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Children’s hospital staff to undertake 800km charity bike ride

On October 24, children’s hospital staff and health sector leaders will set off on an 800km cycle ride from London to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

There are 70 riders overall, with 23 riding the full distance and the others joining for various stages of the journey.

Their mission is to raise awareness of how air pollution and climate change are causing illness and death, especially in children. They are carrying to world leaders an open letter signed by organisations around the world representing 45m health professionals and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health.

The Ride for their Lives cyclists work for six UK children’s hospitals: Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH), Evelina London Children’s Hospital, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle, and the Royal Hospital for Children, Glasgow.

They include doctors, nurses, anaesthetists, occupational therapists, electricians, sustainability officers and other healthcare providers.

The cyclists include Matthew Shaw, chief executive of GOSH, Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, Robin Stott, a founder of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, and Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Cyclist Dr Tony Waterston, a retired consultant paediatrician and executive committee member of the International Society for Social Paediatrics and Child Health, said: ‘The damage to children from air pollution is particularly serious, as their lungs are at a more vulnerable stage.

‘Air pollution was recently named as a cause of death for the first time in the UK, in the case of nine-year-old asthmatic Ella Kissi-Debrah. We know this problem is widespread in the UK and yet very little national action is being taken.’

men's black bike helmet

The cyclists will be accompanied by Pollution Pods,  an installation by artist Michael Pinsky which allows people to experience a simulation of the air in the world’s most polluted cities. The Pods will “drift” up the country with the cycle journey. 

During the week-long ride, they will stop, with a single pod, at Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle to highlight the effect on the health of air pollution and climate change.

Riders and the five pods will arrive in Glasgow on October 31 as COP26 begins, where they will call on world leaders to make air pollution a priority in climate action and sustainable development. 

Jane Burston, Clean Air Fund executive director, said: ‘Ride for their Lives is a great initiative, drawing attention to the impact of air pollution and climate change on our health.

‘When world leaders meet in Glasgow for COP26, they need to step it up a gear, by incorporating clean air as a priority within climate action, they can accelerate progress towards global climate and health goals.’

Photo Credit – Viktor Bystrov

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