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Free Festival of Cycling taking place in Sworder's Field, Bishop's Stortford on Sunday June 12

Green Watch columnist Louise Tennekoon writes about environmental matters in Bishop's Stortford...

As regular readers of this column will know, I love my bike. I'm not a lycra-wearing road cyclist. Nor do I have an expensive bike or the latest kit. I'm more of a whizz-about-town girl, loving the convenience, the speed, the flexibility of cycling, not to mention the satisfaction of overtaking a line of stationary cars waiting at one of Bishop's Stortford's many temporary traffic lights.

We cycled widely as a family during lockdown, a bit less so now that our lives, and the roads, are busier once again. I enjoy going out with the kids although I am frustrated that I have to tell them to cycle on the pavements, weaving around pedestrians, because of the roads. How we long for safe cycle routes!

There is a growing call for safe, joined-up cycle routes in Stortford. This came out of the Community Climate Gathering last year and is being carried forward by cycling group VeloVoice (follow them on Twitter at @velo_voice). But I can't help feeling that if we wait for cycle routes, we'll be waiting a long time. We need to get out on our bikes now and give more people the experience of cycling safely in our town. The more bikes there are out on the roads, the more other road users will have to adapt to accommodate us.

That's why I'm delighted to share news of the Festival of Cycling coming up on Sunday June 12 in Sworder's Field. Organised by the Bishop's Stortford Climate Group, Bishop's Stortford Town Council, Countryside Management Services and East Herts Council, this FREE event aims to support and inspire you to get out on your bike. There's a whole host of activities for all the family, ranging from a balance bike track for toddlers to a BMX track for everyone. Plus there will be electric bikes to try out and tips on security and bike maintenance.

If you are a bit nervous about getting out on your bike, there will be a number of guided rides leaving the park during the event, taking small groups out on a 5km- or 10km-loop ride. This is the perfect way to build your confidence in the company of others. Some of the rides will be specifically for women (who tend to be less likely to cycle) as part of the HSBC-funded Breeze programme which aims to support women cyclists throughout the UK. See letsride.co.uk. You can sign up to join one of these rides on the day, although spaces will be limited so come early! Bring your own bike if you have one. There will also be a limited number of bikes to borrow.

The free Festival of Cycling in Bishop's Stortford on June 12 will have something for everyone
The free Festival of Cycling in Bishop's Stortford on June 12 will have something for everyone

You can find out more about the Festival of Cycling on the event Facebook page at https://bit.ly/3MxJpze. The day is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Herts County Council, and the BMX Track is kindly supported by Cllrs Graham McAndrew and Alastair Ward-Booth.

Personally, I love the idea of guided rides – a chance to build your skills and confidence, explore your area and meet new friends while someone else worries about how to get home. I'd love to see regular guided rides in and around Stortford and this is something that the Bishop's Stortford Climate Group and VeloVoice are keen to introduce.

To get this off the ground we need some volunteer leaders! Subject to funding, there's a chance to get some volunteers trained up to lead guided cycle rides for adults and families. British Cycling has confirmed they can run a course in Stortford in the summer. They need a minimum of six people to run the course and can take up to 10 people in total. To attend the course, you must be at least 18 and a "confident and competent recreational cyclist".

The one-day course gives you everything you need to deliver guided bike rides for groups of beginner- and intermediate-level adults and accompanied children, on roads and cycle paths. It covers preparing for a ride, group management, risk management, route planning and British Cycling's good practice guidelines. Once completed, the only commitment is to lead at least eight guided rides.

If this is something you might be interested in, please get in touch with me by emailing louise.tennekoon@stortfordindie.co.uk and I will pass your name on. Please share this with other cyclists and anyone who might be able to help get this programme off the ground.

Here's to a summer of cycling, kicking off with the Festival of Cycling on June 12. Get on your bike and I'll see you there!

Another thing on my radar at the moment is saving energy at home.

We are all facing rising energy bills, softened only by the fact that we are moving into summer. Come winter, and another price rise, we will all be feeling the squeeze and many people will struggle to both eat and keep warm.

So this is a great time to learn how to reduce your energy use. To help with this, the Bishop's Stortford Climate Group is holding a public talk on Tuesday (May 24) at 8pm called 'How to Save Energy Now – Practical Ideas For All Budgets'. The talk is by Chris Dunham, Stortford resident and carbon reduction expert.

You can join the meeting in person at the Windhill Churches Centre in the Monastery Gardens (behind the town council offices on Windhill) or online via Zoom (meeting ID: 882 8776 3288).

It's free to attend although there's a suggested donation of £2 to cover the room hire. Please spread the word as this is information we all need.

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