Friday, 2 December 2011

NCN2 (a.k.a. the poor relation) in Plymouth

I was out cycling a day or two ago, going nowhere in particular. You know the type of ride: you simply get on your bike and go where the wind blows you.
Anyway, as I was merrily cycling along NCN27 through the Saltram estate, I paid attention to a particular sign probably for the first time. I have cycled past here so often, but I almost always go straight.

The sign is located on the Saltram side of and just before the cyclist & pedestrian bridge over the train tracks, near Marsh Mills roundabout.

Yes indeed! The sign indicates NCN2 leads off to the right! Please forgive my surprise, as the last NCN2 sign, heading in the same direction, was back on Exeter Street. It would therefore seem NCN2 and NCN27 share the same route from there to this sign.

This ties in with a previous post about how hard it is to follow NCN2 through Plymouth.

Confusingly, apparently the same is not true when cycling the route in the opposite direction. Here's a pic of the same sign, looking back at it after having turned right:
As you have undoubtedly noticed, there are no NCN2 signs when heading back along this route. This is disappointing, as there are other NCN2 signs directing cyclists riding NCN2 westward to this point.

Continueing along the route in an easterly direction, you will pass underneath the A38, through a charming graffiti-decorated area, before crossing a small stream via a little bridge. From this point onwards I hope you you're riding a mountain bike, with gnarly tyres, and that you enjoy slipping and sliding through mud, as that is exactly what awaits you.

The track is narrow, partly overgrown in places, and extremely muddy.



The photos do not do the mud justice, which is a pity.

After a while the path runs along a concrete surface, which when I cycled it was covered in a few centimeters of water.
Once that ends, a few bendy bit follows before you're presented with this beauty:
Again, the photo doesn't portray an accurate scale, so allow me to explain. My bike has SPD pedals in, which as I'm sure you are aware, are smaller that platform pedals. I couldn't push my bike through the narrow gap without the pedals catching.

If you were towing a trailer, or were carrying panniers, or were on a trike, you'd need to lift your ride over the bull trap. This is doubly annoying given that there aren't any signs warning you about this.

Once you've cleared the bull trap. you'll find yourself on Marshall Road, at the end of which there is an NCN2 sign indicating you should turn right, uphill for a short stint along Cot Hill, before another NCN2 signs directs you left onto Dudley Road. At the end of Dudley Road, turn left on to Linketty Lane and a short while later, after the road crossed the little stream again, you will see a park to your right.

You should also see an NCN2 marker, directing you onto the lovely tarred path that skirts the park. Lovely, that is, until you get to the end, by Market Road, where you'll encounter one of these despised signs:
In case it isn't quite clear, the sign says "End of Route", even though on the post behind it is another NCN2 sign indicating you to turn left onto Market Road.

At this point I'll stop giving turn-by-turn directions and look at the wood instead of the trees.

Seriously, this is supposed to be National Cycle Route Nr 2?

South West Tourism Alliance says the Cycle West cross-channel initiative "is expected to attract tens of thousands of additional visitors to the participating regions each year". That is in addition to the 1.5 million tourists Devon County Council says visits each year. Also from the South West Tourism Alliance site is this quote:
Adam Bows from Dorset County Council, who heads the local authority's involvement in the initiative, added: "The county already receives 1.5 million tourists a year and many local jobs depend upon the money they spend - and we know that in Europe and in other parts of the UK, where cycling tourism is more developed, cyclists spend more per head than the average visitor."

I've highlighted the monetary value and financial reward of attracting cycle tourists before, yet look at what we offer them!

It would be far better to re-route NCN2 through Saltram, and out through the main car entrance to Saltram, on Merafield Road, before turning left and downhill onto Cot Hill. This alternative would provide a far superior route choice that fully caters for trailers and trakes, even though part of it is on a reasonably busy road.

Certainly the "End of Route" sign just before Market Road and all "Cyclists Dismount" signs anywhere along the route must be removed. After all, a "Cyclists Dismount" sign has no legal power, and is actually a request (even if a rude one) instead of a command.

I fully appreciate the council is trying to slash costs left, right and centre, but debacles like these have more to do with sheer short-sightedness than austerity measures. After all, in this age of austerity, when handed a golden opportunity to attract tens of thousands of higher-than-average spending cross-channel bicycle tourists, surely you'd think Plymouth would grab the opportunity with both hands?