Guest Blog: Can Cycling Save the World?
Here’s the first in a series of blogs from playwright Lewis Hetherington about his work with Glasgow cycling charity Bike for Good and Creative Carbon Scotland. Over the next two years Lewis will work with Bike for Good to document their VeloCommunities project and contribute to their activities widening access to cycling and helping Glasgow to become a more sustainable city.
So I’ve started my residency with Bike For Good, on Victoria Road in the Southside of Glasgow. Minutes away from my house.
I really love bikes. I always have. That feeling of freedom. Escape. Like a mechanical horse you don’t have to feed.
I have to be honest I don’t think of myself as a cyclist. I’m scared of traffic. I get tired. I was talking to someone recently about an old – much loved – bike and they asked me what kind of bike it was…and I tentatively said… a green one… I knew my answer fell well short of what they were expecting.
But it turns out I’m not the only one baffled by the mysteries of bikes. It turns out even actual scientists still don’t really understand how bicycles work.
And so that’s one thing I’ve been thinking about. Cycling really is for everyone, whether you’re an expert or not. It’s the city that needs to change, not the riders themselves.
One thing I am certain of is that cycling really is for everyone. Whether you’re an expert or not, there are lots of inspirational cycling activities to get involved with. But could Glasgow become a more cycle-friendly city? And what would that look like?
Anyway. This is the first chapter in my residency but it’s felt so full and joyous already. I’ve been spending as much time as I can taking part in and observing the wide variety of activities which go on at Bike for Good; cycling lessons for adults and children, bike maintenance classes, a street party, film nights, not to mention the steady stream of adults and young people popping in and out every day, to ask for advice or a friendly chat.
Bike for Good Community Hub, Victoria Road, Glasgow
What has happened so far in my residency
I’ve had a drink made by a cycle powered smoothie machine.
I met someone who owns 11 bikes and keeps them all in his bedroom.
I helped someone make gold and blue streamers from recycled plastic for their handlebars.
I learnt how to get the chain back on when it falls off.
I’ve learnt how to raise my bike seat so it is at the right height (I told you I am really not an expert. If I’m honest I’m still trying to get my head around what gear I should be in most of time).
I’ve seen the joy on someone’s face when they cycled up the ‘big hill’ in Queen’s Park without stopping.
I felt the wind rush against my face as I freewheel down the winding paths of that same ‘big hill’.
I’ve joined the lessons of a whole bunch of folk, young and old, learning to cycle for the first time.
I’ve been brought to tears by the stories of people who have found themselves disconnected from the world and riding a bike has given them a way out of that, a chance to move forward.
I’ve seen our Dear Green City drenched in sunshine, seen temperatures sky rocket to record levels. It’s been beautiful, I love seeing everyone out in the sunshine, relaxed and happy. But for many it’s been too warm for comfort. The Science Centre roof started melting (yes melting) and it follows a series of severe weather events, both in Scotland and worldwide in recent years. It’s been a big bright shiny reminder that our climate is changing in a major way. And we need to get our heads around that.
What I hope will happen in the rest of my residency
That me and everyone else who wants to, will get better at riding their bike.
That we will get confident enough to cycle round the city.
That I find ways to share these incredible stories that I’m hearing from the people who come in and out of Bike for Good. Alongside filmmaker Geraldine Heaney I’ll be making a film, writing on this blog and finding ways that I, as a writer, can let Glasgow and the world know about these incredible things that are happening on the streets around us.
That I will get to understand a little more of the incredible lives that play out on the streets where I live.
That cycling becomes cheaper, easier and safer than any other way to travel.
That I use my car less.
That we see the fancy new South City Way finished and full of people, cycling, skateboarding and hoverboarding or whatever else seems like a good fit along Victoria Road
That there are fewer cars on the road
That everyone feels welcomed to use the street.
That everyone wants to share our street with others.
That the Queen’s Park Cafe still sells the ‘Speculoos’ flavour ice cream – the one which tastes like ginger biscuits…. mmmmm.
That I find some sort of giant bike trailer for my two big dogs to ride around in.
And last of all that we all find ways to make the world better which are fun and nice and meaningful. I know it’s a bit big and a bit vague – but isn’t that what we should be aiming for right now? That we make the world a better place one person at a time?
Because the climate of our planet is changing. It is going to get harder to live on and harder to live together, so we need to find models now to help us live better now and in the future. And when I see the care and kindness, the tolerance and the joy of a place like Bike for Good, it seems like a really good place to start.
This artist in residence is part of Bike for Good’s VeloCommunities Project, which is funded by the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund. We’ll keep you posted of updates and developments on this bi-monthly blog, and please get in touch with any questions or ideas!
If you’re interested in finding our more about community projects supporting sustainable travel in Scotland join Keep Scotland Beautiful and others at the Transport Gathering taking place on 29th August.
Photo credits: Lewis Hetherington