Hi Brian, tell us a bit about yourself
I’m Brian Connell – a 45 year old management consultant who lives in Maida Vale. As well as living locally and using Regent’s Park, I’ve been a Tory Councillor on Westminster Council since 2002. One of the roles I hold here is to promote cycling all over the city – something I’m very happy to do!
When and why did you did you start riding around Regent’s park?
I’ve only come back to cycling about 3 years ago when I accepted that a knee injury was only going to deteriorate if I carried on doing Half and full Marathons. I wish I’d discovered road cycling a few years earlier – not least because our house is literally yards from Dibdin House and the ongoing influence of Bradley Wiggins in our area.
Who do you ride at the park with?
Usually on my own to be honest: although I’ve now met and ridden with some of the leaner types on the Friday morning mixed sessions and hugely enjoyed them. One of the great things that RPC seems to have achieved is more riders acknowledging each other and being happy to talk to each other. I hope to join a club and improve my group riding skills in the near future.
How has Regent’s park been beneficial for your cycling?
Regent’s Park has been great for me as a relative newbie. It was the place where I first got confidence to use clip-in pedals, the place where I’ve first cycled close to others and begun to understand drafting and of course the place where I’ve looked at others in awe via Strava.
It’s also the place where I’m just introducing my boy to cycling on a public road for the first time – I’m looking forward to getting him onto a Bikeability course too!
What does riding round the park mean to you?
The Park is a fantastic place for me to both get fit, become a (slightly) better rider and to decompress from a demanding career. Although I know some people might think riding in circles would be boring, I actually find it a bit therapeutic – the fact that you know what to expect allows you to think about other matters: your breathing, pedal action, how to take over the world etc.
Cycling is something I squeeze into my life alongside commitments to church, politics, family etc. If it didn’t exist, then I’d go back to Richmond Park, but wouldn’t get there very often and would also have to use a bicycle-turbo in my garage.
What do you enjoy most about it?
I’m lucky enough to live quite close by – but aside from convenience, it’s also just lovely to be on roads without loads of traffic. I’m a country boy at heart, and some mornings when there’s a bit of mist coming off the lake it’s just about possible to get the heart pumping with the sort of clean air that you rarely think you’re going to find in London. Those crisp mornings are absolutely the best part of being in London and make up a lot for some of the other downsides.
I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the Groups of cyclists with their co-ordinated kit: and that’s one of the great things about the RPC from my perspective. It’s allowed those of us with little ability (but who like talking!) to get to know others – but also cyclists have been much more welcoming to offer words of encouragement than I’d have expected.
What, if anything, do you think could be done to improve cycling around the park?
I cycle in the park once or twice a week and I’d love to see the traffic lights phased so that they don’t go to red unless there’s traffic there, it would encourage cycling at quiet times. I’m also intrigued by the idea of a more cycle focused coffee and cake stop in the park which is open when most cyclists are in the park. It seems to be a gap in the market..
Do you visit Regent’s Park without your bike? If so what do you do?
Yes, I spend as much time in the Park with my family as I do on my bike. My boy plays in mini-rugby with the Regent’s Park Royals, and has also enjoyed cricket here with the Primrose Hill club – the facilities run from the Hub are just great. Apart from that, family picnics, kite flying and even (unsuccessful) attempts to teach the boomerang here. As I say, the Royal Parks do a great job (apart from the speed humps) and Regent’s Park is definitely a jewel in the local area which I’m lucky to live close enough to use often.