Who are you?

Neil Allen, 60 yrs old and a resident of Colchester all my life

When did you get into cycling? 

In my very early teens my father built me a 3 speed bike which was like a key to a new world.  I started going for long bike rides into the countryside, all day by myself, getting lost, finding interesting backwaters, talking to the old boys out in the fields. It was truly a golden age

How did you become involved with cycling campaigning? 

In the late 80`s I was  running the Halfords bike dept in their Head St shop where I became friendly with Andrew Budd who was at the time working as a Cycling Officer with the Council. It was his passion and commitment that got me started. Unfortunately I was made redundant and with a young family I rather drifted away from things

What brought you back?

About 5 years ago a reference to the Colchester Cycling Campaign (CCC) Bike Drink evening in the Gazette caught my eye; I went along and was hooked again! Before I knew it I was roped into the CCC and then Sustrans shortly after

What have you been involved in? 

I started out doing Dr Bike sessions for Re Cycle and Cycle Colchester, building the odd show bike for displays then gradually drifted back into the campaigning side. I was particularly interested in the bid for Cycling Town Status and was very lucky to have the time to help work on the bid and subsequent schemes

What are you most proud of? 

When my employer, DSG, formed a workplace Travel Plan I was asked to be the site focal. Over the following 3 years, Essex County Council and Colchester Travel Plan Club supported and guided us, helping with our travel planning sessions and then arranging the loan of 6 pool bikes. With the enthusiastic support of my colleagues, we took cycling out of the weird and into the normal. So much so that cycling to work became both an acceptable and to many people’s surprise, enjoyable way of getting to work. Being awarded an Essex County Council Sustainable Business Travel Plan Silver Plaque and winning the Active and Sustainable Travel Newsquest business award on two occasions was the icing on the cake.

On a personal level my reward was leading the first, of what was to become regular lunch time rides, “Any ability on any bike” was the motto and watching a dozen laughing colleagues cheering an ancient tandem up a hill to the accompaniment of synchronised bell ringing made all the meetings and memos worthwhile

What next?

Just keep building on the work done so far, Colchester is extremely lucky in having a good working relationship with both the local and county councils. There is a mutual trust and respect which is probably unique in the area. For that we must thank Will Bramhill of the CCC who has worked tirelessly for the last 20 years often in the wilderness. For myself, finishing off my much modified Series 2 Moulton and hopefully taking it off to France for the Tour

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