Join cyclists to see how much fun it is

Dear Sir, — Responding to negative letters in the newspaper isn’t something I generally entertain, but I felt a need to respond to Graham Goodwin’s uninformed view and observations about cyclists and cycling.
Firstly I make no apology for trying to engage with people to increase their uptake of active travel, whether that is walking, cycling, using buses, if there are enough, and the trains to enhance their sustainable journey. 
I am what it says on the tin, the cycling and walking champion for the borough of Cheshire East Council, a role that I thoroughly enjoy and which has thousands of supporters, not only in Congleton but across the borough from Audlem to Handforth. 
The aim of the role is to increase the uptake of cycling and walking, in particular for journeys under one mile for walking and three miles for cycling. 
I don’t hide the fact that I want more people to cycle because the more people that cycle into and out of our town centres and to schools will help the borough achieve its climate change ambitions. 
A motion that was proposed by the leader of Cheshire East, Coun Sam Corcoran, and unanimously supported by every single borough councillor elected in the new administration on 2nd May 2019, was for achieving reduced carbon emissions and better air quality for all. A society that is active and becoming fit by doing something positive will help keep weight under control, improve mental and physical wellbeing and make people happy more often. 
There is not one single negative argument against cycling and walking more. 
Cycling is the first thing we teach our children after they have learned to talk and walk; we should be encouraging people to cycle and if there are cyclists that behave inappropriately for the environment, they need educating to share the space and be considerate of pedestrians. Likewise pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings too.
To answer Mr Goodwin’s complaint and not his observations: The “official” blue signs advising cyclists to dismount through the pedestrianised area are actually that — ADVISORY. 
They are legally unenforceable and if a cyclist chooses not to dismount, they are not breaking any laws. 
This pedestrian route forms a necessary safe cycle link in the National Cycle Network, which allows cyclists to travel safely from one side of town to the other. 
The alternative route is along the Mountbatten Way dual carriageway and either along Mill Street or Rood Hill; would you allow your grandchild to cycle on a dual carriageway? 
Asking a cyclist to dismount at any time is a bit like asking someone to get out of their car and push it. Any delay for a cyclist considerably increases their journey time, which is something we need to avoid if we are to encourage people to cycle. 
In addition, my time is well spent in trying to fix the infrastructure that inhibits people to cycle and prevents safety of both pedestrians and cyclists, because it is fixing this inadequate and unworkable infrastructure that will create a better environment that will enable people to want to cycle and walk more.
Cheshire East officially has the most dangerous roads in the country outside London, with one person being killed by somebody driving a motor vehicle each week. 
People cycle on the pavement because they feel the speed and large amount of traffic makes cycling on the road unsafe. 
Certainly, while we have inadequate and incomplete traffic free/safe cycle infrastructure it is completely understandable why children and adults cycle on pavements for their safety; children under 12 are allowed to cycle on the pavement regardless. 
They want to live and not get run over by somebody that is using their mobile phone, or running through a red light or simply not paying enough attention to their surroundings while driving a vehicle. 
Nobody seems to object to how dangerous that driver behaviour is for pedestrians and cyclists. How many drivers park illegally every day on double and single yellow lines? Nobody appears to be up in arms about that. 
And pavement parking, don’t even get me started...
In my experience as a cyclist the majority of drivers give space, don’t drive through red lights and are considerate in every way; many people who drive also cycle, which means that they understand how to behave well. 
If anything, one should be campaigning against vehicle users who are a real danger to pedestrians and cyclists. 
It is actually not that many, so let’s not tarnish all with the same brush just because of a few badly behaved vehicle drivers.
With any group you will always have some who are badly behaved and will not comply with various laws regardless.
Mr Goodwin’s comments are about a small number of cyclists that behave in such a way that no amount of signage will improve their behaviour.
Until we create an environment for people to feel safe cycling, which includes fixing bad infrastructure such as the bus shelter in the cycle lane, steps at the end of a cycleway/foot bridge in Congleton, Wilmslow and Sandbach, and cycle ways that don’t go anywhere, people will continue to cycle in a way that makes them feel safe. 
Not to forget the lack of road crossings — the bottom of Rood Hill and on the Buxton Road by the Biddulph Valley Way spring to mind. 
More cycle parking that is covered and secure is needed, as well as improved safety for pedestrians and cyclists at junctions and roundabouts in general throughout the town centres. There should be one-way streets exceptions for cyclists — cycling contraflows along one-way streets to make choosing to cycle for a journey easier and more comfortable. 
I suggest that Mr Goodwin accepts there are going to be more cyclists, and that he might consider purchasing an electric bike so that he, too, can join the revolution and contribute to saving this wonderful planet, rather than demonising those that are doing their bit for climate change.
I am campaigning for what people are asking for — parents, teachers, adults, especially older people and those who would like to use adapted bikes for their disability. 
They want traffic-free connected cycling infrastructure, without bus shelters in the middle of them. 
Effective cycling infrastructure will assure parents that if they allow their child to cycle to school, they will make it home at the end of a school day, every day. 
Parents want to cycle to be active and become fit and travel for leisure and to work if they work locally. 
We have to share the space: not everybody can walk well, many older people use a bicycle as a mobility aid, walking for people who suffer from arthritis can be difficult and painful, but cycling is no problem at all. 
If you have a balance problem, an electric trike not only will enable you to be active but help you get up the hills to your home. Were you aware that cyclist dismount signs are non-DDA compliant?
I strongly urge Graham Goodwin to take a chill pill when it comes to cyclists and see them through my eyes which is: when I see a cyclist whether they are on a pavement, cycle route or a road is someone saving the planet, someone looking after their heart and muscles, someone who is improving air quality for everybody, including you, someone who is emitting no carbon, someone who is reducing costs to the NHS by keeping themselves active and fit. 
I want to see more, lots of cyclists, everywhere, so may I urge you to direct your anger at drivers instead of cyclists, because the danger they pose to you and me is far greater than somebody cycling through the pedestrian area. 
I offer anybody who would like to try cycling to get in touch and I can show them how easy it is to do it and how much more fun it is than driving for short journeys.
May I suggest that instead of complaining about cyclists that you should join them and see how much fun it is, because when we have more cyclists you too will be grateful to breath in better quality air, I am sure about that. As will your children and so will your grandchildren. — Yours faithfully,

(COUN) SUZIE AKERS SMITH
(Unashamedly) Cycling and Walking Champion for Cheshire East.
suzie.akers-smith@cheshireeast.gov.uk