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How Matt helps cyclists and drivers get along in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 07:09 02 September 2017

Cycle trainer Matt Williams on Bishopbridge.

Cycle trainer Matt Williams on Bishopbridge.

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Derek James meets a man helping cyclists to ride safely in Norwich

The relationship between those behind wheels, people on bikes and walkers is more important than ever.... as our roads get busier and new cycle paths are opened across Norwich.

One man is spends more time than most on his bike in and around the city is Matt Williams, who runs Smart Cycle Training, not only teaching people how to behave on our roads but also improving the relationship between all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians in the 21st century.

And that also involves taking motorists out on the road, including lorry drivers.

“The whole approach to urban cycling is to recognise that the traffic system in something all road users participate in,” said Matt.

“It’s like a well-choreographed dance in which everyone is working round each other and just missing each other. Of course everyone has rights but they also have responsibilities to each other and to stick to the rules,” he added.

“Unfortunately every day I do see a lot of idiots out there, and quite a lot of them are riding bikes. They are being irresponsible because they are idiots, not because they are ‘cyclists.’

“There are still people out there who believe cycle paths are there to get the bikes out of the way of real traffic,” he said.

“I don’t buy into the motorists vs cyclists things, in fact I prefer not to use the word ‘cyclist’ if it can be avoided. They are just people on bikes, and they are every right to ride on the road – in fact in theory every road in Norfolk since the only roads where cycling is not permitted are motorways and we don’t have any of them,” he said.

So how did his life on two wheels start?

“Having made a career in the construction industry and had a part in running a successful local firm for a number of years, I never planned to end up earning a living as a cycle instructor.

“Along the way, in the 1990s, I found myself getting involved in voluntary activity advocating cycling, this passion driven by the loss of a close family member a few years earlier who had been hit by a car while cycling home from work,” he explained.

Before long he was being asked by the local authority to help them with aspects of road design, and because he had no formal qualifications he signed up to a module on cycle design offered as part of a course run by a consortium of European universities.

One thing led to another and Matt eventually acquired a Masters degree in traffic engineering.

“It became obvious that cycling had a big economic role to play in the cities for the good of all. A modern European city such as Norwich could easily aspire to having a quarter or more of all journeys by bike, such as is already common in many Dutch cities, and that is one reason why they feel so ‘civilised’ and safe.”

The argument for promoting cycling in the UK was largely won by the late 2000s, and the question became one of how to implement it locally, or in the case of Norwich how to bring back cycling to mid-20th century 
levels as normal transport for everyone.

And according to Matt: “That need not necessarily mean building cycle tracks everywhere; the fact is we already have a comprehensive cycle network in Norwich and it’s called roads.”

However, it stands to reason that people on bikes need some proper training to be able to ride confidently in traffic and interact positively with other road users.

So Matt qualified as a national standard instructor in 2010 and went on to set up Smart Cycle Training and began starting people of all ages and all walks of life out on bikes.

“I soon discovered the tremendous professional fulfilment in helping individuals realise their dream to make all kinds of journey by bike. I also deliver some training [on bikes] for lorry drivers, who are increasingly required to complete a practical cycling course,” he said.

“The variety of work both with groups and [by now] hundreds of individuals has proved endlessly fascinating and rewarding. I just love it,” smiled Matt.

For more details on go to www.smartcycletraining.co.uk, email matt@smartcycletraining.co.uk or call Norwich (01603) 503824.

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