We chatted with Liz Bethell from St James’ Primary School about her work as a bikeability instructor, growing up on her bike as a bit of a tomboy and how she’s held onto her favourite bike for a long time…

How did you first start cycling?
I’ve been riding a bike for just about as long as I can remember. Growing up I was a bit of a tomboy so I’d go around in a group with my younger brothers and friends riding bikes and climbing trees – it went hand in hand!

Do you remember your first bike?
Absolutely! I was about 7 or 8 years old and it was red and blue with big white tyres. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I’ll never forget it. That bike was handed down to my younger siblings and it got a hard life, eventually the frame snapped in half while my brother was riding it to school.

After that I got a yellow shopper bike, and then at 15 I got a new bike and I absolutely loved it. So much in fact that I still ride it today! I have another bike too but I don’t use it much, only really for my work as a Bikeability instructor. My husband has kept that first bike going all this time, and it’s my daily workhorse.

What kind of cycling do you do?
I use my bike as my main means of transport; I cycle to work, I cycle for pleasure and like to just ride around for something to do. In fact, this morning I rode to Wivenhoe and back along the river before I went to my allotment. It’s just a really nice way to get around. My husband cycles too and sometimes we get to ride to work together which is nice. We do own a car but don’t use it very much, only really if we need to go to a supermarket for a big shop or if we are transporting something big. Two of my sons are at university now though so the car is mainly used for taking all their things back and forth!

Tell us a bit more about your work as a Bikeability instructor
I work at St James’ School in Riverside, and a colleague and I run weekly cycle training sessions called Bikeability. We’re really lucky in that schools don’t usually have their own setup like us, and instructors tend to travel from school to school. We have a secure bike store with 15 bikes and all the equipment we need so that all kids have an opportunity to learn to ride confidently and safely even if they don’t have a bike at home. My colleague and I run the programme one afternoon a week and it’s really popular; we have three programmes booked up for the next school year already.

How do you find Colchester as a place to cycle?
To be honest I don’t really have a problem with it. I’m a confident rider and have been cycling my whole life (before cycle paths were commonplace) so I feel fine on the road. Sometimes I do get the odd shout from a car telling me to get onto the cycle path but I know I have just as much right to be there so it doesn’t bother me. That kind of person isn’t common though, and there’s plenty of considerate drivers too, for example a lorry might hang back behind me to wait until it’s safe to pass rather than squeezing through and I really appreciate that.

What’s the best thing about cycling?
The thing I love the most is that I can go where I want, when I want and don’t have to worry about finding a car parking space or paying for it. It gives me the freedom to just nip into town or down to the shops without thinking or planning. I also really like being outside in the fresh air, especially in the summer. I’ll admit I sometimes stay indoors when it’s too wet outside and I have a long way to go, but that’s not very often and I can always just dry off afterwards!

Thanks Liz for taking the time to chat with us. If you’d like to be featured in a future Cycle Colchester newsletter then drop us a message (the tea’s on us!)

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