Cllr Theresa Higgins is a regular cyclist, so we’re not surprised to see her continuing to use her bike for civic occasions, since becoming Mayor of Colchester in June. Cllr Higgins says that, as well as being her preferred mode of transport, cycling is often quicker, and cheaper than using the official car, so makes savings for the mayoral budget.
P: I know you’re a regular cyclist, but when did you start, and has it always been part of your life?
M: I first learned to cycle at 9 years old. I rode a bike at secondary school, I was a boarder at the upper school and students were allowed to go into town if they stayed together. I had a bike when I was a student at London University. And when I got my first job in pathology at Brompton Hospital, I used to cycle to work from Kensal Green via Hyde Park. After I married Peter, we went to Australia for a number of years, and I stopped cycling after our first child was born.
P: How about your children, have they inherited your love of cycling?
M: No, they don’t have the same passion for it, even though Peter cycles everywhere too. And it wasn’t till 2008, when all the children had left home, that that I bought my Dutch bike and really started taking cycling seriously again. I use my bike a lot in and out of town, and find it’s the best way to get around. We also have a mobile home in France, and it comes with free use of bikes, so we do lots of cycling there.
P: What could be done to improve things for cyclists in Colchester?
M: Lots of large organisations don’t highlight cycle routes and parking sufficiently on their maps and road signs, so it’s often difficult to plan a visit and work out where to park. At the hospital, there’s no cycle parking for visitors, and the staff cycle parking is tucked away. It needs to be more prominent. I’d also like to see hire bikes at the new Park & Ride at Cuckoo Farm.
Where there are shared paths, the cycle paths need to be nearest the road, not the pedestrian paths. The ones on Ipswich Road are inconsistent, and it’s the same on the route from North Station to Colchester Institute, and between the Town site and Abbey Fields site at St John’s Green Primary School. Essex Travel Training does a great job supporting people with additional needs, so they can make specific journeys independently, and we need to make things consistent for them.
I also find it frustrating that there aren’t always cycle racks in the new housing estates and suburbs. When I’m out delivering leaflets in my division (Parsons Heath and East Gates), there’s often nowhere to park bike.
P: What’s it like being mayor, has it been a big change of routine?
M: Not really, it’s just business as usual, but with a lot more meetings. I’ve now got the town crest on my bike basket, and I want people to see that you can cycle in skirts, and normal clothes. I’ll be cycling to Colchester Carnival and the Colchester Free Festival, and would really encourage others to do the same.