As the weather was warm this Sunday I decided to go for a walk to the Country Park. I am lucky living in Daventry in that the conversion of the old railway line (I believe that this was one of Dr Beeching’s victims) has resulted in a tree lined path from the north side of Daventry to the town centre that involves crossing only one small road in a housing estate. Not only can I get to the Country Park without going near any major roads, but I can also get to the industrial estate that I work on by bicycle or on foot by the same path.
I have to applaud the council for providing this amenity, and for its upkeep. It has also provided me with views of various fauna including muntjac, squirrels, blackcaps and fieldfares. However, whilst Daventry Council is better than many in providing separate footpaths and cycle paths (although until recently the use of some footpaths involved crossing the road a few times when the paths inexplicably ran out on one side of the road and started again on the opposite side), they have also fallen prey to the strange tendency that seems to have befallen many councils.
What am I talking about? The decision to put cycle paths along the side of the road, amongst all of the gutters. This type of cycle path causes all manner of problems.
Firstly, the lanes are narrow, and are not wide enough to cycle in. Secondly, the last place that cyclists want to be is in the same place as the gutter, these are noticeable enough when in a car, let alone on a bicycle. Thirdly, cars have a tendency to park in these lanes as there does not seem to be any hard and fast rules about where to park if there is a cycle lane.
However, there are two bigger problems than these, the paths often run out for no reason – then where am I supposed to cycle?
The final problem is one that I noted when waiting to walk across a road in a housing estate that has cycle lanes. I watched eight cars go past, but not one of those cars managed to travel 100 metres without crossing into the cycle lane. Tell me why should I get my bicycle out rather than getting in the car to go somewhere. Not only will I have to risk life and limb, but my bicycle will probably be stolen when I get to my destination.When will town planners realise that a coat is not sufficient protection for a bicycle compared to the metal shell of tonne of car? Cyclists should be given the same protection as pedestrians and given cycle lanes away from the danger and pollution of the road.
I decided today to go for a walk around the Country Park. This is something that I am wary of doing on a Sunday because of the vast number of dogs that seem to be literally unleashed upon the world. However, as today was a bit soggy I thought I would take a chance, and I was by and large proved right.
However, as is the case nine times out of ten the people walking the dogs decided that as they were not near a road they did not need to put their dogs on a lead. Why not, I really don’t understand? If they want their dogs to roam free, let them do it in their back garden.
I personally resent having someone’s pointy toothed, slobbering dog coming bounding up to me (and I, unlike many people, am not particularly afraid of dogs), but more than that, this is a country park, there is a lot of wildlife about, and uncontrolled dogs and wildlife do not mix.
On a similar theme, my other question is, why do so many dog owners drive somewhere to take their dogs for a walk. I tend to walk wherever I can, I like the exercise, I usually find it relaxing, and it is more environmentally friendly. However, nearly every day I see people getting out of their cars, letting the dog out of the back so it can have a run round and annoy me and the wildlife. What happened to taking the dog for a walk, when did people start taking their dog for a drive?
The question of wind farms and solar power has been brought closer to home this week with the announcement in the local paper that a company is looking at placing eight wind turbines and 50 solar panels in an area close to the M1 near to Watford Gap services. According to the paper there would be between 2 and 4 MegaWatts of power generated by each of the turbines, and 150 Watts from each of the solar arrays.
There has been the obvious statement by local councillors regarding the ‘blot on the landscape’, and a picture in the paper showing a picture of the area with 8 turbines superimposed on it.
I have never been able to make up my mind about wind power, I can see the advantages of it, and should society wish to continue its power consumption then we need to look at alternative ways. I can also see some of the disadvantages, the huge amount of power and concrete used to make the turbines, and the noise that they make.
In terms of the proposed constructions close to the M1 I have less of a problem. The area is just a few miles away from the Rugby transmitters which are being dismantled, but can be seen for miles around. Indeed, not long after I moved to the area I remember seeing an article in a local paper suggesting that the transmitters should be replaced by another landmark, firstly to make the area memorable, and secondly because motorists apparently like to have something noticeable every now and again.
As far as the environemental impact goes, the smog that is generated by the traffic on the M1 can often be seen from Daventry as a brown cloud over the horizon.
However, as far as the solar panels go I am more certain about the ratio of advantages to disadvantages. These also take a fair amount of energy to produce, and I am not sure that 150 Watts of electricity, a couple of light bulbs, is really worthwhile. Perhaps they should consider planting some trees to absorb some of the pollution and noise and provide a wildlife habitat instead.
One of the topics that periodically appears in the media is the cost of petrol, the state of public transport and the state of the British roads. In the discussions that follow there are usually the same suggestions, more working from home (not possible for the vast majority of workers whether for practical reasons or due to paranoid employers) and more use of public transport – this is not going to happen until there is an improvement outside of the capital rather than the reduction in services currently seen in the majority of the country.
I have a different approach – I have beaten the traffic problems, don’t really care what the Chancellor does to the tax on petrol (and I do believe that it is a resource that is way too important to burn), and never have to worry about the bad weather in the winter.
I have done the commuting thing, spent 2 hours in the metal box every day, filled up with petrol every four days. Despite spending seven years in University getting a PhD I gave up a career in this area for a job that I can walk to. I hear people on the radio saying that it is all very well people living close to their work, but it is not possible for them. I disagree, and have proved that it is possible, it all depends on your priorities. I can honestly say that walking to work is one of the best financial decisions I ahve ever made, not to mention the changes it has enabled me to make in my lifestyle.
I don’t think that I could go back to a job that I have to commute to any more, I would miss listening to the birds sing as I walk to work. I even thought of applying for an environment-related job in a nearby town, but stopped when I realised that the positive impact I made in that job would be in part negated by the effects of a 60 mile round trip!