Buttercross, January 2, 2015: Time to do much more for Swaffham’s cyclists

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For those people of Swaffham who may read this article, here is a conundrum for you to puzzle over.

What did the following townspeople from earlier times have in common: Hoddy Savage, Willy Cole, Betty Bayfield, Percy Hun, Aggie Newdick, Sid Daynes, Gerry Gotterson, Arthur Barker, Fred Martin, Henry Hudson, Ike Manning, Cyril Meadows, Dick Thompson, lots of youngsters, postmen and women, and lots of delivery boys?

The list is not complete by any means and the last name certainly gives the game away.

They were, of course, all regular cyclists around our town.

One or two became too frail to ride a bike in their later years so just pushed them along, very much using them as an aid for walking.

Willy Cole once appeared on the local television news with the title “Swaffham’s cycling councillor”.

Arthur Barker and Gerry Gotterson cycled home from Lynn late one starlit night, somewhat the worse for wear, after Arthur had won a prestigious billiards tournament.

Aggie Newdick had a real “sit-up-and-beg” bike with an enormous wicker basket on the front.

Ike Manning told the then Norwich City manager, Archie Macauley to not drive his car up the side of the Town football pitch, finishing with the question: “How would you like it if I biked round the Carrow Road pitch?”

I mention all these good people because they lived through the age of the cycle and, lo and behold, there are signs a new cycle age is gaining strength.

There is no doubt that TV exposure has helped, with the thrill of the Olympics, followed by the Commonwealth Games and also the start of last year’s Tour De France all being held in this country.

Other sports have attracted a large number of younger people, such as gymnastics, athletics, and of course, swimming.

Unfortunately, facilities for these sports are almost non existent locally and this situation is not likely to improve anytime soon.

Cycling, however, is different – a bike and a satisfactory, and safe, surface to ride it on and off one goes.

You can enjoy the experience with no pollution being produced. Riding does not have to be competitive and the exercise and fitness gained from such a pastime is incalculable.

It was reliably stated recently that as many as 20 per cent of club golfers are now exchanging their clubs for bicycles.

New cycling clubs are being started up and long ago Swaffham did indeed have one.

However, if those townspeople mentioned earlier could see the traffic chaos around town now, they perhaps would have left their bikes at home.

The one or two cyclists that we do have weaving their way around town nowadays prefer to ride on the pavements, which brings another set of safety problems.

Apparently, the Royal Mail ceased using cycles sometime ago on health and safety grounds, one reason surely being that cycling on some roads had just become too dangerous.

We are all encouraged these days to exercise more with some 60 per cent of us being obese.

As new pavements are installed from new and distant housing estates, cycleways must be included even though, once the cyclists who would use them get into town, they must stay off our pavements.

Not withstanding these problems, more safe cycling in and around our town has to be encouraged. Planners please note.