Friday, 2 December 2016

Showcasing The Local Cycling Infrastructure

I've mentioned before that I live in a town qith quite a bit of cycle infrastructure.
So today I am going to take you on a brief walkthrough of one route (actually it is two - the routes all end in the town centre, but it is pretty much a straight route, and follow the A418 road into town from the North-East, then follows the same A418 out of town towards the South-west.)
There are more routes than this - indeed, I think there are 8 main routes, plus some bits and bobs that aren't parts of routes as well.
But this is just one example.
All this is real "bricks and mortar" stuff, not plans.
There are quite a few bits that could be improved a bit, and some parts of the route have a bit of a rough surface, where cheap repairs have been made.
We are very grateful for what we have, though, and realise that most folks in the country (and indeed most other countries) have much less than us!
The route I will be showcasing is about 95% off-road, with just a few road sections to link it all up.

Enough preface, onto the route:
Our journey starts at St Osyth's Well in Bierton, a village just North-East of Aylesbury.
The well itself is down the road to the right, but apart from access to a couple of houses, and a farmer's field,
there is nothing else much down there.
St Osyth was an Anglo-Saxon princess (and later nun) who was killed by Viking raiders in the 7th century.
She lived a couple of miles away.
Anyhow, this well has been here for a 1000 years or so, maybe longer.
It is the reason why, up until the mid-18th Century, life expectancy in the illage was a good bit higher than
in the nearby town of Aylesbury, where an overused (and over-polluted) river was the main source of water.

Thee route starts off pretty narrow, with the "dual use" signage indicating it is more than just a footpath/sidewalk.

One round the corner, the route opens out into a separated path and cycle route.
This section was built about 9 years ago, and is very popular with walkers, joggers, and cyclists.
In the morning and afternoon, a flood of little school children use this route on their bikes and push scooters.
The village school is down the next turning on the right past St Osyth's well back behind me.

After about half a mile of that great path, things are back to normal, and the route gets narrower. It crosses a side road, then opens out again as it head off towards the green sign in the background.

Just after the green sign, the route goes left to cross a busy road.
There is a proper crossing here.

After the vrossing it is along a little-used access road (that only serves to allow access to the frontages of the houses),
which leads to ...

A nice long section.
When this was built, basically the footpath width was doubled, and it was designated "dual use".
However, it is marred by a number of side turnings.
There are two turnings to the prison car park, then an access road, then the fromt of the prison itself, then another side road to a heath centre.
By then we are starting to go downhill (the prison is the highest point of the route, and is a little way beyond the dark car emerging from the left in the photo).

A retrograde step.
Having just come down the steepest part of the route, and probably picked up a bit of speed, there is this turning.
It wasn't here when the route was originally built, and has been badly executed.
Traffic has a habit of emerging at speed across the cycle route, and the wall on the left (just out of shot)
prevents much of an advance view.
Only thing one can do is keep one's speed down, but if you didn't know that this part was dodgy in advance,
then there is no real indication that it is dangerous.
THis is, in my opinion, the most dangerous part of today's route.

You can see the blue "cycle route" arrow painted onto the pavement here.
The route originally only went down to the left, but a few years back a spur was built that continues straight on, and accesses quite a few shops.
the design of the crossing (right at the corner!) is problematic, too, as a lot of traffic turns left here (it is signposted as a main route through the town).
Today I am following the original route down to the left.

A little way down to the left, and still going downhill, another problam arises.
A side turning.
This one has unclear priorities as ALL directions are markes on the road and cycle route as "Give Way - aka "Yield")/

At the bottom of the hill things are looking rosier. Round to the left is a brand new section of cycle route that goes out to a new housing development. But our route takes us to the right now.

Again, the crossing is too close to the jumction. This one, like the one at the top of this section, is very difficult to cross safely when the traffic is busy. But the segregated cycle path beyond calls us onwards.

Three sets of signage.
We have just crossed another high-quaality crossing over a 4 lane road.
No for our first "on-road" bit - a minor road that connects to the High Street (USA: "main street")

Cleanliness really is next to Godliness, and yes, the launderette really is next to the church (the "house" in the middle is part of the church complex). Here we turn right onto the High Street.

Down to our left is an important part of any town centre infrastructure project - parking.
Sturdy steel loops give you something proper to lock your bike to!

Anyway, up the High Street it is. Not that much traffic up here, because the busses and the design means queues always build up, so it makes a poor short cut, with most folks preferring the four lane route we crossed a little while ago.

The traffic tends to turn right just before this bit - this is just a short acces road in the daytime, and only makes a through route at night. Originally, there were fancy rising bollards to restrict traffic beyond this point, but the bollards proved unreliable, and kept breaking down, rendering them rather pointless.

"Plan B" is a short while futher up.
A good old fashioned bollard.
It is locked to a special mounting plate in the road.
A worker has to come out each morning and lock it into place, and unlock it and take it away in the evenings.
This allows the upper part of the High Street to be pedestrianised in the day, yest still allows the appropriate vehicular access (like delivery trucks and garbage trucks) to service the stores in the very early morning or in the evening.
Pedestrianised high streets are popular with shoppers!
Outside Costa, you can see a bit of cafe culture going on, with their seating spilling right across the pavement (sidewalk), but because the road is closed, there is plenty of room to get past.
Notice the "flat" kerbs in this shot and the previous one, allowing folks to use the pavement and the road as if they are one.
Clearly, one needs to cycle this section at a very modest speed.
Any KOMs are best done at 6am on a Sunday morning!
The plant pots are a newer feature.
Some selfish car drivers just won't take no for an answer, and even I have seen one in a narrow car sneaking between fixed black bollards and the yellow one.
With some folks, signs and fines just aren't enough - you gotta make it virtually impossible for them to break the law before they take any notice. I blame the "me first" culture which has developed in the last 35 years here.

The High Street opens out onto the Market Square (it does what it says!). This is another area that is fully pedestrianised on market days.

At the bottom of Market Square is the courthouse.
THis one is where the trials of the Great Train Robbers were held (the robbery itself was some miles up the railway line from Aylesbury, but we have had the main courts in the area since at least the times of Henry VIII !)

See that signpost with all the coloured bars on it?
That is the centre of the cycle routes for the town.
They all spread out from this point.
This is technically where the first route ends and the second one starts, although as I said before, one is really a continuation of the other!

Down to the left is the library, and wuite a few rack for cycle parking.
the second building down on the right is the bottom of the main county administration offices (it is actually quite a tall tower, but not visible from this angle, because it set back from the frontage).
This is where, 15 years ago, I got married (the main county wedding office is in that administration building!).
Note also that the road is one way for cars, but there is also a contra-flow cycle lane (marked in green) so cyclists can go both ways on this road.

But we aren't turning left today. We are going straight on past the sign that marks all the cycle routes.
There are quite a lot of cycle racks here. Under the short tunnel for us, taking a little care with the two turning to the town's bus garage (which is set in on the left of the tunnel).
Me, I was glad of my lights.
The bus drivers do their best, but I am sure they appreciate any help they can get from well-lit folks wearing bright clothes
(I am wearing a yellow cycling jacket for this ride).

Beyond the tunnel we see the bridge.
The Bourg Walk.
Cost about 8 million quid (abou 12 million dollars) and very nice it is too!

A wider vie from the same point. The bus has come up from the railway station, which is set a little below the main roadway.
A multi-level carpark is shown to the left. Surface-level parking is just too much of a waste of space to comprise the parking in a decent town. There is an elevated walkway from the carpark to the town behind me, too.
(There is a mall at the end behind me - indeed the tunnel with the bus garage in it runs underneath the mall, and there is a lift from the mall down to the bus garage!)

A lovely bridge.
Make a nice littel short cut in the car, surely, even though it is illegal.
Some nice steel posts keep that thought in check.
However, as they are pretty solid, one has to be careful when cycling, as they are on "downhill" sections on either side of the bridge, and it is gonna hurt if you hit one at any kind of speed.
They also would make riding across the bridge with a kiddie trailer in tow quite a feat in manuoevring (US: maneuvering).

A wider shot from the same position.
The folks really are standing in the middle of the road.
But there is, in general, no such thing as "jaywalking" in Britain.
A central "safe" area has been built into this crossing.
It even has a crossing button there!
Handy if one crosses roads very slowly, and one gets stuck in the middle by the time the crossing phase ends.
You can, of course, cycle across the bridge.
Officially, it is left side for walk, and the right for cycling, but you have to have a bit of "give and take", and the pedestrian is shown walking on the "cycling" side!

From the bridge, one gets a nice view down to the railways station.
A ticket to London gets you there is about an hour, and costs (there and back) about 30 pounds (35-40 dollars) in the morning, Monday to Fridays, about 25 pounds (30-35 dollars) if you go after 10 am, or at the weekends.

More bollards at the other side of the bridge.
the route then branches, down to the right, or straight on.
The town college is down to the right, and there is a high school there, too.
Straight on for me though.
You can see that the route straight on divides in a bit, with a pavement (sidewalk) in front of the houses and a separate cycle route to the right of it.
Showing its age a bit, the cycle route has been cheaply patched a number of times, so has a rough surafec in places.
Not somewhere for wheels that cost mote than my bike, methinks!

At the end of that long, separated, section, there is a minor road that joins the only major road we use today.
We join here and turn off where the bus is.
So it really is only a tiny bit of main road.
With younger children, one could always dismount and just walk this bit.

Turning where the bus was takes us into another quite street that doesnt go anywhere ...

... except it has a shortcut for cyclists and pedestrians at the end.
the obligatory bollard to stop motor vehicles using this handy cut-through.

And we are back out onto a dicided part of the route. This section has a raised ridge between the pedestrian and cycling parts of the path. We go round to the left a bit, across the road, then back round to the right a bit to continue our journey.
It is all off-road from heer to our journey's end.

A mile or two of shared path.
Clearly care has to be taken in the wet with all the leaves.
The path was getting overgrown, and down to a single width, but all the bushes were cut back this Summer.
Notice there aren't any houses - because we have cycled right through the town, and are now going out the other side.

The Bugle Horn.
Another bucolic English pub.
This is where we end out journey today.
The cycle path continues to the next (very) small town about half a mile futher round to the right - indeed, it goes right through that town, and stops at the far edge of it.
Just after the pub is the minor road that goes halfway to Oxford before it rejoins the main vehicular route (which is shown veering to the right in the photo).
We have probably come about three miles from where we started the journey, and there is at least a mile of cycle route left (through the small town).

One of our special crossings.
There are quite a few of these is our town.
In general, it is not permitted to cycle across road crossings.
Except these ones :-)

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