Meet our volunteers: Sue Coles
Winchester CTC’s Sue Coles was recently presented with a Going the Extra Mile Lifetime Achievement Gold Award during the group’s 40th anniversary celebrations, as well as runner-up certificates for her nominations in two categories of our Volunteer Awards 2023.
The Lifetime Achievement Gold award was given in recognition of her outstanding contribution to cycling over at least four decades. Sue was also nominated for Most Inspiring Individual and Most Inspiring Campaign Activity in Cycling UK’s Volunteer Awards for her tireless efforts championing cycling in Hampshire.
Sue is very modest about her achievements. When asked about the awards, she says: “I am thrilled but campaigning is mostly team work and so this is also recognition for others. The late John Edwards and I were fed up with the interests of cyclists either being ignored or being told by the local authorities that the policy was not to encourage cycling because it was dangerous – this was in the 1990s when cycling was seen primarily as a road safety issue.”
She advises: "If possible, work with a fellow campaigner as this helps to maintain your enthusiasm in the longer term.”
I have really enjoyed my time as it enabled me to do what I love doing and at the same time help the club
Sue Coles, Going the Extra Mile Gold Award winner
Despite this modesty, Sue’s impact locally has been enormous. She says it’s difficult to gauge but accepts that: “Active travel is now mainstream. For example, the cycle route through Junction 9 of the M3/A34 at Winchester has been a roller-coaster of ups and downs but in the latest scheme for improvements to the junction, National Highways has actively engaged with local campaigners.”
Of her quarter century as an outstanding group secretary, Sue adds: “I have really enjoyed my time as it enabled me to do what I love doing and at the same time help the club.”
Knowledgeable, experienced and well informed
Incoming secretary Sarah Lee, who nominated Sue, told us why the award was so well deserved.
She says: “Sue has consistently acted as a focal point for cycling activities in Winchester and beyond for even longer than the 40 years of the club’s existence. She is a very knowledgeable, experienced and well-informed advocate who is noted for her wise counsel.”
She adds: “As well as performing her Winchester CTC roles with passion and rigour, she continues to be an active member of committees and focus groups for cycle infrastructure with Hampshire County Council, Winchester City Council, Hampshire Highways and The National Park Authority/South Downs National Park.”
“A real fighter”
A fellow club member and campaigner says: “Sue is a real fighter for better infrastructure for cycling in and around Winchester – where the enthusiasm of cyclists for these facilities is simply not matched by available resources. These are labour-intensive activities, and Sue has given her time freely and to the lasting benefit of local cycling.”
In addition to all this, Sue leads and participates in club rides and regularly cycle tours, sharing her enthusiasm and experience to the benefit of other cyclists both within the group and within the wider local cycling community.
She has also been an organiser for local special rides, including the local Watership Down and Spring Audax rides, which are popular with other Cycling UK groups such as Southampton and Alton, and was part of the organising team for the group’s 40th anniversary celebrations.
Sarah also outlined how Sue’s volunteering fits with Cycling UK values:
While Sue herself is brilliant – as an advocate, a cyclist, a role model and a campaigner – she also encourages other people to be brilliant by understanding their strengths and gently helping them to realise that they can be involved in cycling, in leading, in volunteering, and in riding with Winchester CTC.
Enabling the movement
Here are a few examples of campaigns that Sue has worked on to make cycling safer and easier for all in her area:
- The cycle path under the Winnall Roundabout at M3 Junction 9: current plans by National Highways include not only upgrading the existing cycle path but adding a new one to Kings Worthy and a new bridleway parallel to the M3 on the far side. A fellow club member comments: “To a very large extent that is down to Sue’s heroic persistence over more years than I care to think about”
- The ‘Yellow Brick Road’ which connects South Wonston to Winchester – complete along 80% of its route now
- Bike parks and security in Winchester including the new leisure centre
- Worked with other ‘pressure groups’ such as Cycle Winchester, which is a local community action group, campaigning to make Winchester better by bike
Collaborating as one team
As Winchester CTC secretary Sue co-operated with Cycling UK on piloting various new initiatives for member groups, and her consultative style and attention to detail enables everyone in the club to have a voice.
She is a founding member of Cycle Winchester’s ‘core team’, active on cycle parking, working with the county council on proposals for new cycle facilities, raising issues with the highway authority whenever they arise, liaising with local councillors and much more. All of this requires teamwork and collaboration as well as sensitivity to the views and constraints of others.
Cycling for all
Sue is a local advocate for cycling generally, a member of our Cycling Advocacy Network and a role model for women in cycling - Sue was on Cycling UK's 100 Women in Cycling list in 2017. Her organisation of local rides and her support for women’s activities has enabled a lot of cycling in the area and has contributed to making local activities inclusive.
Her devotion to the secretary role over so many years has helped improve the profile and accessibility of cycling in and around Winchester for a very wide audience covering all age groups. She really has inspired people to discover the joys of cycling in general and to experience the social and fitness benefits of cycling with like-minded individuals.
Believing in better
Sue has never given up or taken a back seat in all the activities listed above. Her continuing passion and enthusiasm are the embodiment of believing in better!