My Way

This article was published in 1999, in Newsletter 26.

Xanthe Polaine

A Route In The Day Of Xanthe Polaine

We live in Church End, Cherry Hinton; this route is similar to Karen Lipscomb’s journey (Newsletter 23). However, we ride to a nursery on Milton Road with an 83 cm wide child trailer, crossing both railway and river.

From an access path through the industrial site to Coldham’s Lane opposite Wolsey Way, we cross the road and ride on the pavement until the Tins path turnoff. First hurdle is the wooden bridge at Burnside. I measured the width before we bought the trailer!


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The excellent new Toucan crossing on Brooks Road has a cycle path lead-in from Burnside, but it’s often blocked by cars. From the opposite direction the cyclist is directed right into the path of oncoming traffic. Once over the Toucan I have to cycle under the bus shelter (there are discrimination bars on the marked cycle route along Marmora Road, and Mill Road is too dangerous). I wait by the pub entrance for a clear moment on the KEEP CLEAR marking, then cross into Seymour Street.

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The St Philip’s Road ‘It’s A Knockout’ -22 shopping-crushing speed bumps and an over-complicated contraflow system with no cycle gap consistency – a nightmare for trikes and trailers, but full marks for effort.

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We still have to cross Mill Road from Cavendish Road, and again I resort to the pavement and pedestrian crossing. I cycle down Stockwell Street, avoiding the bizarre 92 cm wide ‘cycle’ gap, with the end of this road blocked by six discrimination bars with the cycle route only 58 cm wide at 88 cm off the ground, child’s-head-on-a-bike height. The trailer will not pass through, so I have to dismount again, climb a high kerb, squeeze past parked cars to the slightly wider discrimination bars at the side and then descend a high curb. Fortunately one of these hazardous bars has rotted off!

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Over the cycle bridge – possibly the best cycle facility in the city – onto Devonshire Road where Wilcon Homes’ contractors have made a pig’s ear of the cycle lane they dug up. The advanced stop line with Tenison Road is very welcome – if only drivers observed it and parked legally near it. The Lyndewode Road cycle width restriction is a hazard. After the Gresham Road ‘off-road effect’ section we come to the Toucan crossing where confused pedestrians get annoyed, and motorists stop bumper to bumper blocking the crossing anyway. From the disintegrating path on Parker’s Piece I then presume the cycle route to Parkside corner, where again I have to break the law for my safety.


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After crossing New Square’s corner pavement, a Toucan crossing – but with a cycle-rim-crushing bump at the kerb. Onto Midsummer Common I pass bollards in the middle of the cycle/pedestrian route. The only safe and legal way to cross the river by bicycle with a trailer or large basket of shopping is over Elizabeth Way bridge. A hell of a detour, made worse as the city’s cattle grid widths are not standardised. I cycle through the first one opposite Manhattan Drive OK and the next one – CRUNCH!


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After dismounting again and manoeuvring through yet another barrier I am then ready to hunt the unbroken parts of the pavement over Elizabeth Way, down to the lovely little Cutter Ferry Lane, if you can get to it. Posts obstruct the cycle entrances. Thanks for the recent tarmac, though!

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With careful alignment I can just get through one of the gaps. After the residential streets I still have to cross Chesterton Road. I use the pavement again to bring myself opposite Chesterton Hall Crescent. At the end of this road I dismount for a sixth time to negotiate yet more discrimination bars. On Milton Road I use the pedestrian crossing to reach the southbound shared pedestrian route. I note how confused all the young cyclists are with the double give way junctions. I turn into the nursery almost opposite George Street. Time – 35 minutes. Car – 15-25 minutes.


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There are some great cycling facilities peppered about the City but severe segmentation and restrictions considerably reduce their effectiveness. When I use my car I have a continuous path with very high priority, a smooth surface and not once do I need to get out of the car, push it around some restricting device, and then get back in – 12 times for our nursery run. As a car user I am positively encouraged to use all ‘my’ road.

But as a tax-paying cyclist I am positively discouraged. How could a local authority singing the Integrated Transport White Paper tune place so many obstacles in my way? The excuse of finance has no bearing on this gripe – there are many ‘devices’ which I’d rather were not there at all. I am convinced the bench mark used is a thin adult cyclist on an unladen ‘normal’ bicycle.



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This is sloppy engineering and with gaps 58 cm wide the local authority is discriminating against:

  • Cycle child trailers (83 cm wide, 92 cm high)
  • Double side-by-side umbrella-fold pushchairs (81 cm wide)
  • Wheelchairs
  • Cycle baskets with heavy shopping
  • Trikes
  • Recumbents (head injury hazard)
  • Child cyclists (head injury hazard)

Is this a fair price to pay for stopping a few mopeds (which can get through most anyway)? Any organisation responsible for the encouragement of cycle use for local travel, shopping and child transport should equip themselves so and engineer from this standpoint – it really is that simple.

Matt Polaine