Old Lübeck

Yesterday’s visit to Bad Schwartau finally gave me the opportunity to visit the location of the original settlement of Lübeck which was later abandoned.

From 2015

You can still see why the location must have been a good for a small settlement, a small hill overlooking the confluence of two rivers. However, there was little room for flood proof extension.

I also had a go at trying to take a picture of the forest in Bad Schwartau as panorama, good effort, but room for improvement.

From 2015
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On a recent visit to the west coast of Schleswig-Holstein I finally got the chance to a picture of Westerhever lighthouse.

From 2015

And yesterday there was a fine evening and sunset here in Berkshire.

From 2015
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Inside a Marathon Plus

Last weekend I changed the tyres on my main bicycle from Marathon Pluses to Marathon Winter tyres (just in time for Monday morning’s frost). I took the opportunity to cut up one of the Marathon+ tyres to take a look inside.

Pictures of a Marathon+ tyre, from 2014

The tyre tread is certainly impressive for a use of about 10,000km, unfortunately other bits of tyre didn’t age as well (it’s about 6 years old). The sidewalls did not look too happy in places and the reflective strip had come off on one side. But I’m certainly going to run the next set for a longer distance if possible, having seen how rubber and puncture protection is left. The tyres did, by the way, have not a single puncture in their lifetime.

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Another November sunrise

There was a rather spectacular sunrise this morning which I captured form the footbridge across the M4 near junction 12.

From 2014

It was a rather cold commute with a few ice patches especially on the footbridge and the cycle path in Thatcham though.

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Long distance bicycle trips

The first draft of all my cycling touring is finally finished. I have added details for all major tours from 1983 to 1992.


Setting off for the North Cape in 1988

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November Sunrise

Well, yesterday morning there was a beautiful sunrise over the Kennet Valley.

From 2014

A shame the weather went downhill after that and I had to ride home in the rain, partly along the A4, as my usual route was closed due to an accident.

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Vehicle density in the UK

A few years ago I was cycling from Reading to London and struck me how busy the roads around the reservoirs near Heathrow were. In fact, I seemed to remember that they weren’t that busy when I first cycled there a few years earlier. This then got me thinking about how busy roads used to be in the late 80s and early 90s. I was beginning to wonder if I was having one of my first senior moments “where things used to be better when I was young”. Occasionally, I would remember this question which was difficult to answer due to the Small Data problem of finding out how many cars, or better vehicles, there used to be. In May 2013 I stumbled across UK government data whilst investigating UK housing stock. And to my surprise there was government  data for the registered vehicles in the UK going back all the way to WWI (in the following “vehicle” refers to a registered vehicle).

Vehicle density in the UK

The top two plots show how the total number of registered vehicles has developed in the UK and how the road network has grown (or shrunk). The bottom two plots show the density of vehicles on the road. First in vehicles per km and to the right vehicles per 5m.

I quickly plotted the data (top left plot) and it showed the familiar curve with car ownership taking up in the 50s and slowdowns for recessions and also the early noughties. But, on reflection I thought this doesn’t really answer my question. When there are more cars surely there are also more roads. Fortunately, the UK government also publishes data for the historic annual length of the road network in the UK. That’s shown in the top right figure. So, that’s growing as well, apart from the late 60s when it shrunk. And there is also a mysterious large growth a bit later on. But give or take this is probably fairly accurate. Is everything fine? Well, did the road network grow as quickly as the of vehicles? In trying to answer that we can work out the (naive) vehicle density, the number of vehicles per unit of road. That’s in the bottom left plot, showing the number of vehicles per kilometre. And that is going up steadily (apart from the short period where the UK road network grows mysteriously fast)! I could have worked out the number of vehicles per mile to use more familiar units for some, but given that the typical length of a car is close to five meters, the plot in the bottom right shows the number of vehicles per five meters, which is measures the vehicle density in a more natural unit, a car length. It is a shame the statistics for the years before 1950 do not match year for year, and perhaps more detailed analyses of vehicles and vehicle types per road type have interesting stories to tell.

So, the answer to my question is that roads have become more crowded (on average, if people actually use their vehicles). Whether that explains al aspects of my impression of today’s road traffic is another matter.

There are a few things to keep in mind before over interpreting these simple numbers.

  • This is a crude average, there could be large local variations.
  • Some roads have more than one lane, in fact (probably) most have one for each direction, so the density numbers need to be divided by two at least (probably).
  • Is there a maximum car density? How do other countries compare? This could be an interesting measure for the wealth of an economy.
  • A lot of cars are stored on driveways and in car parks which should bring down the number of cars on the road (until they all commute to work and do the school run).
  • Can you fit all UK vehicles onto the UK motorways at the same time?
  • … and there is probably more.

Thanks go to Gareth for listening to and criticising me in a Google hangout whilst “discovering” this.

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