Is Suffolk really a cycle-friendly county? Don’t make me laugh!

The damage on Bramford Lane may be an inconvenience for drivers - but could be dangerous to cyclists

The damage on Bramford Lane may be an inconvenience for drivers - but could be dangerous to cyclists. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

The work done by Ipswich councillor Colin Smart to highlight the problem with roads in his ward in the town is really to be commended.

The Ipswich Cycle Map is not a substitute to improving roads for cyclists. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The Ipswich Cycle Map is not a substitute to improving roads for cyclists. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

The fact the county council thinks it is not eligible for repairs makes me feel really irritated as a driver and as a resident of Ipswich who doesn’t like to see part of my town being left looking tatty and uncared for by the largest council in the county.

As someone who has relatively recently taken up cycling as my main method of getting into work, the total failure of anyone at Suffolk County Council to understand the needs of cyclists leaves me feeling really angry.

What might look and feel like a slightly rough road to a motorist is a real obstacle to those on two wheels – and I suspect that includes motorcyclists, although I cannot say that with any authority because I’ve never been on one of these machines.

When it comes to real cycling, Suffolk County Council seems to be really clueless.

The Tour of Britain will bring an economic boost to Suffolk - but if cycling is to take off in Suffo

The Tour of Britain will bring an economic boost to Suffolk - but if cycling is to take off in Suffolk more must be done to iprove the county's roads. Picture: NICK LEE - Credit: citizenside.com

Next week it’s putting on a good show of how wonderful Suffolk is for cycling in the run up to the Tour of Britain visit to the county next month.

It has a point. There aren’t the fierce hills you get in some parts of the country and there are some attractive routes for cyclists. But for those wanting to use a cycle as an everyday means of transport, the county has done almost nothing.

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I’m not “a cyclist”. I don’t cycle to work because I love cycling. I’ll watch Jason Kenny and co during the Olympics, but it’s not something I’m passionate about and I don’t spend my leisure time cycling around Suffolk for the sake of it.

I cycle to work because it’s the most efficient, reliable and usually fastest way to get the two miles from my home to my office.

I cycle to work because it's the most efficient way to commute - not because I'm in love with cyclin

I cycle to work because it's the most efficient way to commute - not because I'm in love with cycling. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

But I cycle in spite of the county council’s efforts, rather than because of them.

The state of the roads in the town for cyclists is dreadful. Potholes and uneven surfaces that motorists might not notice become major problems for cyclists.

Next time you’re sitting in your car, gently cursing about the “wobbly cyclist” in front of you, just reflect for a minute that he or she might actually be trying to avoid the potholes in the road that you’re able to drive over without thinking about them.

I use Bramford Lane to cycle between my home and the office. It’s a nationally designated route – National Route 51 from Oxford to Colchester – but part of it is treacherous for cycles.

If you’re driving, the potholes and large cracks in the middle of the road are hardly noticeable. If you’re a cyclist and you get your wheel caught, you could lose control.

I formally reported this in the middle of last month and got this automated reply: “We will update you on our response to your contact but this may take up to 30 days depending on the nature of the problem. However, please be reassured that any urgent health and safety matters will be prioritised.”

Clearly dangers to cyclists aren’t an “urgent health and safety measure”.

Another bugbear is that there are specially-created cycle routes that aren’t cycle-friendly. You’ll find a dropped kerb at one end but not at the other.

Have the people who drew up these plans ever got on a bike?

There seems to be a belief that if you publish a glossy leaflet describing itself as an “Ipswich cycle map”, that shows you’re cycle-friendly. The fact is, you have to have decent (and safe) roads or paths for people to cycle on too.

This map has ignored several routes that were set up as safe cycling routes about 20 years ago because some genius later came along and removed a dropped kerb – leaving the council suggesting cyclists mix it with heavy traffic or use steeper routes. How stupid is that?

Cycling shouldn’t be regarded mainly as a middle-class leisure activity for nice summer weekends. It could, and should, be a real weapon in the battle against congestion in our large towns. It should be the logical way for many people to get around Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, even Stowmarket, Sudbury and Felixstowe.

But unless the county council starts seeing it in these terms, it’s always going to be a niche activity.

I hope the Tour of Britain brings an economic bonus to Suffolk and the national coverage encourages more people to visit the county. But don’t try to kid me or anyone else that Suffolk County Council has any idea about what cyclists really need.

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