Just like all of us, Hannah is looking to survive the social distancing and lockdown. The Diversion Diary is a tale of love under lockdown, and bikes. Only, there’s an added twist: Hannah’s partner, BK, lives in the USA, and they’re locked down on different continents. This week, she’s letting her inner hippie out, and it’s full of hope.
I’d been a believer in bikes as social icebreakers, builders of communities, connectors of people and places since long before they led me to BK. The other week, as I sat by my front door working from home and making the most of the sunshine, I waved hello to a guy on a bike who had been delivering something to a neighbour. Twenty minutes later, I was waving this former stranger on his way, having set the world to rights in a conversation which flowed from the joy of riding bikes through to potential social changes as a result of lockdown. It turned out that we were wondering a lot of the same ‘what ifs’, and ‘wouldn’t it be nice…’. Maybe we’re both just hopeless hippies, but maybe if we all share our ‘maybe, just maybe’ ideas, then some of them might take hold.
What if all this remote working made businesses realise that it can work – that expensive office space giving a desk for everyone every day isn’t needed. Imagine if we didn’t have to commute into towns and cities every day, clogs up roads and squeezing into trains. Instead, we could have time to walk or ride the school run, before heading home to start our day. Without two or three hours of commuting a day, we could live and work locally, supporting local shops. We wouldn’t be so pushed for time that we need our shopping delivered to us, packaged and prepped and ready to ping in the microwave after a 12 hour day out of the house.
Having experienced lockdown, being forcibly disconnected from anywhere other than your immediate environment, what do you think of it? Perhaps the access to bars and restaurants seems a little less important than access to open space, or trees. Maybe the urban chic apartment with balcony seems less inviting than the crumbling Victorian terrace by the sea. If you can earn wherever you live, you don’t need to be in a commuter belt, or a city centre flat, or a suburban semi. How about those many declining towns that have been left behind, cut off by geography or transport, from the cities that have sucked in wealth from all around them? Could we be about to see a turnaround from years of centralisation and urbanisation, into a more even spread of population?
What if, pootling about on our bicycles, walking to our schools and shops, we realise that we aren’t actually spending so much any more. We could work a four day week, or a three day week? Maybe the time we’d have would be more valuable to us than the money we could earn. Maybe the work of one full time rapidly burning out person becomes the job of two happier, balanced people? Perhaps with free time and energy we can enjoy what we buy. Eating out for the pleasure of it, rather than because you’re too knackered to be bothered at home. Shopping at places that make you feel good about it, rather than because they’re between the office and the station, or at the click of a ‘next day’ button.
We’re still locked down for now, although the first easing of restrictions is beginning. Before we all go ‘thank goodness for that, we can get back to normal’, maybe there’s a chance to shed some of the things we liked less about ‘normal’ and leave them behind. There are glimmers of hope – the emphasis on active transport, the popping up of new cycle lanes. I know that for many, the changes above are out of reach. You can’t work from home if you work in a factory. It’s hard to make lifestyle choices when you’re choosing between food or heating. But in a world of grim statistics: lives on hold, lives given, lives lost, surely those of us with opportunity owe it to everyone to at least try to make ‘normal’ better.
This week’s theme then can only be one of hope for a better future after COVID-19, of politics and social change. Hoist your banners and march this way.
World Bicycle Relief
This is my favourite charity. It harnesses the power of bikes in the best possible ways. Offering sustainable support, with careful consideration for local economies and aiming to prevent aid dependency, World Bicycle Relief helps improve healthcare and educational outcomes. Current efforts are looking to help healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This TED Talk is from the charity’s founder. If you only watch one video on this page, please watch this one. And then hopefully you might be persuaded to click this link – where you can make a donation. £120 buys a bike that will help healthcare workers respond to the pandemic, or keep girls in education.
Bikes Up Knives Down
The riding in this video might be just the sort of thing that leads to ‘bloody cyclists’ comments. But the story tells of a love for bikes that matches our own, and another way that bikes can be more than just exercise. I’ll bet they can wheelie better than most of us.
People have been campaigning for better bicycle infrastructure for years. While as mountain bikers we might tend to be preoccupied with trail access, urban design should be a priority for anyone who just likes bikes. Here are two videos from quite a while ago, showing two cities that were, even then, streets ahead of where we are now. But maybe we can get there.
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While we’re dreaming of utopian futures, here’s a cute animation doing just that.
The pandemic itself has shown how interconnected the world is. From one corner of the earth, the virus spread, having knock on effects as apparently far removed as food supply, and transport provision. Land use itself has been cited as part of the cause of the virus. This TEDTalk tells the tale of how working with nature can work better than taming it. How a humane and gentler approach can yield more than the forced industrial one. If you’re keen, this talk covers more about how permaculture offers a shift to ethical design – though it’s not so entertainingly accessible as the presentation above. Perhaps the ideas here are the kinds of things we need to be doing to prevent future pandemics – as well as restoring ecology.
I’m going to abuse my editorial freedom here by being a proud parent. This is a poem by my 11 year old daughter, Eve, who gives me much hope for a better future. She’s thoughtful, socially conscious and good at sticking up for herself and what she believes in. It seems like her friends are much the same. If her generation can grow up to be as empowered and community minded as they are now, they’ll make a good go of whatever we leave to them.
While I’m taking liberties, Eve – she’s Just Eve, since she has no middle names thanks to a miscommunication when she was registered – has spent a fair amount of lockdown songwriting. With lessons, she’s worked on playing and singing at the same time, as well as on writing words and melodies. Here’s the result.
Today, I should have been getting on a plane to go and see BK, his parents, and meet his entire extended family. I have to hope that when that meet up finally happens, it’s in a world that has shifted a little closer to the one that Eve, myself, BK, and all us other hopeful hippies can imagine.
Let’s keep in touch
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Catch up with the love under lockdown Diversion Diary:
- Week 8 – Solace In Solitude
- Week 7 – Fantasy Futures and Lockdown Dreams
- Week 6 – Making the Most of Lockdown
- Week 5 – Vintage Bike Finds
- Week 4 – Silver Linings and Simple Pleasures
- Week 3 – Making Connections and Breaking Wind
- Week 2 – How to Find Silence In a Virtual World
- Week 1- Alone During Coronoa Virus Lockdown