Friday, 29 March 2013

Join the Halesworth Bicycle Team

If anyone is interested in encouraging cycling in the Halesworth area, there will be a meeting on April 18th 2013 at 5.30 pm at the Halesworth library with Joseph Young of Cycle Suffolk to which local cycling groups and people have been invited.

In October 2012 the Local Government Minister Grant Shapps, the MP responsible for the Mary Portas town regeneration project, gave a £10,000 consolation prize to Halesworth after it applied to be a Portas Pilot Town

The Halesworth Portas Pilot Town Team who submitted the bid quickly allocated this funding, cutting the budget down to 10% of the original plan, but they obtained additional funding and were able to put several proposals immediately into place. The derelict print works off the Thoroughfare has been tidied up and is set to hold weekly markets, auctions and craft fairs and local food producers and gardeners and the community have been mobilized by Halesworth in Bloom projects as well as a branding campaign; HalesWorth Visiting to entice passing trade.  It's not sour grapes but it's a great shame that a year later some towns who won the £100,000 grand prize still have their money in the bank or have frittered it away on Christmas decorations instead of seeding sustainable projects.

Improving cycling facilities has always been a part of Halesworth's tourism and economic sustainability strategy. The Halesworth Town Plan cycling group (who were part of the Portas bid) came together in May 2012 as a refreshed group to action some ideas that could be taken forward, regardless if they had funding or not. Community development is often a case of Fast/Cheap/Good: you can pick any two. One of this group's actions was encouragement of the Halesworth Wheel and organising several turn-up and ride events around it.

This group have since been allocated £2500 of the Portas money. Half of that cycling pot has gone towards completing the Millennium Green Cycle Path (a scheme backed by the Department of Transport and Sustrans needing match funding), the other half will be spent on developing footfall by enhancing Halesworth's many advantages to the cyclist; be they the club, commuter or tourist rider (or is there a better typology?)

With the promise of this tiny pot, a 'bicycle team' will have to brainstorm some very clever ideas to develop cycling in Halesworth and so I have put some thoughts here to start the dough. What the town needs is more ideas and more people to see them through, so willing hands and feet are very welcome. 

cyclists' yellow jersey

Like many rural market towns, Halesworth faces many economic challenges but encouraging cycle tourism plays to its strengths. With good transport connections, key services, wide range of quality accommodation, location midway between the AONB coast and inland heritage attractions, nature reserves, excellent rural pubs, quiet roads and beautiful scenery; the various factors add up to put Halesworth as the top choice as a base for a cycling holiday or to visit on a tour. The attractions of the other Waveney 'four towns': Beccles, Bungay and Southwold and the wider Waveney Valley are part of Halesworth's offer too.

The Halesworth Tourism Group recently produced a leaflet touting the Blyth Valley Experience showing what the town and surroundings have to offer (opens a PDF).

This list is not in any order. The intent in sharing it is to stimulate other people to offer other ideas too. If other towns 'steal' these ideas and do them first, so much the better. My particular interest is tourism and commuting and not so much 'club' cycling so I hope my ideas will be balanced by others.

Some of these ideas will be easy to realize and everyone can take these actions at anytime. Some of these ideas will need further resources; contacts will have to be made, other financial support found and of course, having some people to take responsibility to see them through.

  • Establish a loose identity as the local Bicycle Team as a point of contact and for re-distribution of info. Avoid committee meetings, do it via the web!
  • Wider promotion of the Halesworth Wheel and its Sustrans/Mike Jackson supported cycle rides - signposting on websites, leaflet distribution in TICs and libraries.
  • Support the Dunwich Dynamo and encourage more stay-overs.
  • Linking the Bicycle Team with relevant tourism and business groups, partnerships etc. Priority local 'Four Towns' and Waveney Valley but thinking internationally as well, i.e. Dutch Flyer promotions.
  • Establish points of contact with bus, coach and train operators i.e. Anglian, National Express, Greater Anglia (Abellio) Stena Line.
  • Team to author strategy papers: The club, commuter, tourism rider; how to attract & encourage them - To be circulated relevant partners and town and parish councils, especially Waveney 'Four Towns' with tips on what to to and what not to do.
  • Collate listing of cycling facilities, shops, hire etc. on Halesworth websites
  • Produce yellow T-shirts of 'Hales-worth Visiting' for sale in town shops.
  • Auditing and signposting of cycle-friendly B&Bs and facilities; which ones have racks, storage etc.
  • Local B&B promotion (Halesworth Tourism Group's sheet) to include the standard cycle facility symbols.***
  • Rapid response to cycling inquiries: if people tweet #Halesworth, they can get a response from many people who monitor that hashtag. Have the Town Clerk and other web hosts SMS or tweet cycling inquiries to the Bicycle Team.***
  • Prepare cycle tourism/club/commuter media contact list and background press release with quality photographs.
  • Signposting to Suffolk Bike Aid.
  • Have a Bike Aid collection of spare tools and kit making session at events.
  • Run a Suffolk Bike Aid/Cycle Suffolk/Bicycle Team stand at Latitude.
  • Plant bicycle themed/bicycle accessible Geocaches.***
  • Ask a local collector to open their antique bike collection for tours.
  • Encourage museums to explore or highlight cycling heritage.
  • Stage an annual Bicycle Jumble Sale ('saddlebag' instead of 'car boot') in Halesworth - key stands like Ipswich Mencap bicycle recycling project.
  • Create a BMX track on waste ground somewhere.***
  • Explore making the Thoroughfare a two-way cycle path.***
  • Have a cycle info rack in the library - make contacts and have volunteers that replenish it.*
  • Hold cycle repair classes - perhaps at the NSSA.
  • Encourage an entrepreneur or social enterprise to open cycle hire business, perhaps a seasonal container/lock up? CAS can signpost to grants,  WDC can advise on rate relief and Town Council on sites.
  • Investigate providing electric bicycle charging points.
  • Encourage the CPRE 'quiet lanes' designation on local back roads.
  • Form links to local cycling clubs with the Bicycle Team.
  • Encourage volunteer cycling 'greeters': a contact that visiting touring riders can meet in Halesworth.***
  • Audit to ensure all cycle features are correct on OS and OSM maps, Point X  datasets, Navteq, TeleAtlas and are signposted on local websites and included on local info maps.
  • Web forum monitoring and signposting when any events are near Halesworth.**
  • Support the Suffolk Churches cycle ride.**
  • Encourage or lobby for 'bike' entry prices at events and repay with cross-promotion.
  • Encourage bicycle/foot-only camp site operations away from car/caravan camping - Support planning permission applications and rural grants to establish them.
  • Offer talks about cycling in Suffolk, Bike Aid, Millennium Green etc. to local groups like the WI etc.
  • Encourage posting videos of local rides on Youtube etc. Either a competition or community media project through New Cut Arts.***
  • Author and post GPX & photos of local rides  on trail report sites.**
  • Put local routes on ride-planner websites.**
  • Encourage young people to enter decorated cycles as part of parades. Contact parade organisers, encourage business to offer prizes for bike competition categories.
  • Create a Community Action Suffolk resource map hosted on the web of local cycling resources.
  • Have a ‘Cycle Only’ Weekend in Halesworth, promoted by Waveney District and Suffolk County Council who may spread this throughout their area.
  • Link up with our Twin Towns of Bouchain and Eitorf to promote and participate in our/their cycle events.
  • Hold an 'Edwardian' Cycling Picnic with cream teas and croquet.

* people have since offered to support.

If you found this page on twitter etc. and you have suggestions or questions, or would like to help, please get in touch: nat (at)

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