Cycling has had a significant resurgence in the past few years. Whether people have been inspired by professional cyclists, Olympians and Paralympians, or whether they adopted ‘active transport’ to save money or increase their exercise. The numbers don’t lie. Even before COVID-19 average cycling stages increased by 23% between 2019 and 2020 to the highest levels since 2002. Average cycling trips increased by 26%, from 16 trips per person in 2019 to 20 in 2020 The average miles cycled per person increased by 62% between 2019 (54 miles per person) and 2020 (88 miles per person), more than double the average distance in 2002 (39 miles per person). You can read the stats here. In the next few months, the impact of COVID the latest statistics will be released. I believe our greater awareness of the climate crisis and need for wellbeing will see a significant uplift in cycling as active transport.
I’ve been cycling for many years. Over the last ten years, I’ve chosen cathedrals as a pilgrimage destination for my cycle rides. I have encouraged groups to join me. The English cathedrals joined with The Pilgrimage Trust. SUSTRANS and Cycling UK to try to create a network of routes between the cathedrals that people could make. You can find the routes here.
I was involved in the group who devised some of the routes and promoted them to the wider public. So, it only seemed right that I try them out. Physical activity (during the pandemic) has been very important to people; whatever their abilities. It can help with physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing. Cycling helps me. As the pedals turn, so my mind can turn with them. As I climb or descend hills, I can reflect upon the ascents and descents of my week. What went well? What went badly? What do I think about that? What does God think? Most of all, during COVID-19, when we all need to develop a little more ‘patient endurance’, how can I sustain a life of faith during the ‘ups and downs’?
It was great to invite active cyclists to take on the challenge of cycling to one of the cathedrals and I was able to invite members of my local cycling club to join me. However, I’m just as interested in making cycling a communal activity for those with less energy and experience than those who want to cycle twenty miles or more to a cathedral. To that end, I’ve started to create some shorter, flat ‘pedal pilgrimages’ around my local community and video’d the route. This provides people with a route and an idea that it’s fun and manageable. I visited several churches and sites of interest along way, before turning back and following the river on my return to Southwark Cathedral.
Physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing: they’re connected. For me, cycling provides an important means of focusing upon them. Whether with one cycling partner, in a large group or on my own, it’s can also enable an encounter with God. If you’re part of a church community, why not plan your own ‘pedal pilgrimage’ with some resting places for reflection along the way? Invite those on the fringes of your church community to join you. Or consider joining a cycling group. There are many different kinds: for the leisure cyclist or the off-road and on-road enthusiast. They are a welcoming community and they will widen your horizons in more ways than one!
If you’d like to know more about pedal pilgrimages and the cathedral cycle champions, do be in touch.