My Way

This article was published in 2000, in Newsletter 29.

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I use this route for commuting into Cambridge every day. Despite featuring three hazardous roundabouts, and some tricky road layouts, I enjoy its challenges. Journey time is a reliable 20 minutes even at the busiest times.

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Turning left into Queen Edith’s Way [A], I never use the shared-use footpath. If I did, I’d never be able to make the progress I can using the road, and I’d be too busy avoiding pedestrians, emerging cars and side turnings. Before the stream of cars overtaking me logjams at Mowbray Road roundabout, I’m poised at the crown of the road, and keep moving by carefully overtaking the queue.

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This roundabout [B] demands full attention and decision. The blind corner makes traffic from the right difficult to see. Its small radius reduces signalling time to a minimum. A gap! I’m away onto the roundabout, wondering whether there’s any black ice, beaming eye-contact at drivers, squeezing in a quick left signal, then I’m safe, off along the wide Mowbray Road cycle lane [C].

Although it’s the busy ring road, here the lack of parked cars and the wide tree-lined road make this stretch a real pleasure. At the Cherry Hinton Road roundabout [D], by dominating the left-turn lane I’m in perfect position to go straight ahead, maybe without stopping if a suitable gap appears, then off along Perne Road. The wide cycle lane again allows me to safely undertake the queue at the Radegund Road roundabout [E], where I’m beginning to notice more riders crossing heading for the cycle bridge. On some mornings, I have to avoid cars actually parked on this roundabout! (There’s never a Traffic Warden about when you need one.)

Turning left up Radegund Road it’s obvious I’m on a cycle route: clusters of cyclists stretch ahead of me. Slipping into a lower gear (42×14) and catching any heel-pedalers, saddle-droopers and hard-gear slaves, I find myself marvelling at their tenacity. Pity they’ll never know how much easier their riding could have been with a well set-up bike.

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There isn’t much time to daydream here though. I’m too busy anticipating kamikaze Coleridge students and dodging the congestion of school-run cars in yellow zigzag zones dropping kids off.

Surprisingly, at Coleridge Road cross-roads [F] right-indicating cars are usually very considerate and leave a gap for cyclists to filter ahead. Here, a good view to left and right makes crossing easy unless an approaching driver leaves signalling until the last moment.

Davy Road is deceptively wide and peaceful until you get to left turn at the end [G] where I need to turn right into Rustat Road. John Forester would love this right turn! The need for anticipation, clear signals, confident positioning and traffic spotting around two blind bends make this a truly satisfying challenge to the experienced rider. However, other riders appear oblivious to the risks here: no signals or look behind are typical mistakes that I witness every day.

From Rustat Road, a sharp and narrow left turn [H] takes me up onto the cycle bridge, which is well used by both cyclists and pedestrians at this time of the day. Once again this is not the place to start learning how to change gear, and some riders come to a grinding halt. As we descend into Devonshire Road, the screech of brakes fills the air. We spill out into the recently resurfaced (but still uneven) cycle lane [I]. No time to relax; I signal and move out into the middle of the road ready for a right turn ahead, but not too far out because oncoming traffic can’t pass cars parked outside the Youth Hostel without crossing onto our side of the road. It’s amazing how many cyclists I see trying to turn right in front of left-turning traffic here [J]. The bike lane persuaded them to keep left, and then the Advance Stop Line encouraged them to turn right!

Tenison Road is relatively easy provided I keep well out to help impatient following drivers make up their minds not to bother to overtake me before we reach Mill Road. Turning left into Mill Road, I’m keeping pace with the traffic and getting ready for the swimming pool junction, where I’ll turn right into East Road [K]. As we approach, I’m well out into the road and judging whether to filter forward between the two stationary queues, or whether to stop centrally in the right hand lane. Before the lights go green, there’s often time to ponder why so many people on bikes feel it’s OK to ignore the traffic lights, parking themselves either in the junction or on the pedestrian crossing.

East Road keeps me awake! Two pedestrian crossings, heavy traffic, parked brewery lorries and buses turning left by the Cinema require good pace, observation and positioning. By the Grafton centre multi-storey car park entrance I’m travelling in the left lane and have ignored the impractical cycle lane completely. Instead, I’m looking ahead, concentrating on the penultimate challenge of the journey: Newmarket Road roundabout. Suddenly, East Road has grown a left-turn lane and, although that’s where I need to end up, I’m judging how long I can delay before moving there. Move too soon, and I’ll get cut up by overtaking cars who want to turn left. Delay too long, and cars undertake me. I wait, then give a big left arm signal and move to my ideal middle-of-left-lane position [L]. Great! Now I’m ready to move onto the roundabout and head off into the new bus/bike lane across Elizabeth Bridge.

This bus/bike lane has done a lot to improve traffic flow right along Elizabeth Way. At the end of the bridge [M], the original white road markings still encourage traffic in the outside lane to move unnecessarily to the left, towards me. No big problems as we flow towards my final test, the big roundabout at Chesterton High Street. Again, I need to keep looking behind to judge when to move into the middle feeder lane onto this beast. I’m extra careful because here three feeder lanes become two! Keeping alert for impatient racers following me, I try to dominate the right hand lane and signal left early enough for the cars waiting ahead [N]. I can hear a car growling behind, but he has to wait. Safely into High Street, and I’ve arrived.

Another stimulating traffic jamming session under my belt!

David Green