Get on your bike - safely

If you're thinking of getting on your bike but are worried about cycling in the city, maybe Matt Williams can help. Derek James finds out more.

Cycle instructor isn't the sort of thing which usually appears on pull-down menus of job descriptions... but that's just what Matt Williams of Norwich is.

A man who offers personal tuition in how to ride swiftly and confidently in day-to-day-traffic conditions in and around the busy and bustling city.

One of the joint founders of the Norwich Cycling Campaign, he has launched a professional cycle training service in response to more and more people becoming cyclists.

'I have noticed the increasing number of people who are returning to using bikes for normal trips to work or the shops, almost like winding clocks back to a 1950s outlook,' said Matt, who lives in Christchurch Road.

And he points out: 'This isn't about sport, health or being green, it's about real transport.

'A lot of bikes have been dragged out of the backs of sheds, and brand new bikes are being bought, but many seem to end up being wheeled or ridden on footways because their owners are spooked when they try to ride on busy roads,' said Matt.

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'My pitch is that with some targeted instruction in line with the accredited national standard, I can help such people be more confident on the road, and thus unlock the full potential of their bike. All the other personal benefits of taking up cycling come for free,' he explained.

Matt has been a bit of a cycle campaigner for more than 20 years and he sees his new venture as a logical step to promote practical cycling now that most people accept that bikes have a big part to play in getting around Norwich.

'I have studied traffic engineering in The Netherlands and my vision is for Norwich to build up towards near-Dutch levels of cycling – a quarter of all trips by bike would be a perfectly feasible target.

'It would also have a hugely beneficial effort on the local economy. It would be good not just for those who choose to cycle, for for everyone,' said Matt.

He said it was great to see more people cycling this year but with the clocks changing and the onset of more wintry weather, now is the time to make sure lights were working properly and that cyclists were visible on murky mornings and dark nights.

In Matt's views by far and away the most significant thing all cyclists can do to improve safety is make sure they can be seen – and that means light coloured clothing, and preferably a high-visibility jacket or reflective waistcoat.

And he adds: 'A lot of squit is talked about bike helmets, and while a helmet is undoubtedly a very good idea for anyone learning to ride, it has a limited specific role to play and should never be regarded as a substitute for making sure you're being seen by drivers, or for applying proper care and attention when riding.'

Another area where a little investment makes a big difference in carrying capacity.

'If you can fit a pack and panniers on your bike, you'll be amazed at how much you can carry with no problem,

'Failing that, put things in a decent bag on your back, but never sling them on the handlebars as that is asking for trouble,' adds Matt.

For more information visit, email or call 01603 503824.