A campaign to celebrate cycling and get more people on their bikes right across the county was launched today in Bury St Edmunds.
As part of the Suffolk Cycling Strategy Group - which aims to encourage mass cycling in support of Suffolk’s ‘most active county’ ambitions - March 2015 to February 2016 has been named ‘Suffolk’s year of cycling’.
The campaign, by Suffolk County Council and partners, will seek to highlight the benefits of cycling while creating improvements in infrastructure and promoting major events like the 2015 Women’s Tour of Britain, which will begin in Bury on June 17.
A group of cyclists - including chief fire officer Mark Hardingham and county councillors Graham Newman and Terry Clements - rode more than 16 miles from Stowmarket Leisure Centre to The Apex, in Bury, this morning to mark the start of the campaign.
Adding to the excitement, Mr Hardingham, who also chairs the cycling strategy group, announced that eight primary schools in Bury would be taking part in a 12 month project to get more parents and children to cycle to and from school.
Cllr Newman, cabinet member for roads, transport and planning, said: “It’s a fantastic way of getting around, on a bike, and what we’re trying to do is get all sections of the community to support our ‘most active county’ traditions and ambitions.”
He said he wanted to encourage more people to cycle the short distances that many still use cars for and to cycle to work, which, he said, allows employees to arrive ‘ready to go rather than in the waking up phase’.
“It’s a normal thing to do - you don’t have to get dressed up in Lycra or be Bradley Wiggins, you can just get on and do it,” he added.
Rowan Wilson, of charity Sustrans, told launch guests cycling was a healthier, cleaner and cheaper mode of transport.
“Really it’s about helping the people of Suffolk, whether for transport, recreation or sport, to rediscover the joy of cycling,” she added.
Nine-year-old Tia-Anna Athorne, a pupil of St Edmundsbury Primary School, was among youngsters at the launch.
She got a bike for Christmas and said she enjoys riding it at Nowton park.
“I like it because it’s healthy for you and fun - it’s a good way of getting outside with someone,” she said.
Fellow pupil Chloe Ryan said she enjoyed riding in the woods with her family and would like to do it more often.
“I like it when you go fast and feel the wind in your hair,” said the eight-year-old.
Teaching assistants Christine Perllman and Andrea Mitchell accompanied the pupils to the launch. As cycling champions, they have spent years teaching cycling proficiency to Year 4 pupils at the school.
Christine said: “Learning about maths isn’t going to save your life (it might enhance it) but learning about riding a bike will.”
A website offering details of cycling events in Suffolk and the ways people can get involved in the sport, from taking part in clubs to planning days out with the family, is available at www.suffolkyearofcycling.co.uk