I live at the ‘old’ end of Girton, though not in a particularly old part: our little estate was built in 1930. I work mainly on the Sidgwick Site in Newnham, some four miles away. I would only take a car if I really could not cycle: even if I need to ferry equipment around the city it’s generally easier to put the trailer on my (much modified) Raleigh Royale.
|My Raleigh Royale has been upgraded in various ways. The trailer came from Chris’s Bikes.|
There’s a little rear service lane from our property to the High Street which always makes a delightful start and end to the day’s journey, especially when the dog roses and honeysuckle are in bloom. I then have a choice of ways: through the village along the main Cambridge Road, or down Woody Green to join the Huntingdon Road at the University Farm.
The quickest way to the Cambridge Road is down Duffet’s Lane, a footpath from the High Street to Hicks Lane. While most direct, this can at times be knee high in nettles or have wildly overgrown hedges. I join the Cambridge Road at the allotments, giving me a chance to check that all is well with my own. Although a less interesting route, the sharp corner (double-white lined) just before Huntingdon Road can add its own spice, since this marks the first place where many motorists needlessly and dangerously, but routinely, overtake cyclists.
|Our back lane: a bit bare in December but wonderful in the spring.||Duffet’s Lane is reasonably well-trimmed at the moment.|
|Hicks Lane corner. The allotments are behind the hedge.||Girton Corner: the white lining is consistently ignored.|
The Woody Green route, though marginally longer, is more scenic. It passes Town End Close, our own parish Nature Reserve, goes over the A14 footbridge and onto the Huntingdon Road via University Farm fields. When I went out to take the pictures for this article, a cow in one of the fields had obviously calved only minutes before I arrived and I was able to convey the good news to the Farm managers.
|Woody Green is a truly scenic route.||Town End Close is a small but flourishing nature reserve.|
|The best way to experience the A14 is definitely from afar.||One of the pleasures of using country paths. This cow can only have calved minutes before I arrived.|
In contrast the Huntingdon Road is fast but dull, and with a couple of danger points. There is almost always someone at the Q8 garage or Thornton Road junction either pulled out over the cycle path, or ready to pull in front of any cyclist with, at best, a toot of the horn to assert the drivers’ Divine Right of Precedence. Frequently there is also some vehicle parked in the cycleway. For a long while these included a large blue People Carrier on the school run. I once remonstrated with the driver, asking if she was aware she was breaking the law. Oh yes, she said, while asking me in the same breath (and not very politely) what it had to do with me. However, I believe the police have had a little word with her, for I haven’t seen her there for a while.
|An unfortunately common occurrence on the Huntingdon Road.||The pinch point at Storey’s Way, surely a piece of poor road design.|
Approaching Storey’s Way, I try to note a break in the traffic in good time, give a clear signal and wait to be sure that the driver is going to let me across. Strangely, I cannot remember the last time this was a problem. When they don’t perceive you as competing for ‘their’ piece of road motorists seem perfectly happy to treat you as an equal, and I am always let through and often acknowledged with a cheery wave. But in Storey’s Way, attitudes suddenly change. Though I can continue at my steady 20+, almost every motorist who follows me seems determined to overtake me before the next speed bump, and emphatically before the pinch point, but I do sometimes indulge in a slow shaking of the head as I sail past them at speed humps. Because there is no cycle escape at the pinch point cyclists are seriously inconvenienced and, at the least, I have to pull out into the alternate lane or use the pavement.
|The Madingley Way-Storey’s Way corner. It would have been nice had the cycleway continued into Storey’s Way for just a few yards.||Grange Road is due for major modifications in the coming months.||The new Divinity School is rapidly taking shape.|
|Home again! Turning into the grassy lane (though this picture was taken in the morning, not the evening).|
At Madingley Road I can sometimes move in to the left at the raised table, but this is one of the very few places where I am sometimes tempted to steal a few metres of pavement in order to keep out of the way of the motorists.
Left into Madingley Road, then, and right into Grange Road. Here the timing is critical. If I am later than 08:05, motorists’ attitudes can appear to change bizarrely. It is not to be conceived that a mother dropping her child at St John’s or King’s School should be obliged to stay behind a cyclist doing a mere 22-25 mph. It will be very interesting to see what the proposed structural changes achieve: were they to include proper escapes for all the build-outs I suspect they may considerably increase my feeling of safety.
I normally leave Grange Road at West Road and pedal past the numerous building-sites which currently constitute the Sidgwick Site. There is a good number of sturdy cycle stands on the site, but unfortunately none under cover, so one has to choose between security and shelter.
If my report suggests a daily dicing with death, that is unfair, but a cyclist on this route certainly needs full concentration. The return journey is generally less exciting and, if there is simply no break in the Huntingdon Road traffic, the pedestrian crossing at Girton College provides a very safe way across for the more timid.
Even in the dark my back lane is welcoming, and the day’s exercise adds to the sense of the day’s achievement.
Douglas de Lacey