Back in October 21, 16 year old Jessie Stevens undertook the 570 miles from her home in Devon to the climate summit in Glasgow. By bike, it was her Ride to COP26. The Alpkit Foundation were delighted to support her ride with a £250 grant to help the journey and it was a refreshing and inspiring tale of a young person driven to voice their passion and pull others together in a shared belief in the power of the pedal.
We gave her the challenge to recount her experience of the ride in just 500 (ish) words. If you want a day to day account of how she got on though, then visit her blog of the ride here : People Pedal Power
Huge thanks to Catherine Dunn for the images. Take it away Jessie!
Firstly, what was Ride2COP26?
This was a 570 mile cycle from my home in Devon to the UN Climate summit in Glasgow. The aim was to create a movement of individuals joining the ride for a few miles as we weaved our way up the country, purely powered by ourselves and our shared desire for climate Justice. In essence, we wanted to use the journey as a way to connect with as many different people as possible using the bike as a way to facilitate some amazing conversations about what the climate crisis means to us. And through this, highlight the need for a diverse range of voice at the summit itself.
For this adventure, I teamed up with the brilliant humans over at The Adventure Syndicate and together we decided to not just ride to the conference, but to create a ‘Cargo Bike Relay’ along the way. The aim of the Cargo Bike Relay, in theory was just a fun, wacky way to transport all our stuff up to Scotland. Whilst this proved very true (is it even possible to not have a hoot whilst riding one?!) it also turned into a metaphor for the movement and what it means to solve the climate crisis. Day after day, we would have at least two different riders who would cycle a 15-40 miles stint as we worked our way up the country.
Our riders were from all different backgrounds and abilities. From seasoned cargo riders (some even were used to doing the school run on them!), to those who had never ridden one before. And no matter who was riding with us or where they had come from, we were able to solve every problem that we faced and have incredible conversations sharing our ideas and experiences.
The steady presence of the cargo bike throughout the ride, was not just to show how versatile these bikes are, but also their incredible capacity to change the way we travel and have a positive impact on the planet. As a way to capture the movement and share the messages of people power and the need for diverse voices in Climate decision making, we filmed the journey up in order to make a feature length film (coming soon!).
So, what was the ride actually like? On the 20th October 2021, the day had come. The day when all the planning, meetings and packing was finished, and we were ready to set off for Scotland. We rolled out of Newton Abbot with around 60 riders, all ready to join us for the first leg of the journey. The sound of wheels turning, gears clunky and light chatter was the soundtrack for the first few miles. The atmosphere was full of excitement and trepidation, as we began to work our way through the sharp climbs and quiet lanes of Devon.
Each day on the road followed a similar schedule. We would wake up, load up the cargo bike with our myriad of colourful dry bags (we developed quite a knack to this by the end!), assemble our peloton, and then over the course of that day’s riding, say hello and goodbye to those who joined us. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that the ride received - from social media and the mainstream media, to the amount of people who would pop out of the countryside with their bikes to join us.
Rain or shine, light or dark, the ride was always evolving with new faces and energy, even when we, the core team had run out. From bringing us a large bar of chocolate at the end of a long day navigating through the maze of Warrington, to riding through torrential rain and gale force wind in the lakes (that’s a whole other story), we quickly learnt that the cycling community is made up of a bunch of some very kind people.
I learnt so much both about myself and the world, on the journey. However one of the biggest most, useful lessons I learned, and then took to COP26 with me, was that to solve any problem that is as big as the climate crisis, we are all needed. Whilst places like COP26 are populated with wealthy diplomats who are very much detached from the crisis, the voices of normal everyday people, are the most important of all.