Norwich – A Fine Cycling City?
PUBLISHED: 12:10 13 September 2017
Cycling in Norfolk is like a cabbage filled doughnut. The majority is scrummy goodness with the network of quiet lanes, the beautiful countryside, courteous drivers and more cafes and pubs than you can visit in a lifetime of Sunday rides.
At the core, though, is the messy cabbage which is Norwich’s cycling network which is disjointed and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
It is also the crucial part of the puzzle, the piece which would benefit most from embracing cycling as a way to reduce cars on the road, improve the attractiveness of streets and make the whole city work better.
This isn’t for want of good intentions.
Norwich applied for, and was granted, Cycle City Ambition status in 2012.
MORE: Reader Letter: The city council should do more to encourage cycling
The promise at the time for the Push the Pedalways network was to make “… the whole route (and links to it) excellent making uninterrupted direct, safe and enjoyable cycling possible.”.
For any cyclist that has tried to get into or across Norwich or any parent that has considered cycling with their child to school, that dream still seems a long, long way off.
So why is this? Why, given the City and County Councils’ commitments to cycling is the core piece, Norwich, still so poor.
The fault is with the “they don’t pay road tax” brigade.
MORE: On or off your bike? Debate over whether cyclists should be allowed to ride down more Norwich city centre streets
The RAIDers (Rude And Impatient Drivers) for whom every cycle path improvement in Norwich is met with decrying letters to the EDP and inflammatory posts on social media.
These RAIDers are so vocal whenever they have to wait an extra thirty seconds to get past someone on a bike who they see as an obstacle in their way rather than another human.
These views are ignorant and ill-informed but there is every sign that they have blunted the enthusiasm of our politicians who are crucial to getting cycling improvements to happen.
Firstly, let’s start with the RAIDers favourite topic of cyclists not paying road tax.
MORE: Reader Letter: Cyclists in Norwich should pay road tax
Just to be clear – nobody pays road tax.
Car drivers pay Vehicle Excise Duty which is a tax on the car, not a fee to use the roads.
Roads are funded from general taxation which everyone pays and everyone should benefit from.
Yes, we all pay more in tax when we choose to drive because we pay fuel duty as well as VED.
That is reasonable though as we’re also doing much more damage to the roads when we drive and impacting everyone’s health because of the pollution we cause.
So the tax is fair and we should all accept it as the cost of the convenience cars bring.
Another question posed by the RAIDers is “Why don’t cyclists use cycle paths?”
MORE: Reader Letter: Cyclists have no choice but to use the road in certain parts of Norwich
The answer is that if the paths are convenient, easy to use and safe then people will use them – why wouldn’t they?
So often, though, the paths are not fit for purpose and this is the main problem with the current Push the Pedalways routes in Norwich.
A bit of paint does not a cycle path make and the Dutch, Danish and Belgians laugh when they see what rubbish we claim to be a cycle path.
Too much of the cycling infrastructure in Norwich is a compromise between what cyclists need and what the RAIDers won’t go ballistic about.
The Avenues was a classic example.
If done to the original design it would have been excellent.
MORE: Reader letter: Time to back the cyclists in our city
As it is, it is pointless – drivers ignore the cycle lanes and cyclists are no better off.
The excuse given was over costs but I’m sure the money could have been found had the politicians not bent to the moans of the RAIDers.
Please, please, please Norwich City Council – if you’re going to spend our money on these cycle routes – do it properly.
Despite these concerns, I’m actually very positive about the prospects for making Norwich a true cycling city and turning the cabbage into a gem.
MORE: Reader Letter: Leave cyclists alone, it’s cars that cause the most trouble
The upsides to business, the environment and everyone who lives and works in the city are just too strong and will ultimately outweigh the RAIDers’ ignorant complaints.
There is also the ever growing number of cyclists in the county as a whole who reap the benefits to their physical and mental health of getting on their bikes.
So politicians – please stick to your guns and don’t compromise on the cycling infrastructure – make it high quality, joined up and appealing and our city will, at last, become a fine cycling city.
Neil Collins (Norfolk cyclist and member of Diss Cycling Club)