Cycling is not as accessible as it used to be.

Yes, if you have a bike in your shed or garage and the tyres aren’t flat, you can just jump on – and away you go. But for many people it isn’t so simple.

So what are the problems?

Busy roads

Cars are faster, there are more of them and the perception of many cyclists is that  some drivers are almost blind when it comes to cyclists. So much so, that a new campaign group has been set up in the UK called Stop Smidsy. SMIDSY is “Sorry Mate – I Didn’t See You!” – the frequent refrain heard by both cyclists and motor cyclists after near misses and actual crashes.

Poor road layouts and surfaces

Many roads are not well set up for cycling. There are problems with road edges and markings. Drain covers can be slippery in wet weather; some of the larger drains are the right size to trap a bicycle wheel; edges may be scattered with gravel and other rubbish, creating an extra hazard for cyclists. Potholes can also be a greater hazard for cyclists than for car drivers.

Then there are the “cycle lanes” which are sometimes more of a hinderance than a help. Many are ess than two feet wide, in the gutter and prone to disappearing when most needed – at junctions and other hazards.

Enough of the negatives!

So what can we do to help people cycle more?

There are schemes to help train would be cyclists. Children over the age of  eight can do Bike Ability in some schools and adults can benefit from BikeAbility in some workplaces. Bike Ability trains participants in road skills, and safety. You only need a reasonably roadworthy bike and suitable comfortable clothing. One of the first things that happens on a BikeAbility course is you bike is checked for roadworthiness. And of course you will be given advice on suitable clothing.

Schools may have schemes to help pupils get to school by bike. There is at least one Bike Train operating in Ipswich (from Ravenswood to Nacton School).  See Alex’s post about the bike train for more details.

Bike routes and facilities in Suffolk is a good starting point for finding out about cycling in Suffolk and has some useful links too.

The Ipswich Cycle Map is a very useful thing to have. Routes are clearly shown both for central Ipswich and for the outskirts. There are suggestions for safer routes and potential danger spots are highlighted. You can get copies from the Ipswich Tourist Information Centre in St Stephen’s Church besides the Buttermarket shopping centre. There’s also local bike shops and other bike facilities shown on the map.