This article is from Edition 12: Ride the Change - Cycle to COP26
Claudia Ruane
Written by Claudia Ruane
Published on 16th November 2021
6 min read

While the world watched COP26 with varying degrees of trepidation and optimism, Transport Day gave us pause to reflect on Ride the Change to COP26; the social bike ride that saw 175 cyclists pedal from London to Glasgow to show that climate action matters.

Straight up, we think bicycles are brilliant. We need a lot more active travel, sustainable transport infrastructure and affordable slow travel - pronto. Ride the Change showed us that bikes can be more than a mode of transport. They’re a symbol of change.

Read on and see the impact of Ride the Change so far, and see how the heroic riders inspired active travel and climate pledges along the way.

Riders from Ride the Change send a message to leaders at COP26 (Charlie Mason left, Anna Lawson right).

Photo: Ellie Mackay

'I’m joining people from all over the country cycling to COP. Each of us has our own motivations and hopes for this COP, but we’re all united in our hope that world leaders will finally stop talking about change, and actually start doing it.'

Jack Lenox @greenpartyjack

Ride to COP26, by hell or high water

Back in 2015 Do Nation founder and CEO, Hermione Taylor, led a group of 40 cyclists from London to Paris for COP21. We say led, she broke her collarbone on Day 1, so hitched a lift in the support vehicle the rest of the way. Cycling to another COP was non-negotiable from that point on.

COVID turned COP26 into a moveable feast so the Ride the Change to COP26 organising collective (Do Nation, Adventure Uncovered, Brake the Cycle, Possible and ARUP) rolled with the punches.

With great excitement we confirmed the ride would go ahead in August 2021. That left an exhilaratingly swift window to get riders signed up, sponsors on board and accommodation sorted. We pulled it off; Ride the change to COP26 was GO!

The 7.5 day ride saw brilliant sunshine, flooded roads, (“Do I have bruises on my face from the rain?” asked one rider at the end of the rainiest day), amber weather warnings, delicious food, galvanising evening events and 89 punctures. It was the ride of a lifetime.

Ride the change cyclists in Vauxhall, the start of the ride.

Photo: Ellie Mackay

A community of climate action leaders

The ride had three aims:

  1. Connect a community of climate and cycling enthusiasts, through the shared challenge of the ride.
  2. Experience the positive impact that climate action can have, whilst riding through the UK’s most stunning rural landscapes, pretty towns and small cities.
  3. Influence people far and near by sharing the story of the ride, to motivate individuals to take action and influence decision makers to commit to bolder targets.

We couldn’t have dreamed of bringing together such a fantastic community of climate action champions. The perma-grinned group included teachers, doctors, local councillors, climate campaigners, web developers, senior leaders, interns, grandparents, personal trainers, scientists, explorers, to name a few!

We had riders from our sponsors too: Headline sponsor Abel & Cole, Silver sponsor Symprove and Bronze sponsors Cayley Coughtrie and AECOM.

All together, pedalling to prove that climate action matters.

Some people hadn’t cycled more than a handful of miles in one day. Some were seasoned (and blinking fast!) long distance cyclists. Some came on cargo bikes, and had to navigate some incredibly contrary cycling infrastructure. Some people proved they could cut the mustard and even on the infamous Day 5, there were no sense of humour failures.

Cycling through the beautiful British countryside.

Photo: Ellie Mackay

'The people were the battery that took this group of cyclists up the country. I found the whole experience re-energising and it gives me hope for the future. We also inspired many many people to think about what they can do too, and that was wonderful to be a part of.'

Patrick McCool

Hill climbs and climate pledges

Alongside the journey, the cyclists raised climate pledges instead of cash to support the ride. Climate pledges range from using a re-usable coffee cup or eating more plants, to installing solar panels – each Do Action supports people to make changes to everyday behaviours to be more climate considerate.

It gets exciting when individual actions addd up to something big.

Matt Hocking from Leap, cycled the whole trip and raised 618 pledges at the time of writing, with potential CO2e savings of 14,799kg; the equivalent of 133 flights from Glasgow to Amsterdam.

Riders often started conversations about cycling and climate pledges with anyone and everyone along the way. Ride the Change photographer and reporter Ellie Mackay even converted a climate sceptic farmer to pledge to reduce his farm’s CO2 emissions.

Nudged and inspired by the ride, old friends came forward with ingenious solutions to sustainable living, including a clever way to compost food scraps in a hot country without attracting lots of flies.

Riders pledged actions to lower their carbon footprint.

Photo: Ellie Mackay

'The waitress was amazed and fascinated by our trip, as to be fair were most people we met. We think we have persuaded quite a few folks to get out on their bikes more often.'

Derek Dishman @_MrMustard
One rider’s friend pledged Feed the Earth

The impact, so far

Just like the leaders at COP26, we’ve got lots of pledges at the moment. Over the next couple of months supporters will be asked to confirm their pledges and tell us how they got on.

At the moment the ride has raised potential CO2e savings of 311 tonnes, water savings of over 9 million litres and 480 tonnes of waste.

Do Nation’s fun stats give a little context to CO2 savings: so 311 tonnes is equivalent to 596 car trips to the North Pole, or 2,809 flights from Glasgow to Amsterdam, in CO2 emissions.

The cyclists inspired 2,198 people to make at least one climate pledge. What’s exciting about this is that on average people who pledge through Do Nation speak to between 5 and 7 people about their pledge.

It’s the kind of ripple effect we so keenly need right now.

Riders share their requests for systems change.

Photo: Ellie Mackay

Ride off into the sunset, and keep talking

Not everyone can take a week off work and cycle to Glasgow. Not everyone can afford to travel by train. But everyone has the power to have conversations about the changes we need, be they systemic, political or individual.

Who will you talk to in your community today?

Take the pledge and be the change!