A group of cyclists who work in children’s hospitals and as medical bosses arrived at COP26 after cycling 500 miles.
The 39 activists, members of Ride For Their Lives, cycled from London to Glasgow to raise awareness of the health damages air pollution can cause, particularly in children.
They stopped at places across the UK, meeting with the public and putting on a display of the Pollution Pods, an art installation by artist Michael Pinsky which recreates the air in the world’s most polluted cities, before arriving at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow on Sunday afternoon.
Health chiefs on the ride included Matthew Shaw, chief executive of Great Ormond Street Hospital, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the BMJ, and Richard Smith, chairman of UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.
They were joined by doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, occupational therapists, electricians and other children’s hospital staff.
The group have carried with them the Healthy Climate Prescription letter, a document signed by organisations representing 45 million health professionals around the world.
The letter says “the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity”, with air pollution at the top of the list of deadly impacts.
It calls for a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels, the cause of both problems.
The cyclists have carried it from London, along with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health.
Cyclist Zeshan Rawn, a senior information manager for the London Neonatal Network and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, said: “The warmth of the public’s response has been overwhelming, we’ve approached people, and they have stopped us to talk about the ride and even cycled along with us.
“Many of them know friends and relations working in healthcare, or children with health conditions affected by air quality, and are asking why this hasn’t happened sooner.
“This is only the beginning.
“I hope to see more bike rides organised around air pollution and other aspects of climate change, not just country wide but across the world.
“If world leaders don’t want to read the letters we’re delivering or listen to the scientists, I say spend a day cycling round your cities and your rural areas.
“If you don’t think air pollution is a serious problem after that, I’d be fascinated to know why.”
Another fellow cyclist on the ride, Catriona Mellor, who works as a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “One of the best things about this ride has been speaking with different professionals, working in mental health, acute medicine, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, all thinking about the same issue which is how to improve our children’s future with a focus on the climate crisis and air pollution.
“Ride For Their Lives is uniting people who wouldn’t normally work together behind a common cause, and laying foundations for future collaborations.
“There’s a role for everyone, together we can do things we thought were impossible, and no-one should get left behind.”
Tom Clark, chief executive of Climate Acceptance Studios which brought the pods and the ride together, said: “A study by neuroscientist Kris de Meyer shows the best way to inspire climate action is through action.
“By cycling this epic journey from London to Glasgow these heroic riders are showing their fellow healthcare providers, the public and COP26 that action is possible.
“By bringing the Pollution Pods along with the riders, healthcare providers can bodily experience the effect of air pollution first hand.
“We hope to combine the riders’ action and this experience to bring about real change on the air quality crisis.”
The cyclists arrived in Glasgow as thousands descended on the city for the crucial climate change summit.
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