My Bike

First, why am I cycling from Plymouth to Paris?

One answer is that I was at the SW Green Party General Meeting in Plymouth on 17 September, when Roger stood up and announced “Ricky, Ewan and I are pedalling to the Paris COP21 Climate Conference“. Oliver, my local Somerset colleague, and I looked at each other quizzically – had Roger just volunteered me for a cycle ride to Paris? In November?

Turns out there was a different Euan, who mis-spells his name with a “u”.

But, I like cycle touring, and secondly, doing whatever I can to help us take common responsibility for climate stewardship has been a personal passion since before my University days. The first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was published in 1990, my first year of studying undergraduate physics. That same year Jeremy Leggett, former Big Oil geologist, authored Global Warming: The Greenpeace Report.

Paris is not that far away, and there are few hills along the way. This bike has travelled a fair few miles with me…

Ewan Bike Shepton Montague

… Around the same time, I had a wonderful and beloved bike stolen from an underground bike locker. Raleigh Competition, beautiful black, with elaborate gold butting. My Uncle, who worked for Raleigh in Nottingham, had sourced it for me. From the parts bin, he built this new lightweight 531. He rode the London to Brighton with her, and I simply added some wider swept Italian handlebars.

We have travelled together to the Scottish Highlands three times, on the sleeper from Euston to Fort William. Over to the the Golden Road on Harris, and Calanais on Lewis once. Altnaharra (the coldest place in Britain) once. Assynt and Suilven twice.

In 2003, we climbed Bealach-na-Ba (admittedly only with a day pannier).

“This is it: the Holy Grail, the toughest and wildest climb in Britain. Anything you have read or been told about this amazing road is likely to be true. Believe the hype.”

We kept forward momentum all of the the way up the stream bed to the hairpin. The descent into Applecross was the best ride ever – well sighted single-track Scottish road, fuelled by uphill Scottish endorphins. They are natural, and they work!

More later…


Paris World Lighting Up

Along with all people of goodwill, we are shocked and saddened by the horrific events which took place in Paris on Friday night.

However, we are also still committed and determined to cycle to Paris as originally planned, to support the goal of a successful climate agreement between world leaders. A binding and meaningful agreement on cutting carbon needs to be achieved if we are not to condemn billions of people to irreversible climate change and all the attendant impacts that that will bring. Continue reading Undaunted

To the Patron Saint of Cyclists?

Yesterday we discovered some hills that I did not know Normandy boasted – and all varieties of Norman French weather, except snow.

Breakfast hail ceased, with Roger and I having fitted new inner-tubes, les quatre cyclistes d’apocalypse were foolishly enjoying the sunshine as we rode up la vallée de la Sée towards Brécey. Climbing out of Saint Pois, we discovered the first real hill of the day, and storm Barney’s north wind throwing rain into our faces. The descent towards Vire, and omellettes, frites was epic, as was the later descent towards a 5 pm espresso stop in Aunay-sur-odon – that one enlivened by the local fuzz flying downhill even faster, sirens ablaze.

Days like this call to mind warmer climes, and Madonna del Ghisallo, the Italian patroness of cyclists. 500 metres above Bellagio and Lake Como sits a chapel dedicated to the Madonna – atop a climb that has often featured as a stage finish on both the Giro di Lombardia and Giro d’Italia.

Madonna del Ghisallo Chapel

Inside, the chapel walls are hung with cycling memorabilia – including poignantly the twisted bike of Fabio Casartelli, the Lombardi cyclist who died in a crash on the 1995 Tour de France, and a jersey of gifted Italian climber Marco Pantani, who overdosed on harder drugs after testing positive for EPO.

Madonna del Ghisallo Chapel Inside

In the evening sunshine outside the chapel, I met an Italian cyclist – still riding in lycra into his seventies, on an afternoon jaunt from Milan. I still remember the swooping descent to my evening port of Lecco.

Last night, espresso revived, we climbed out of Auney in the dark. Ricky’s friend Pierre’s light met us at the top of the hill, and guided us back to his Calvados farmhouse in Vacogues-Neuilly. Our patron has entertained us royally on our rest day.

Nous arrivons à Paris

(This blog delayed by a busy 24 hours in Paris, then return travel to the Bristol Climate March)

We rode into central Paris in sunshine on Thursday afternoon. The French climate had been kinder to us since the weekend, and Thursday morning dawned brighter than any that welcomed us into Brittany and Normandy.

Françoise and Laurence, our hosts in rural Senneville, a mere 60 km from the centre Paris, had fed us well the night before. Françoise even filmed our departure and rode the first kilometre with us.

20151126 Eiffel Tower Landscape Med

The Paris that we found was getting on with life with all of the insouciance that we would have expected, regardless of the criminal actions of a few bearing guns two weeks before. Barack Obama has today saluted the UN COP21 climate talks as “an act of defiance” – the Parisiens with whom we four British cyclists shared a Metro carriage, on the way to a (most) welcome dinner with SW Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, would not have had it any other way.

Friday morning brought the European Parliament Greens / European Free Alliance (EFA) group pre-COP21 seminar, in the Tara Ocean and Climate Pavilion:

  • Rebecca Harms, Greens/EFA President, spoke of her grounded optimism in COP21’s bottom-up approach;
  • Romain Troublé, Co-ordinator of Tara Expeditions, gave an overview of the #OceanForClimate campaign at COP21.
  • Molly Scott Cato argued that public money creation must lead the way if we are to conquer climate change, as part of an expert debate on climate finance that included:
    • Monica Araya of Cost Rica stating that “We need to switch narrative to co-operation & collaboration, and not apologise for it”, and identifying “the biggest and most difficult question” as “how to unplug dirty energy projects” – George Osborne really should have been there!
    • Alix Mazounie of France saying that France, like many richer countries, needs to increase the political will, and focus more on funding adaptation to climate change.
    • Claude Turmes of Luxembourg advocating de-risking energy finance via IRENA to shift solar power from where the money is, to where the sun is.
    • Isabelle Lövin, Swedish Minister for International Development and Co-operation, warning negotiators not to let “the usual suspects” of vested interests make ‘best’ the enemy of the common good at COP21.
  • In a discussion of possible outcomes and communication, Asad Rehman of FoE identified the strategic challenge as democratic: recognising that people do not currently have enough power to deliver the positive change they demand – while Carole Dieschbourg, Luxembourg’s President of EU Council of Ministers for the Environment, summed up the EU position with “we must raise our ambition – be courageous and take responsibility”.
  • A concluding interview with Polish journalist Karolina Zbytniewska highlighed why we all need the EU if we are to conquer climate change, saying that the Polish Government “thinks its national treasure is coal”, but the positive future lays in the Polish diaspora wanting to feel included in the international debate. The Guardian’s Fiona Harvey had sent apologies at the last minute, when she secured an interview with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

20151127 Stand Up for Climate

The hardest thing was leaving Paris, not just because I had been reminded how much I love the city, but also because our train to Caen was an hour late – meaning that Roger & I almost missed the ferry back to Portsmouth.

Sunday’s Climate March in Bristol was universally good humoured, if a little damp.

20151129 Bristol Climate March Molly Tony Guy Med

At least we had been able to march to encourage the COP21 negotiators. In Paris itself, the local anarchists were always likely to defy any ban, and seek confrontation with the riot police – but the people of Paris won the day in coming up with the defining image…

…10,000 empty shoes, including those of Ban Ki-moon and the Pope, shining a beacon for democracy across the globe, and forward for future generations, who depend on a positive outcome from Paris over the next two weeks. We can only hope that they all receive the hope that they so richly deserve.

20151129 Paris Shoes Dawn





Completing the Circle

The conclusion of the COP21 climate talks were on my mind yesterday, as I travelled to Truro and read updates from Paris on the train.

Fellow cyclist, Euan McPhee and I were ‘completing the circle’ by handing a copy of the Carbon Logic Report 2015 to Labour MEP Clare Moody outside Truro Cathedral, where the Climate Vision Footsteps to Copenhagen 2009 project, and our ride, began. Continue reading Completing the Circle