Riding into Ely from Witchford as a family

Start of shared use path in WitchfordWe had visitors this weekend and decided to cycle into Ely with them this Sunday. It’s a relatively well served route (for the UK) with a wide shared use path along the busy A142. I do the journey regularly and as an experienced adult cyclists it’s an easy ride. Sunday was a little different as there were 13 of us cycling in; 5 adults, 1 teenager and 7 primary school age children.

We set off from Witchford and the first issue is that Main Street is busy but there is no suitable alternative until you get onto the shared use path (opposite Grunty Fen Road). The first section of the shared use path is relatively good with a wide verge between the path and the road.

Path on the outskirts of WitchfordOn the outskirts of the village the verge narrows and then disappears and it’s basically just a standard pavement. It’s quite narrow and in places has branches encroaching onto it.

The whole section from the Grunty Fen junction out of the village is quite bumpy.

As you leave the village the path moves away from the road again with a very wide verge between the two. The path is still quite narrow despite there being ample room to make it wider. The narrowness is brought into focus at one point where nettles grow up on either side to the extent where it’s impossible to pass without brushing against them. As the path heads up to Lancaster Way roundabout the verge narrows and disappears so the path runs next to the road like a standard pavement although it’s wider.

Lancaster Way roundaboutThe first annoying part of the journey is Lancaster Way roundabout. The cycle path goes the wrong way around this roundabout, forcing cyclists using the path to cross three roads. If it went the other way there would only be one road crossing. As a confident cyclist I usually go around the roundabout on the road, this is also annoying as joining the cycle path on the far side requires a dangerously tight turn, this could also be fixed if the cycle path went the other way around.

Once past the Lancaster Way roundabout the shared use path up to Budgens is good. It’s wide enough to allow other cyclists to pass (which is important when you’re riding at the pace of 6 and 7 year olds) and it’s separated from the road by a narrow verge. It would be good if the path from the village to Lancaster Way roundabout were this wide.

Crossing A10 at BudgensThe next annoying part of the journey is the A10. This is a very busy road and the crossing is right next to the roundabout junction. Attempting to cross the A10 at the roundabout is very difficult if the traffic is busy and flowing. We had to wait for a motorist to take pity on us here and hold up the rest of the traffic and allow us across. This crossing needs a bridge to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross this busy road in safety.

The other side of the A10 you almost immediately have to cross Norfolk Road. This is a wide junction with an inadequate central reservation if (like I had) you have a trail-a-bike attached.

The route into Ely is basically pavement that has been re-designated as shared use, despite this is relatively OK, taking you away from the road and past the water tower. and then onto Cambridge Road.

Heading towards Silver StreetOn Cambridge Road there is a cycle lane on the road, but it’s narrow, badly surfaced and disappears at the junction of West Fen. When I cycle on my own I can deal with this and move to ‘take the lane’ where the at the West Fen junction. Towing a trail-a-bike and with several children along for the ride we went down the pavement instead. This doesn’t appear to be shared use but it’s wide and relatively well surfaced.

At the junction with West Fen we opted to cross Cambridge Road and ride on the pavement past the Silver Street junction and the tourist information rejoining the road past the church. This section is also quite wide and well surfaced, but isn’t obviously shared use. The only difficult section is as it passes the end of Silver Street.

So all in all a journey that for a confident adult cyclist is not particularly onerous or difficult has several points of conflict when ridden with less confident cyclists and children. The distance caused none of the riders (the youngest of which was 6) any problem at all.

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