25/07/2015

Alternate commuting options between Colchester area and Brightlingsea.

If you live in the Colchester area, the chances are you've gone & visited the coastal town Brightlingsea. And those in Brightlingsea no doubt have more than likely travelled out of the town to Colchester or the surrounding area.

Now, what's the roads like travelling? Not great are they? Coming in & out of Brightlingsea is just one road & can often snarl up due to congestion, weather conditions & maybe a road accident.


Now if only there was another option? How about using the bus services? No?

Not surprised, its unreliable at times & if the drivers get caught up on traffic due some issues on the road, a bus service will too...


Ever tried to cycle or walk it or even considered these options? No??

Can't say I blame you, not the nicest of roads to go onto on with 2 wheels or feet. Actually some of the roads don't appear to be suitable to walking on at all. One major issue I've seen when using the roads seem to be Tenpenny Hill. Definitely not nicest to cycle up & I couldn't see paths along it too & sure doesn't look safe to walk it anyway.

 

Now if only there was an option to sort this, well there are. Government could get another road built into the town but that would be very costly & very unlikely as well as just add more cars on the road & clog up like the rest eventually.

I was thinking something a lil more affordable, easier to do & part of the route already exists & just needs linking to Brightlingsea which would help encourage those going in or out of Brightlingsea to walk or cycle, it's also something I have looked into & thought it through & do feel it is needed. If it was to happen this would help ease traffic flow in & out of the town & benefit all. It's also something I have discussed with others travelling to & from Brightlingsea or who have travelled between Colchester & Brightlingsea & they love the idea I am about to explain.

So you're no doubt asking How? Well if you're familiar with the area you will know there's an old rail line that's now used to walk on along the river bank & acts as a sea defence too, go far enough & you'll come across the footings to an old rail bridge & on other side of the river the route continues to Wivenhoe. 

 

So what I was thinking was if a path suitable for walking & cycling was created along this old rail line & over a new bridge in place of where the old bridge over the river was & then follow the coast line to Wivenhoe to then join up with the shared path route known as the Wivenhoe Trail, you will then have a direct route to Colchester for those walking & cycling as well as a walking/cycling direct link from Brightlingsea to Alresford & Wivenhoe.


Now I know some of you will be screaming out, 'but this idea has been suggested before & failed to get the funding' & yes you are right. But why is that? Wrong time to suggest it or just the fact it was being suggested as a leisure route. Doing so, it's no wonder it was set to not get far...

Others are probably thinking 'The bridge would be an eyesore'. Would it? Have you seen designs used in places like the Netherlands? They are beautiful to see & can actually enhance the area & some are being built in the UK too.


To be honest We need to think bigger! We need to have more sustainable routes for travelling, roads are congested due to over capacity. People would like to walk or cycle but there's no safe route to do so on the roads joining Brightlingsea, we need to get routes suitable for walking & cycling not for just leisure but to actually commute.

So with a bridge built in place of the old rail bridge, upgrade the paths suitable for walking & cycling all the way from Brightlingsea to Colchester. Then we will have a viable alternative for those wanting to travel by foot or bicycle, then when those who want to do so the number of those driving will fall & it will help ease the congestion.

And now I have got that in your head, we need to get Councils to listen. Councillors & the public to discuss this as a viable option. Its affordable if you consider what it will benefit for all & I for one would use it as I just love going to the cafe at Batesman tower.

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Now if this was possible, here's a seed of thought to implant in your mind following the blog. How about if we could expand it, just think what if we could link Points Clear to Brightlingsea? Then we could possibly have a walking cycling route along whole coastline to Clacton-on-Sea & beyond from what I have read in the local news of new shared paths in that area.

Just think how that would be so much easier to get from Colchester/Brightlingsea or any route in between to Clacton or beyond. Especially in Summer, I've seen those miles of traffic trying to get into Clacton-on-Sea & next to no parking. Cycling it would be so much better with a direct safe route.

21/07/2015

Quick review of the Isaw A2

I thought it was time I did a quick review of the Isaw A2 as I have often talked about it again & again & again, time to put it all in a blog & then can just send the link to it. It is being phased out for newer models but some are still around & thought this would be useful for those looking at the brand & model if looking to buy one.

Over a year ago I decided to replace my Contour Roam 2, although a nice action cam it had limitations of a sealed battery lasting 3hrs & very poor night filming. So a follower on Twitter suggested Isaw after I complained about the poor experience I had with GoPro (and very grateful he did too) & sent me footage from the older A1 model & I was impressed. So I went for the current model the A2 which was going for around £100.

This is what came in the box when it arrived, it also can be used with current GoPro mounts too.


I have tried it out on the bike & most often on my helmet. Here's the comparison video of the Isaw A2 to the Contour Roam 2.


As good as the filming, the sound was slightly muffled, even with the open slotted back door. But it was good enough to start with so I tried it for a while & after I was happy with it I modified the case to improve the sound using a microphone foam, old part of a pump & some Sugru. Photo will show the stages of the modification.

 First was to Sugru in a slice of Microphone foam to the slotted back door. This made the door more water resistant.


Next was to work out the location of the mic & how to fit something over it to improve sound when holes are drilled in. This was the mock up to see how to do it...


But I decided I wanted a professional look & found a piece of old bicycle pump & a brainwave occurred.


You can see the holes drilled in line with mic & part of the pump with microphone foam inside Sugru'ed to casing (ensuring Sugru doesn't cover the holes). And the sound quality has vastly improved & the Sugru has held on well as still on there a year later.

So now for the running of the Isaw A2, I run the cam at 720p & not 1080p as the quality is just great & maximises the amount recorded on Memory Card. I can get around 5.5 hours of recording at 720p on a 32Gb Class 10 Micro SD Card. Battery life is around 1.5 hrs each & easily swappable, replacement batteries you can get for around £5 each & separate battery charger for around £10. I managed to record my whole ride whilst doing the Nightrider London 100km ride that took about 9hrs & I used 2x 32Gb cards & less than the 6 batteries I took with me. Footage below if you like to have a look.

    

The Isaw A2 is very reliable, only issue I had was a faulty memory card but once replaced all was running smoothly. They're so good I have bought a 2nd one to mount on the bike for when doing long rides.


So do I recommend Isaw A2, you bet I do & will stick with them until they finally give up the ghost. They are a great action cam to use & as they are slowly disappearing from the shops, I would seriously consider the Isaw for replacements as they are quite reasonably priced for what you get, unlike the GoPro with my experience of them.


04/07/2015

Widening of the A12 & the knock on effects to non-drivers

As most will know the Government are planning to add a 3rd lane to the A12 in both directions & try make it a motorway like A road between M25 & Colchester. Now all the news about this has been focused on the destruction of buildings that are next to the road itself as well as if the widening of the A12 will actually improve traffic levels (IMO it will do nothing of the sort) & this is an issue to be discussed elsewhere but I like to highlight another more important issue that has been ignored. This would be the use of the A12 by non-drivers as in pedestrians & cyclists. You're probably asking how or where they use the A12, well if you ever travel along the A12, you might've seen paths along it between junctions. They are a mix of paths & shared paths creating what are safe links to towns along the A12 for those walking or cycling, relics of when this road was a typical standard 2-way road & when it had businesses along the whole length before it was dualed to 'ease traffic congestion' (that worked out well didn't it?) & forced cyclists off the A12 & onto these paths.

Now if you travel by bicycle along the A12 to & from Chelmsford you'll pop on & off the A12 with these shared paths to a 'reasonable' route to get to & from Chelmsford & these same paths link the towns to businesses along the A12 too so pedestrians can walk to them safely.


So where am I going with this, well these paths are right alongside the A12 & if a 3rd lane in both directions is constructed then these paths would disappear. Gone would be the link to Chelmsford from Colchester as well as other towns in between, gone would be the links between towns & businesses along the A12 for those walking & cycling. This would mean those cycling would have to seek alternative routes that would be longer, unsafe & undesirable for most.


This would result in those walking would more likely have to give up walking & use a car & the same for most who cycle, adding to the traffic on the already congested A12 & really would defeat the object of a 3rd lanes to reduce congestion on the A12. Though to be honest I am doubtful a 3rd lane would help ease the traffic on the A12 & reduce the problems on it daily, but that's another debate...

So what exactly can we do? Well the 3rd lanes on the A12 are looking to be done whether it is good idea or not, so we need to work with it to help encourage walking & cycling along the A12. As both sides of the A12 will be dug up to add these 3rd lanes, then this is the best time we can actually build even better segregated cycleways & foot paths to replace the outdated unmaintained unsuitable 2-way narrow shared paths on both sides.

 

 

There are plenty of examples of this where it has been done before. Netherlands have some great examples & even along motorways (now that would be cool to have here). It's even being done in London now so why not the A12 or any A road like it to be honest? As shown in the pictures I found on the internet.

 

 

And if we went with this idea then why not go along the whole A12 from Colchester to Chelmsford so then anyone can cycle along the whole A12 & not have to hop on & off it at every town.


It isn't that much further to travel & it'll be easier to stay on the A12 & do the whole distance, could even go around Colchester too with the A12 & give another alternative to travel to other parts of the town without having to go through the heavily congested town centre. Even drivers know what it is like to travel through a congested town with constant starting & stopping at every junction, its tiring with all that concentration.


We could even push the idea even further & do the 3rd lane & segregated cycleway & paths all along A12 right up to Ipswich. Would make getting there or anywhere along it more feasible by walking or cycling, works out less to travel to than to Chelmsford too.


And to be honest these routes as a segregated route would also be beneficial to drivers too as well as the 3rd lane, the more appealing the route is for those wanting to walk or cycle the more would likely others would walk or cycle than drive so less traffic on the A12. So it would be a win win for everyone in doing this. Having this done would give a choice for all who wants to travel & be able to in a safe convenient manner no matter what method of travel they like to use.

So we just need to spread the word on this & get the Government, Councils & Councillors to listen & supply the need for all & not just for those who drive.

09/05/2015

Lost the battle but not the war...

As many who follow me know, I've been using cycling to help get me stick free & over 18 months ago I managed it. But last year my knee decided to play up for no apparent reason despite finally stick free for some months, done 2 Charity rides, cycled to Chelmsford & back to see Tour de France & those rides were all over 50 miles each.

 


Then after thinking I had knee sorted out, started a new job which involved a lot of walking & standing, leg had improved greatly. In February, the knee went again & worse than ever & back I went to see specialist. Who had done tests before & with physiotherapist notes to back up results, he diagnosed I had Osteoarthritis. This meant changes are needed to improve the condition but it will never go away, mostly lifestyle changes which reduces strain on the knee like sit with knee straight as much as possible.


But the timing of the knee flaring up was at the worst possible time, it was 2 months before Pedal 4 the J's & 3 months before Nightrider London. And having spent over 6 weeks unable to cycle on the road, both my knee & my level of fitness has been severely reduced. I had done 30 days of biking in April, but it was more of a 5 min run daily on a gentle setting of the turbo trainer & a few short rides at the end of the month.


And now that I'm beginning to cycle again I'm finding it difficult to do, partly coz I dont want to aggravate the knee again & I just don't have the leg strength anymore. The bike is feeling heavy & hard work so looks like I will be looking for an alternative 'lighter' replacement in the near future.


I had to drop out of Pedal for the J's last w/e as I just wasn't ready to cycle that course, but I needed to get things moving so I could do Nightrider London. So this week I decided I needed to start cycling further, so with a friend we went for a long ride around town to clock up the miles & it didn't go as well as I hoped. I really struggled to do 10 - 20 miles easily. This didn't bode well for me to be able to do Nightrider London let alone complete it, so after a few days of deep thought on the mater & a heavy heart I have decided I am unable to do it this year. The risk of doing more harm than good to the knee just wasn't worth it.

So I had emailed the organisers of Nightrider London to see if I can have the booking postponed to next years event so to give me time to get back to the level of fitness required & unfortunately they will not allow that. So on that premise I had to make further decisions as I now lost a good chunk of hard earned cash on an event I pre-booked to ensure I get a spot. It's not something easy to decide or I really want to do but I'm afraid I am no longer going to be doing the Nightrider London ride in the foreseeable future & I will not be pre-booking any similar charity event too as I can't guarantee I am able to do them on the day.

As for now I have to focus on my knee improving & able to manage it to avoid any further stick use if possible. The specialist has made it blatantly clear that I will never be stick free, but with the right management I can minimise the need of sticks. And until I know I can get the knee to be OK for more than 6 months, preferably over a year I think I will need to just work on my cycling distances on my own goals of getting the distances than try raise cash for charity on sponsored rides. Events like Pedal 4 the J's is still open for me to do as I can just turn up on the day & pay before I do it. Those sort of rides I will look out for to do in the foreseeable future.


So for now I may have lost the battle of going stick free, but the war to achieve it as much as possible as I have done for a decade isnt over. I'm just going to need new tactics & equipment as well as support to keep pushing forwards even if it is doing it slightly out of breath...

 

02/08/2014

Tale of 2 charity rides...

Ok, it's been a hectic few months & I've not been keeping my blogs going as I should. So as I'm having a quiet few weeks atm I see its time I should update on the charity rides I've been doing.

So to start with Pedal for the J's in Chelmsford, it was near the end of the 30 days of biking & it was touch & go if I was going to get there due to rail engineering works. I had an early start to get to Chelmsford to start the ride by 9am as I was doing the 50 miles route this year & wasnt sure how long it would take. So started with a short bit of cycling to nearest station & managed to get a train without any issues.


Then another quick run through the park to the starting point & even had time to have a coffee before I started with my cycling buddys Pete & Dave who decided to come do the ride with me.


So off we went & the ride went pretty smoothly with a few stops around the route for a cuppa & refuelling.

 

And eventually we completed it & in under 4hrs tho we had lost Dave as he wanted to go ahead & faster than the nice gentle run I was doing with Pete, hey ho each to their own ways...


After that the 3 of us went to have a nice ride along the park to get a coffee at my fav Cycle coffee Shop Athlon Sport. Refuelled with some more food before heading back home & the ride from the station to home was the hardest part. lol

 
These 2 pictures are thanks to Pete & Dave who took them

The next day, I was saw but I did continue the 30 days of biking & after recovering from that ride I had just over a month to get ready for my next one & this one was going to push me even harder than Pedal for the J's, the Nightrider London.

The Nightrider London is slightly different than the Pedal for the J's I have done twice now. For starters as the name kinda gives it away, its at night & starts at 10pm & my starting slot was 12.30am. The other bit is that it is 100km (63miles) around London. All this is definitely putting me out of my comfort zone & to top it all I was riding my latest bike the Roadrunner which I have just had built with help for this sort of ride & is her maiden voyage out. I have ridden Roadrunner around town to get used to the handling, but this was totally different.


So off I went cycling as the sun was setting to catch the train to London with another cycling buddy Leon & what a nice start that was to see the Sun set as I rode along Hilly Fields.


So after a few hours of train time, we got to Alexandra Palace starting point just before midnight.


 

So off we went at 12.30am & took a nice gentle steady pace & right from the start we had hills & I hate hills. But Roadrunner was light & took them in its stride even if it was a bit slow. lol


We stopped when we felt like it to have a break, refuel or just snap some pics along the way as there were some nice views on the route.


 

 

 

 

 

 

And just around 9am we finally made it back to Alexandra Palace to receive a medal & as well earned breakfast.


I might not look it in the pic, but I was happy & overwhelmed that I had managed it & that Roadrunner had proved herself on the road. After we had eaten & rested for a bit, we then headed down the hill towards the station & stopped at a nearby cafe for more refuelling.


And after another few hours of travelling by train, another stop at a cafe in Colchester & then a very slow cycle ride home, I was & still am chuffed I was able to do this one despite my worries.

So after doing these 2 charity rides, how did I do? Well the stats shown below show how well I did.



I am pretty happy in the times I did in both rides & after a couple days I had recovered from the rides with no issues. So I am hoping to continue with these sort of rides in the near future. But due to reoccurring disability rearing its head up again atm, cycling is on hold so might not be until next year & if that is so, I'll be trying to do both again & with my trusty steed Roadrunner with hopefully with a new paint job & additions by then. :)


Oh if anyone want to come along on these rides with me, I be more than happy to cycle with a group as it's much more fun than alone. :)