Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

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Brucey
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Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Brucey » 7 Jan 2013, 7:45pm

I live not far away from said busway and I use the adjoining cycle path fairly often. Friends and neighbours use it daily or weekly.

This facility has been discussed on this forum previously eg. http://forum.ctc.org.uk/search.php?st=0&sk=t&sd=d&sr=posts&keywords=guided+busway&start=15 but doesn't seem to have its own thread. So here it is.

On the plus side; the cycle surface is smooth and largely traffic free. It is the longest such busway in the World, or something. Non-cyclists and would-be cyclists perceive it -unlike any local roads...- to be a safe place to go cycling.

On the minus side; it was late. It was over budget. It floods. It floods really badly. The buses are something of a menace. There are no white lines, so riding in the dark is a bit sketchy. The Busway road surface is smooth (and getting smoother) concrete. There appear to be developing problems with the guided way itself, and the buses remaining within it. Did I mention... it floods...?

Wikipedia page here;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridgeshire_Guided_Busway

Anti-busway site here;
http://www.noguidedbus.com/

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Re the concrete busway surface. It is smooth concrete. It is quite slippy when wet. I doubt that it would be acceptable as a highway surface because of the poor wet grip. The buses are fairly quiet and do about 50mph, nearly everywhere. Given the easy access of pedestrians etc to the busway ( the footpath/cycle path surface is 9" away from the buses for extended lengths, with no fence...) it is only a matter of time before someone gets run down by a skidding bus that cannot stop. That is assuming that the drivers bother to look where they are going, which seems debatable.

The busway; access for other traffic. I found an abandoned car on the busway one morning. Despite various features aimed at inhibiting access for other traffic, it seems it is easy enough to drive on to the busway.

The busway; do the buses stay on it safely? No. They do not. The guide rail is made of concrete and is about 7" high. A small wheel with a solid rubber tyre (of the kind used in industrial conveyor systems) each side of the bus connects to the steering gear and allows the driver to drive without steering. Some rough calculations suggest that the small wheels will very quickly rack up many millions of cycles, after which they may not be reliable and may fail without warning. Or, they may take a knock at the start of a guide section. In the event of guidance failure, one possible outcome is that the bus steering will instantly go full lock in one direction. If this happens the bus will climb the rail. At least one bus (Nov 20th 2012) has already climbed the rail (thought to be driver error but not confirmed) and has become beached. The exact reasons have not been made known as yet, but events of this type risk the bus passengers (a head on shunt with a bus coming the other way is quite likely) as well as any nearby pedestrians and cyclists.

The busway; is it stable? No. Concrete sections have already moved for some reason and the buses running through these sections can be felt to weave somewhat violently. A short length of the southern section of the busway has been dug up for investigation purposes and the rubber mounting pads (on which each of the 'beam sections' rests) were found to have moved. Whilst the afflicted section was unusually damp, it is not the only such damp section; the trial repair, although simple, would be incredibly expensive if it were needed on very many of the thousands of sections.

The cyclepath flooding; is it really that bad? Yes. Yes it is. One of my neighbours told me that sections were six foot under, three weeks ago. I suspected hyperbole, and went to check for myself. My neighbour was spot on. The flood water was 6 feet deep over the cycle path in places, and had come within a few inches of flooding the busway surface itself in others. Weeks later, sections of the cyclepath are still closed, being more than 12" deep in water in places. Rotting flood debris covers other sections of the cycle path, to a depth of 6" in places. The same thing happened last winter. The cyclepath looks to be easily useable maybe ten months a year. Today, I met a few people trying to use it despite the flooding, which means risking close proximity with the buses.

Overall; my view is that the boring old railway (which was largely workable before they tore it up...) with local buses at each end would have done the job quite nicely at a fraction of the cost. The cycle path is very pleasant to ride on for the most part, provided it isn't flooded, that is, and provided the buses stay on track and/or stop when they need to.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

snibgo
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby snibgo » 7 Jan 2013, 8:06pm

I haven't been up there for -- gosh, two years now -- when I blogged about it (http://cycleseven.org/of-kissing-car-traps-and-hoggin and http://cycleseven.org/an-equinox-ride ). Cambs County Council were going to leave the surface as hoggin until I lobbied them and they changed their mind. So you can thank me for the beautifully smooth tarmac. I also reported the flooding, and CCC said they would fix it. Ah, well. One out of two ain't bad.

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby [XAP]Bob » 7 Jan 2013, 10:51pm

Used.to work.down that way, and I remember all that being.said.when it was.priposed...
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

pyruse
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby pyruse » 8 Jan 2013, 2:54pm

It is worth pointing out that only one small stretch of the cycleway (the bit round Fen Drayton lakes) floods.
Everything south of Swavesey is passable year round.
I commute daily on this cycleway from Histon to the Business Park on Milton Road. Great route; flat, smooth and traffic free.
You do occasionally need to dodge loose dogs, and in the dark you need to dodge ninja pedestrians and the occasional ninja cyclist, but all in all this is a very pleasant way to start and finish the day. No idea what the buses are like :-)

Brucey
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Brucey » 8 Jan 2013, 7:00pm

pyruse wrote:It is worth pointing out that only one small stretch of the cycleway (the bit round Fen Drayton lakes) floods.
Everything south of Swavesey is passable year round.
I commute daily on this cycleway from Histon to the Business Park on Milton Road. Great route; flat, smooth and traffic free.
You do occasionally need to dodge loose dogs, and in the dark you need to dodge ninja pedestrians and the occasional ninja cyclist, but all in all this is a very pleasant way to start and finish the day. No idea what the buses are like :-)



At this time of year they should call it the the Cambridge-St.Ives guided bus/ Cambridge-Swavesey cyclepath facility...

In total there are about three or four sections, each several hundred yards long which flood, over a three-mile stretch. At present there are three flooded sections, one impassable by bike (with dry feet, anyway)... Its been like that for weeks.

In the good bits, it is very good. In the bad bits, it is awful.

hey ho...

cheers
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Mick F
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Mick F » 8 Jan 2013, 8:21pm

Thought you were looking for a good route from Cambridge to St Ives.

Quite a nice long ride. I reckon 337.3miles :D :D
Screen shot 2013-01-08 at 20.20.36.png
Mick F. Cornwall

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Coffee
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Coffee » 9 Jan 2013, 7:52pm

This site sometimes has good updates on the state of the path/buses.
http://travellingtheguidedbusway.blogspot.co.uk/

We cycled it on boxing day, so you could walk up by the rails and have no fear of being smacked by bus mirrors or what not. That's the highest I've seen it, almost up to the rails, at least 5 feet deep and St.Ives to Fen Drayton had small stretches of tarmac you could still cycle on. :shock:



Anyone ever cycle the Thicket path from St.Ives to Houghton? Christmas day had knee high water and fishes swimming in front of my wheel! That's due a lovely new upgrade starting this week(finishing in March), I hope they make it a bit higher/improve drainage on that while they are there. (when you get to Houghton lock you can swim across the flood plain the Hemingford!)
Rule 63

Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white VAN (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Keep within the lane when practicable, watch out for Anna Meares elbows.

Brucey
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Brucey » 10 Jan 2013, 12:41am

Coffee wrote: Anyone ever cycle the Thicket path from St.Ives to Houghton? Christmas day had knee high water and fishes swimming in front of my wheel! That's due a lovely new upgrade starting this week(finishing in March), I hope they make it a bit higher/improve drainage on that while they are there. (when you get to Houghton lock you can swim across the flood plain the Hemingford!)


I don't know exactly what they intend, but yeah, the surface was looking a bit too 'lived in' for comfort last time I went on that bike path. I've never been there when the water level is very high though; fishes in the front wheel? :shock:

Does that make it more of a 'pike path' (groan..)? :roll:

cheers
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Anglian
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Anglian » 10 Jan 2013, 5:46pm

Brucey wrote:On the minus side; it was late. It was over budget. It floods. It floods really badly. The buses are something of a menace. There are no white lines, so riding in the dark is a bit sketchy. The Busway road surface is smooth (and getting smoother) concrete. There appear to be developing problems with the guided way itself, and the buses remaining within it. Did I mention... it floods...?


Hello Brucey,

It seems a bit contradictory to complain about the cost, and then also complain about the flooding of the bridleway/cyclepath. In a engineering sense, it doesn't flood badly; it floods as was designed. Raising the level of the lakeside area between Swavesey and St Ives to ensure 52-week/year rideability would've been far too expensive for the cycleway project to go ahead. By accepting an average of seven or so weeks per year when the route can't be used in the winter, the facility could be provided, to a decent standard.

I think it's one of the best design decisions I've seen in a civil engineering project -- accepting that perfection costs too much money, especially in that location, but by accepting a specific degree of unusability, a very useful transport link can be provided.

Warmest regards,
Anglian

Brucey
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Brucey » 10 Jan 2013, 11:52pm

It is difficult to tell if it was 'good value' or not, but it was over budget.

Annoyingly there is an 'access road' (which is set well above the likely flood level) which runs on the other side of the busway for some distance, in/near the region where flooding is worst.

I'm not altogether convinced that it couldn't have been done better without a vast extra cost myself. They must have removed thousands of tonnes of ballast/spoil when they installed the concrete busway (the foundations are very deep, then there is a 18" deep hole above that with the roadway sections set into them; I estimate between 100000 and 200000 cubic metres of soil and ballast in total).

If they had used a small fraction of the spoil material to build up the cycle path in key places, it wouldn't flood. And yes, there is room for it. Was to not do that a 'sensible engineering decision' ?

People who ride the bus regularly tell me that the pitching and weaving is getting worse; presumably the concrete sections and/or their rubber pad supports are on the move. Water is a very good lubricant which allows rubber to slide over a variety of other surfaces. I knew that. Whoever decided to build the busway in that way may not have, it seems.

cheers
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andyfromstives
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby andyfromstives » 15 Feb 2013, 8:46pm

I also live close to the guided busway. I use the buses that run along the route, and also cycle along it, sometimes for exercise, and sometimes for travel to/from Cambridge.

Flooding - this has become a major issue during the past year. According to my observations, the cycle track has been flooded for about 100 days in the last 9 months. 1-20 May, 15-19 July, 23 Nov-16 Dec, 21 Dec-15 Jan and 28 Jan to date. That's about 1 day in 3. I seem to remember that the cycle track was 'designed' to be flooded 31 days a year.

When the busway opened, I started a blog to provide a forum for busway users to discuss matters of interest. http://travellingtheguidedbusway.blogspot.com. Earlier on, the blog was mainly concerned with bus matters, but recently the flooded cycle track has dominated.

It's only the St Ives to Swavesey section of the busway that floods. In this section the track crosses the flood plain of the the Great Ouse River. There are two or three 'dips' near the Ouse Viaduct which fill up quick when the river level rises, then dry out quickly when the river level falls again. But there are several dips nearer to Swavesey which take longer to fill up, and then take ages to drain away.

I question whether the designer of the busway really understood how the water levels would behave during times of flooding. The cycle track is supposed to be a 'maintenance track' for the busway - that's what the County Council calls in - but if that's its purpose, then it is failing in its purpose.

When the water drains away, the track is always covered with huge amounts of debris, a mixture of sand, gravel and bits of vegetation ranging in size from twigs to tree trunks. To give them their due, the County Council does clear this debris, but it takes a few days, so not ideal.

The flooding is causing people to take risks. Many people walk and wheel their bikes along the top of the embankment, where the ground is muddy and slippery, and they are only inches from the buses that rattle along at 56mph.

Alternative cycle routes? Well, there aren't really any. The best one goes from St Ives to Swavesey via Fenstanton and Fen Drayton. But even that floods - on the Low Road between St Ives and Fenstanton. That leaves the odd one-way slip road that runs between Fenstanton and the Galley Hill junction on the A14 ( junction 26). You can cycle it from west to east, but not from east to west.

One final bit of science. The River Ouse has an enormous catchment area. It rises near Towcester in Buckinghamshire and takes in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Huntingdon in its travels. In my observations, water levels at St Ives generally peak about 3 days after heavy rain in the upper catchment. The river authorities have the problem of letting the water safely down to the sea. There are many water meadows and former gravel pits on the banks of the river which can absorb some of the water. Water levels have to be managed to prevent towns and villages flooding.

The busway cycle track's problem is that it crosses the last part of those meadows and gravel pits before the village of Earith. They can't let Earith village flood, although they do allow the A1123 road to flood near Earith where it crosses the main outlet for River Ouse water - the Hundred Foot Washes. The build up of water, before it can be let into the Hundred Foot Washes backs up the River Ouse and the cycle track is the victim.

There are now calls being made for the A1123 to be raise at Earith to avoid flood closures, which have a knock on effect for St Ives and cause huge tailbacks of traffic trough the town.

A complex set of parameters in which the needs of cyclists come very low.

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Cunobelin
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby Cunobelin » 16 Feb 2013, 7:18am

Mick F wrote:Thought you were looking for a good route from Cambridge to St Ives.

Quite a nice long ride. I reckon 337.3miles :D :D
Screen shot 2013-01-08 at 20.20.36.png

Bane of my life when We were youngsters

If we ordered records, Tshirts or whatever they would be delayed by being sent to Cornwall


....... An I used to go out with a girl in Earith, cycling from St Ives on a regular basis

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby [XAP]Bob » 16 Feb 2013, 10:03am

Would they "design" a motorway to be flooded for 31 days a year?
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

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RickH
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby RickH » 16 Feb 2013, 2:16pm

[XAP]Bob wrote:Would they "design" a motorway to be flooded for 31 days a year?

The newer, eastern part of the M60? Maybe not 31 days a year, but any time there is heavy rain. I think they forgot to allow for the fact that it does sometimes rain around Manchester. :wink:

Rick.

pyruse
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Re: Cambridge-St.Ives Guided Busway/cycle path

Postby pyruse » 21 Feb 2013, 2:49pm

I see that solar lights have now appeared on the section between Histon and the A14; should reduce the Ninja cyclist/pedestrian hazard quite a bit.