The Cop26 summit held in Glasgow over the past fortnight has offered genuine hope for the future. Some say cycling wasn’t given its due at the event but to simply heap the blame on Bojo and co is to miss a key point.


Picture by UK Green Building Council

With the Cop26 climate conference having drawn to a close, representatives of the attending nations are now (we hope) preparing to go forth and turn bold words into meaningful deeds. With potential major breakthroughs on deforestation and the use of fossil fuels, it was good to see cycling among the headlines – even if the questions it raised hardly met with resounding answers.

Some delegates were keen on riding to the conference venue, to illustrate the key role cycling will play in, quite frankly, saving the planet from doom. Warned there would be nowhere to leave their bikes, however, they had little choice but to take the shuttle buses provided. (Yes, yes, we know they were electric.)

In the weeks preceding the event, numerous activists had ridden to Glasgow to promote cycling as a means of combatting global warming. These included a vast international coalition who had, ahead of time, sent an open letter to delegates. In it, they set out in spoon-feeding detail the steps governments might take to better integrate cycling into everyday life.

They ranged from the sensible – incentivising cyclists to ride to work or school, reducing short car journeys – to a sort of unintelligible, town-planner-speak, advocating ‘mobility solutions for a multimodal ecosystem’. Or, in English, ‘bike, walk, no cars’.

COP26 march

Photo from Cycling UK

The signatories to this two-wheels-good-four-wheels-bad ultimatum were an eclectic group; from Greenpeace and the UCI, to local chain gangs from as far afield as southern Africa and the Americas. Precisely 161 organisations in total, one for every year Pearson, the world’s oldest cycling company, has been in business. (It’s as if our founder, Tom Pearson, had a hand in matters.)

If that were not enough, there was an additional day of two-wheeled protests on Saturday 6th November, the middle weekend of the conference. Burdened with an unfortunate moniker, ‘PedalonCop’, what sounded like a cycling-proficiency course for the local constabulary brought riders to Glasgow from as far afield as, well, Edinburgh.

Throughout the conference Boris was, thank goodness, offsetting his carbon like billy-o. Avid cyclist that he is, the only downside was that he was offsetting it in the wrong direction (onsetting?). By virtue of that single, private flight to London for supper at the Garrick with climate-sceptic chum Charles Moore, Bozzer undid a year’s worth of carbon-neutralising bike rides at a stroke.

Between the PM’s bluster and the ever-hectoring Greta, we at Pearson wonder if there’s a risk we might not see the wood for the trees? Amid all the hurly-burly about who’s to blame for what, much of it online, lies a simple truth that we’ve been aware of since the beginning. (In the cycling sense, not the Book of Genesis.)

Repairing our planet is about both Big Government and individual responsibility. You might diligently place your organic milk containers into your green recycling bin, fulminating as your neighbour dispatches two-dozen, reusable Chardonnay bottles into his grey landfill one. But that doesn’t render your contribution meaningless. It certainly doesn’t absolve you from, as our American cousins might put it, ‘owning your shit’.

cycle boom

At Pearson, the various lockdowns have led to a cycling boom, as evidenced by both a significant rise in sales and countless repairs. Bully for us, we hear you say. Yet there’s more to it than that. It has been the will and desire among our customers to do their bit knowing that, while governments can legislate for this and that, it’s not either/or, it’s both. If you want to make a difference, as those Cop protestors knew only too well (and we suspect Boris does too), leave the car at home and take your bike instead. Here endeth the lesson.

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