Today sees the start of ‘Car Free Week’ in Norwich, as well as the arrival of Beryl e-Scooters in the city. Has there ever been a better time to celebrate the wonder of two wheels?
Matthew Potter has always been interested in cycling from a young age, either cycling to school or college. And that interest has certainly gone up a gear this year, the year we were all urged to get on our bikes by Boris.
The Norwich-based photographer and videographer says: ‘I have definitely been out more due to lockdown, whenever possible, either going out in the evening or during the week when it has been quiet. I have seen quite a drop in work due to the current situation as I mainly cover events and performances.’
Matthew started his own Instagram account in July to provide a visual record of his trips. ‘I suppose the idea behind Norfolk by Bike was that, as I was getting out more and discovering new places, it was a chance to share those with other people. I wouldn’t say I take cycling too seriously. It’s more about having fun and new places which are on your doorstep.’
And he has this advice: ‘If you are thinking about getting a new bike I would say just enjoy it. Find a local bike shop as they will be able to help you find the perfect bike for you; find friends or family who could join you, and find a quiet, traffic-free ride. Marriott’s Way is ideal as it has two café stops along the way.’
Pedal Revolution in Norwich is one such bike shop. Director Josh Peachment says: ‘With the cycling boom that is happening right now it’s great to see so many cyclists out on the roads and becoming more active in our local communities.
‘The Pedal Revolution CIC is a community-based company where we run on a strict non-for-profit basis which means we put all of our profits and efforts into building better cycling facilities for all these new and returning cyclists.
‘We have done all we can to support all cyclists through lockdown and provide them vital and safe repairs for their bikes and it’s now time that we would love to see you out on your bikes and supporting the local community by taking part in our events that we are so passionate and excited to put on.
‘And we have worked tirelessly to provide you the big day out feel for all our events while now keeping it Covid-19 safe and friendly.
‘And we would love to see you cross over our finish line collect a chunky medal, free lunch and have your souvenir photo taken on our podium.’
A common sight this year has been for whole families to be out on their bikes, together. Natasha and Nik Davy, who live in South Norfolk, have long since thought of cycling as good for family bonding – they have three children: Em, Av and Ri. ‘We’ve all been cycling for years, so not because of Covid/Boris. The only thing that’s changed for us recently is that we decided not to go away on holidays this summer because of Covid; thus we are doing even more cycling as it is good for social distancing, mainly. It’s also a great way of exploring our local areas together as a family.’
And there has been an added bonus this year: ‘Over lockdown the roads were so quiet with hardly any traffic, that we would see a lot more wildlife than normal, such as deer, more birds of prey, owls and squirrels, which was amazing.
‘We have noticed a lot more ‘new’ cyclists, since Covid, and it’s great to see people of all ages getting out for a pedal. Cyclists, as we do, always manage a smile and a wave to others on bikes, even when fighting against the wind or tackling hills (yes, even in Norfolk!). It’s like a mutual respect thing, perhaps because we are all making the most of these challenging times and doing something positive in our spare time or commute.’
She adds: ‘I guess the main plus is being able to get out doors and spend quality time with the family, and knowing that they children will sleep well after all the fresh air and exercise!’
A new family-friendly cycle route, between Wymondham and Norwich opened in the summer, following the completion of the final 1.3km stretch along the B1172, just outside Hethersett.
The Transport for Norwich project was one of six improvement schemes coming out of the Department of Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund last year. Other schemes included the launch of the St Williams Way cycle improvements and the Beryl scheme in Norwich which launched in March (literally the day before lockdown started) with 225 bikes and 47 bays.
It has been growing steadily and now there are more than 300 bikes and more than 80 bays. The first e-Bikes were added in July – there are another 75 e-bikes still to come and at full roll-out there will be nearly 600 in all, a mix of pedal assist and e-assist.
From today (September 21) until September 27, Norfolk County Council’s Pushing Ahead programme is offering residents free rides on Beryl bikes and e-Bikes to help reduce the level of motor traffic on roads and give Norwich a chance to re-imagine their streets around people.
And the Council recently launched a month-long free ride initiative providing free rides during the morning rush hour, in the aim to relieve pressure on public transport and contribute to Norwich’s green transport recovery from Covid-19. The Car Free Week initiative will open this up to all hours of the day throughout next week, including all weekend. Free week-day access during morning rush hour will continue until Friday October 16.
From today, Beryl e-Scooters will begin to gradually roll out across Norwich streets, with the British micro-mobility provider adding another sustainable journey option to their multimodal smart fleet. The introduction of the Beryl e-Scooter will see Norwich become the first city in the UK to have access to a three-tiered vehicle scheme.
And tomorrow (September 22) marks World Car Free Day, where towns and cities encourage people to experience healthier, cleaner and safer streets.
For the next Pedal Revolution event, click here