This month we interview Darius Laws, a photographer and video producer who’s also a Colchester Borough Councillor and a keen cyclist.
PN: Do you remember your first bike?
DL: I vividly recall my first ever brand new bike as prior to that I'd always had various second hand bikes which I wasn't very attached too, I remember saving one year's Christmas and birthday monies to buy the mountain bike of my dreams from Halfords. Sadly within days of owning it someone stole it from my mum's car port. I learnt a hard lesson that day. Despite living in a friendly village it probably wasn't sensible to leave the bike unlocked and exposed all day long while I was at school. I've since had a couple of bikes and a wheel stolen so always now secure my current bike with a strong D-Lock.
PN: Were you a keen cyclist as a youngster, or is it something you’ve taken up later in life?
DL: In order to be allowed to cycle to primary school we had to pass our Cycling Proficiency test. I failed mine. It wasn't so much my cycling competency that let me down but my ability not to get distracted by the naughty boys at the back. This temporary setback meant I had to re-take the test with the lower year group one year later. In some respects it wasn't a bad thing to have to do because it meant I was once again reminded of the importance of the 'life saver' - the emergency last minute look over the shoulder before you signal and manoeuvre. Growing up in a village meant cycling to see friends was a popular choice but it was becoming a teenager, and seeking new 'friendships' in neighbouring villages, when the freedom of owning a bike prevailed over asking for a lift from your parents.
PN: What kind of cycling do you do – sport, leisure, commute, or combination of these?
DL: I cycle now four days a week from Colchester town centre to Severalls Business Park where my work is based. Following my '9-5' job I often cycling directly to the Town Hall where I 'work' as a Borough Councillor. You won't catch me in lycra. You will almost certainly catch me though because I don't cycle too fast. I've a hybrid which is ideal for cycling through Highwoods Country Park, shared cycle lanes and the roads. I have undertaken a couple of cycling challenges in the past but it's not something I am able to get too excited about. For me cycling is simply a way of getting from A to B in a timescale I can be pretty certain of.
PN: Is Colchester a good place to cycle?
There are some great cycling routes in Colchester, Highwoods Country Park for example is wide, generally straight and even has LED lights on the floor to guide you in the dark. However there are other routes which need attention. Cowdray Avenue cycle path isn't smooth and so I'm often overtaken by road bikes using the actual road. This can be frustrating for car drivers but then if the cycle path isn't smooth you can't blame the road cyclist for being on the main road. We've seen in recent times a number of shared cycle ways pop up, these don't always work, in particular at peak times of the day i.e. when Sixth Form College students are walking from the train station it can be a challenge for all to get along. I would encourage all users of the shared paths, be that cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, walkers and pram users to try and 'give and take' a little. Making eye contact, raising a smile and occasionally slowing down can often avoid conflict.
PN: What’s the worst thing about cycling?
DL: Unexpected extreme heat, rain or snow when you are going to meet someone on business. Getting a puncture can be a setback so my advice would be to pump up your tyres and use the self-sealing 'slime' in your inner tubes.
PN: And what’s the best?
DL: The best part of cycling is the thinking time. No stress of car traffic jams / accidents holding you up or simply trying to leave the Colchester business park at 5 past 5. You can also generally know how long it will take to get from A to B. I recently raced a colleague she got the bus and I cycled I was home first :)
Darius' Random cycle related FACTS:
Darius has never bought a car in his life.
Darius used to live and work in London and would regularly cycle through Piccadilly Circus.
Darius worked on promotional videos for the London Olympics with Chris Boardman and he has also worked with Sir Chris Hoy on Child Cycle Safety videos.
Aged 16 Darius would cycle from Capel St Mary to Ipswich every weekend, but never too fast as he was wearing a suit because he worked at Debenhams in the menswear department.
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