up. They take up different spaces. Again, this needs to be monitored as the station develops.

Can This Development Be Done Better

So looking at the current update, what could be done better. A few simple things spring to mind.

Action 0! This is additional to the plan, but is needed whatever.

There is a parking bay on Devonshire Road just towards Tenison Road (left of plan) right next to the cyclelane. This appears on the video at 2:02.It is really dangerous and people riding should avoid being in the cyclelane here to ensure not riding in the door zone. I'd like to see the design of this parking bay changed. It'd be better if it swapped with the pavement, putting the any parked cars well back from the road with a high dropped kerb to get over to access it. This will ensure walker priority and remove the danger of the car door opening in front of someone riding. If this isn't good enough, remove the bay entirely, it's just not safe.

Action 1. Swap the cycletrack and footway towards the base of the ramp heading onto Devonshire road. This reduces the cycletrack crossings for anyone walking down the bridge and going on towards Tenison Avenue (to the left of the plan) from having to do it twice to doing it once.

Also, a slight kink in the cycle track may well act to slow some down. This should not be as much to mean different directions come into conflict. This does mean those travelling faster have to handle 2 places where walkers are crossing. So maybe understandable that it's not happened like that.

Action 2. Make sure the footway under the bridge to the steps is properly allocated. This means take out the wrongly placed red tarmac but also to make sure, by the final development of the car park, that footways are properly kerbed.

Action 3. Place a properly kerbed footway to the west (right) of the cycletrack under the bridge all the way to Devonshire Road. This reduces the cycletrack crossings for anyone walking from the station onto Devonshire Road toward Mill Road (above plan) from 3 down to 1 and stops desire line walking in the cycletrack. The video has great example at 0:56 of this desire line walking. This may result in losing a bit of one car parking space. Or converting it to two motorbike places?

Now, looking at where people walking have to cross people riding, the source of most conflict in a properly segregated scheme. So, if walking along:
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd, left of plan): C 
  • Bridge - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd, above plan): E
  • Bridge - Station: F
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Tenison Rd): F, A, and D
  • Station - Devonshire (towards Mill Rd): G
  • Along Devonshire: B and D
That's a total of 9 crossings, with just a double and a triple, much better than the current system.

Can It Be Done Better By Doing It Different

The comments on Cyclescape, thought up two more ideas.

Option 1. The latter was to place a ramp on the other side of the bridge to the steps. This massively reduces the number of cycletrack crossings by people walking, although there still is the important one at the base of the bridge ramp next to Devonshire Road.

One of the issues that might have stopped this is the amount of space needed for a ramp like this. Look at the length of the current ramp (in red). It would need to be that long to maintain a reasonable gradient. That takes the full car park in either direction (in yellow), taking a lot of car parking spaces. Addionally, it'd limit the space available for routes in underneath it from Devonshire Road (from the north). It may be possible to do it a little better by looped ramp (in green), but that may take out just as many car parking spaces.

Whilst we like to reduce the ability of car users to come in and congest the city, at some point we do need to acknowledge that the station makes money out of these people. So, I can see that this plan has more conflict over it, especially on non County Council land.

Option 2. The other idea was to make a route through Ravensworth Gardens. There is a path through the estate although it's not noted as a cycle route on the County Council cycle maps. As it's away from a road it's not illegal to ride here, unless there's some specific bylaw in place. Also, with the dropped kerbs it's clearly used as a vehicle access route, which would make it very difficult to legally stop riding here. The only fly in the ointment here might be that it's possibly a private development. In which case a number of issues may arise.

So the route round would look a bit like this. Note that the reduces the cycletrack crossings for anyone walking but almost certainly increases the crossings within the car park. The car park could be rearranged to reduce this again, but inevitably some crossings would remain.

Also, the most awkward part of this plan is the access from the base of the bridge ramp onto Devonshire Road. I'm not sure about adding in another well used route into this junction at the same place is necessarily a good idea. Especially considering the next point.

Another issue is that by opening the route up for people riding, it's also doing so for people walking, because this is on a desire line. So the walk through Ravensworth Gardens will have people in both modes side by side still. Quite how that works out, is not so clear. At the moment, it's a shared-use path to the north, which has limited development potential as it's an vehicle access as well.

Once of this path, it's back onto the road, albeit a very quiet one. There's a junction to negotiate and quite a bit of residential parking. This could be limited, with a level of resident discontent.

Once in the car park, there's a number of possible routes under the current configuration. It will involve a turn at some point, unlike the current system which is simply straight along teh main car park road.


So, there are some definite improvements on the prior arrangement. Time will tell as to whether the crossings, where people cycling and walking interact most, are sufficient and logical for both groups.

The station car park clearly needs a few simple updates, which is very possible given the mid stage of current development plans.

Whilst this has already happened, other schemes may have been a little bit better. Although they'd have to be some considerably larger change to make them the best they could be.

* How to go HD.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Pleasant Circular Route Round Cambridge

This ride revives my mental state as well as giving a reasonable physical workout. Whilst Cambridge isn't the Netherlands, it's still quite a lot better than most places in the UK. This ride is mostly done on different levels of cycle infrastructure along with some quiet roads.

A few things to do when riding here. If riding along shared-use infra, take good care of people walking. Make sure they know you are there and slow near them. Yes, this really shouldn't happen, there should be separated infra, but that's how it is now. Join onto a road obeying the rules of the road, by giving way to traffic already there. Obey the rules of the road when on the road.

Pleasant Circular Route Round Cambridge (music warning!)
Go HD see * at bottom

0:11 Setting off form the Fort St Goege bridge
00:28 Slowing under Cutter Ferry Bridge
00:56 Stourbridge Common
01:09 Cows!
01:25 Ditton Meadows
01:48 Care round kids!
02:30 Newmarket Park & Ride
02:56 Airport Way Roundabout
03:48 Teversham Drive in Cherry Hinton
04:00 Church End and Rosemary Lane
04:24 The Tins Path
04:42 Crossing Perne Road
05:08 Crossing Coleridge Road
05:26 Carter Railway Bridge
05:50 The Triangle cut through
06:00 Crossing Hills Road
06:20 Coe Fen
06:54 Crossing Barton/Newnham Road
07:20 Grange Road
08:03 Crossing Madingley Road
08:26 Madingley Rise
09:00 Cross Huntingdon Road
09:24 Gilbert Road
09:56 Crossing Milton Road
10:17 Back on the Bridge!

* How to go HD.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

NCN11 South from Cambridge

The route south from Cambridge along National Cycle Network 11 makes a good commuter route for several villages to the south. The combination of separate active (not specifically cycling) infrastructure, quiet roads, some "converted" footpaths (as in with a sign only) make for an interesting mix. It's mostly good but there are some awkward bits where it's not really been thought through.

South Through the City

So this is south through the city, here's the part south of Cambridge.

Here's an interactive map (click to open).

And this is a picture map.

The Main NCN11 in Cambridge (green on map). 

From the Senate House the route goes directly south along Kings Parade and turns out west through the Coe Fen. In connects up with Trumpington Road and wiggles through a residential area before getting back to the Guided Busway.

This seems like a long way round, and is the longest route here at 2.7 miles to the tunnel under Long Road. However, apart from the city centre and the residential area, both with minimal traffic, it is on separate active infrastructure. Yes, avoiding walkers and cows are part of the hazards, and the path width isn't great to start with. Both times crossing a road, there is a signalled crossing, although noting it's Toucan, so it's clear to cross if there's no traffic even if red. Despite being marginally the longest route this route took marginally the least amount of time.

Main NCN11 in Cambridge (music warning!) (Go HD see * at bottom)

0:00 Setting off (note slow speed of drivers)
0:21 Turning towards The Mill and Coe Fen
0:50 Cows!
0:56 Crossing Fen Causeway
1:14 Wider path
1:34 Trumpington Road (care with side accesses)
2:15 Crossing Trumpington Road to Residential Area
2:56 Access to Guided Busway
And onto main route south at 0:35

The Alternative Route via the Railway Station (blue on map). 

Coming from the Senate House means similar city centre walkers of which to take care then mixing with moderate traffic for 300 yards until turning off onto Regents Terrace on the side of Parker's Piece. Crossing Gonville Place into the residential area south of Parker's Piece then leads to why this route is often called the wiggly route as it does go back and forth in several short streets. There's minimal traffic until getting near the railway station. There is a little link to avoid the station itself, going right directly after leaving Tenison Road and left at the end.

It is marginally shorter than the main NCN11 route at 2.6 miles. There are short sections of moderate traffic and a longer section of very low traffic. However, the two traffic lights, where stopping until green is mandatory means it surprisinly took longer than the main NCN11 route through the Coe Fen.

The Alternative Route via the Railway Station (music warning!) (Go HD see * at bottom)

0:00 Setting off
0:18 Traffic building
0:40 Turning onto Regents Terrace
1:00 Mandatory wait at lights
1:19 Wiggly residential route
1:37 Tenison Road and traffic building again
1:47 Alternative link through to the right
1:57 Bus Station
And onto main route south at 0:00

The NCN11 Alternative using Hills Road (orange on map). 

So starting from the Senate House as just above but sticking on Hills Road to straighten out the "wiggly route". At Brookgate, simply turn in left and right to get to the

Hills Road does have lots of traffic. There's a good cyclelane, although it's regularly abused by delivery vehicles (against the Freight Trade Association advice, PDF page 3), and it abandons people riding at junctions, just where it's needed most. As the shortest, straightest route at 2.3 miles it was the marginally the longest timewise. This isn't as suprising when noting the 4 traffic and 6 pedestrian lights on this route.

The Alternative Route using Hills Road (music warning!) (Go HD see * at bottom)

0:00 Setting off (from 0:40 on clip just above)
0:11 Close car pass (noting they still took the same time as me on Hills Road)
0:21 And back up to the front filtering on the right
0:23 Waiting at traffic lights
0:35 Into cyclelane
0:44 Overtaking slower rider (must look and move out of cyclelane)
1:16 ONLY wiggle through traffic like this if you know the junction timings well
1:19 Turning into Brookgate
And onto main route south at 0:00

Changed Route (purple/brown).

Finally, the map has the "official" NCN11 route (in purple) which goes along Long Road and through the hospital on Robinson Way before heading back out on Francis Crick Avenue. This is the pre-Guided Busway route. Now, this (in brown) is about the same distance and is completely separate active infrastructure, not sharing on hospital roads where speeding is endemic.

* How to go HD.

NCN11 South from Cambridge, Part 2

The route south from Cambridge along National Cycle Network 11 makes a good commuter route for several villages to the south. The combination of separate active (not specifically cycling) infrastructure, quiet roads, some "converted" footpaths (as in with a sign only) make for an interesting mix. It's mostly good but there are some awkward bits where it's not really been thought through. I've written previously about this route, comparing to local road routes.

South from the City

So this is south from the city, here's the part south through the city.

Here's an interactive map (click to open).

NCN11 from Cambridge (green on map). 

This route starts at the railway station although this blogpost looks at other starting places and routes in the city. The NCN11 route really joins at the Long Road tunnel. It heads south the Whittlesford and beyond. This is a good route. However, there are lots of little niggles along the way.

From the railway station the route heads south along the Guided Busway, which is quite good active infrastructure. It's clearly not just for cycling but the width is fine for the current levels of traffic. Actually more people use this first section for walking to various places nearby, including Long Road Sixth Form College.

At the Long Road tunnel, the main NCN11 route really joins. From the city centre it uses to Coe Fen and Trumpington Road to get south, rather than the via the railway station. From there on the route turns up and over the railway on the Addenbrookes Guided Busway spur, at the end of which the infra runs out.

Francis Crick Avenue Oddity

It is rather bizarre and ironic that at Francis Crick Avenue, good infrastructure for people cycling suddenly disappears for a quarter of a mile. This is the section that was built for the local hospital trust, which is growing to being the biggest healthcare area in the country. A place that would benefit from promoting health simply didn't see fit to do this, despite the vast amount of space available to do so. I've written about this before.

As you can see from the video, I correctly cross over the road to join in with traffic, and cross back 1 minute later. Although it's a 20mph speed limit, it's very rare to see anyone driving obeying it, compounded by the road environment simply not encouraging it. Also you'll note that many people simply don't see the reason to cycle like this and stick on the path. This is so prevalent that the building site operators have set up manned entrances to the site to ensure lorries coming in are fully aware of people cycling on the pavement.

The building site is for AstraZeneca, whom I happen to know are very keen on helping cycling. One can only hope that they might bring it up for the hospital trust and point out the error of their ways and get the wide area just outside their building converted to shared space at the minimum.

Addenbrookes Genome Path

After this is the Addenbrookes Genome Path, so named because of the local discovery of the BRCA2 gene matching the 10,000th mile of the National Cycle Network. This path was great and still is good. However, it's rather a victim of it's success. There's now too much traffic for it's width, especially factoring in people walking along here. At the end there's a crossing of Granhams Road to negotiate, although it's either stopped with traffic (fine) or empty. A last little section of the path before a quiet residential area.

Mingle Lane

At the end of the residential area there's a wiggle through to Mingle Lane. This is usually okay to ride along, although I've encountered some pretty poor driver behaviour here. Notably at the straight section where speeding is very likely. However, it's luckily quite quiet. The twisting section of Church Street can make it very difficult for drivers to see round, so be prepared to have them behind you for a while. This is usually not too much of a problem.

"Converted" Path

At the main road, cross into the "converted" footpath. This is a conversion in name only, there's no specific activity to make it a proper shared-use path. It doesn't have very many walkers but it's quite narrow for passing riders. It is good to be off the road, though. Just leaving the built up area brings in two more poor parts of this "infra", two awkward side roads. One with little space, which could have more allocated, and the other with a odd priority for a side track that's hardly in use. Again, it's good to be off the road but I wish they could spend just a little money and thought making this good infra.

Poor Junction

As it gets fully clear of the village, the path stays the same width but feels better as it's open. You can see that the path is used quite a bit still, as kids go to the secondary school in Sawston. The junction in between the village has a rather awkward junction, where the cyclepath needs to cross one road, but decides to cross two roads, one in two jumps with awkward sight lines in between. I've written about this junction before. Since then it's been redeveloped, sadly with little improvement. It still means crossing roads twice, which means waiting is inevitable. A lot of people riding here abandon the infra and use the road.


The path now veers off the main direction of Whittlesford to take in Sawston. This is great for those wanting to go to Sawston, like schoolkids, and I applaud that. However, it's twice as long as the road route using the Sawston bypass. Using the Sawston bypass has it's bad points. Drivers really don't expect riders there and have pretty poor behaviour around riders (see clips).

In the village, the cycleroute runs out at the school. Getting onto the road isn't too easy and once on, it's pretty busy at rush hour! Most traffic seems to be pretty good here, possibly because they are mostly dropping kids at school. Notice I ride centre lane when there are parked cars on the other side, thus giving very limited space. This is to dissuade people from thinking there's enough space to pass from either direction.

On the outskirts the speed limit goes up quickly. It's not far to the bypass and crossing to the level crossing for the final path to Whittlesford. This level crossing timings are based on a section of track, which can mean a long wait. 4 minutes for one train can extend to a 8-minute wait with two trains together. Although it's good to get people off the tracks, this seems excessive.

To Whittlesford

The path from Sawston to Whittlesford is a great example of converting to shared-use infrastructure! It's smooth, wide, gives warnings of bends and to slow down for people walking (without the ubiquitous poor blue "Cyclists Dismount" sign), and is a long way from a road! Under the trees it can get a bit wet and have some awkward debris, but that worry really disappears given the pleasant nature of this path. It may be a little narrow, if it gets more popular, but has expansion space if needed.

On entering Whittlesford there is an odd development. The path goes through the churchyard. It seems odd to be in this space that's designated for quiet reflection. The signs on the entrance are a little confusing, but generally fit into the blue "Cyclists Dismount" sign rules. So, slow and considerate riding is expected, get off if needed. Sadly, at the other end of the churchyard, this is pretty much required. The gate is locked with only a tight "kissing" gate space to get through. This blocks anyone coming this way that's not on a standard 2-wheel format bike. This is pretty bad as there's a great rise in parents using cargo bikes to transport kids to school, simply not feasible here.

After wiggling though a residential, quiet area, the route heads up onto the bigger road south towards Duxford. Again, there's lots of space to put in a separate cyclepath to, at least, the A505 maybe even onto the busy villages of Duxford and further south.

NCN11 from Cambridge (music warning!) (Go HD see * at bottom)

0:00 Setting off
0:07 Crossing into infra, watch out for speeding buses
0:35 Long Road Tunnel, NCN11 really joins here
0:51 Turning up Addenbrookes Guided Busway spur
1:09 Turning into Francis Crick Avenue past AstraZeneca
1:17 Turning onto Addenbrookes Genome Path
2:06 Crossing Granhams Road
2:22 Wiggle to Mingle Lane/Church Street
2:50 Onto "converted" path
3:05 Bad side access crossings
3:19 Bad junction and long way through Sawston
3:59 Passing the school and road
4:18 Faster roads outside the village
4:25 Railway crossing
4:37 A good converted path
5:06 Churchyard
5:31 And onto the main road

Sawston Bypass (orange on map)

So the route through Sawston is great for getting into the village, and that is fantastic for supporting schoolkids getting to the secondary school here. However, it's 1.6 miles to go through the village and 0.8 miles to use the Sawston bypass. Here's a couple of clips showing what happens on the bypass.

Going South (Go HD see * at bottom)

Going North (Go HD see * at bottom)

Sadly, a large enough proportion of people driving are simply not aware of their actions influence on the world around their sealed and quietened interiors. When threatened like this no one is going to cycle down here. There is plenty of space on this bypass, why not build infra alongside to improve the environment? There are plenty of businesses down this link from Cambridge, it's ripe for improving cycling. And likewise getting people into Cambridge from these villages.

* How to go HD.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

BBC Olympic Trailer And Being Active

Hmm, find the BBC Olympic trailer a little bit odd. I know it's just a bit of stylistic fun, but it just reminds me how forced it appears.

That it has subconscious links to the horrible caging and killing of animals, notably Juma the Jaguar, is one thing. At a simpler level it reminds me that no animal runs sportily against other animals. Animals DO run around and play just for fun (although a lot is learning), which is always delightful to see!

Maybe I link this with the massive emphasis that the media, especially the BBC, puts on sport as the only way to get active.

Just in cycling for instance. The message will be "join a club, get riding, start racing". True, we will get a lot of kids on the streets playing at being Laura Trott or Jason Kenny. That's great! But it doesn't last. Before these Olympics, I asked a lot of kids (I work with lots of different groups regularly) about previous medal winners. Around 90% didn't know anything about them.

Kids want to play on their bikes just the same way as animals play naturally. It's about having some fun with your friends, getting around, being independent of parents, and growing up. Only a small percentage will want to do it as a sport.

So, the message the BBC completely miss for a large proportion of people is that being active is not about sport. It's just about getting out and enjoying being active, the vast majority of which will have nothing to do with sport.