Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Cycle paths - why we need them

I recently signed up for the Bicycle Bonus and was pleased to receive a free map of Norwich cycle paths and a snap band that gets me a discount when I cycle to some shops. This is a great initiative and hopefully it will encourage more people to get on their bikes to go shopping. I live in Little Melton and I can reach the centre of Norwich in 35 mins, which can be quicker than using the car at peak times – the great thing is that I can then park for free and wiz around the centre of Norwich. A couple of good panniers will take as much shopping as I can carry. I have to confess to a smug feeling as I shoot down the Chaplefield underpass and see that the car park sign is showing everywhere FULL and there is a massive queue to get into the multi-storey on the opposite side.

So why don’t I see more cyclists on my trip into Norwich? Well a quick look at my new map shows that there are few off road paths and my own route includes a section on Hethersett Lane that is described as ‘on road, useful part of the cycle network that is generally unprotected’ – my own description would be ‘dangerous, narrow road with cars doing well in excess of 60mph, deep potholes where the cyclists ride and branches intruding into the road’. I cycled this road last night on the way to the TN Solstice party and had an unpleasantly close experience with a car doing about 80 mph. I can’t see any measures that have been taken to make this road cyclist friendly.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to promote a cycle path to connect the NRP area to Hethersett, where a lot of the workers live. We have proved there is a demand and everyone agrees that it ticks the right boxes for getting people out of cars. Bikes really are the ideal solution for commutes of less than 5 miles and I look forward to people putting pressure on politicians to divert the relatively small sums required to provide cycle paths from the massive roads budget. Cyclists have to become the first class of road users – not consigned to the potholed edges.

Here is a pic of my bike, twenty years old and good for another twenty with the help of some replacement bits every few years. The lights run off a big rechargeable battery and make it really fun to go out round the lanes after dark and hear the owls and other nocturnal animals.

Happy cycling to all - (The Police and Dr Bike will be at outside the outpatients building at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on Thursday 24th June between 1pm and 3pm for free safety checks and bike security marking.)

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