Our world has changed. Over the last few months, we’ve all been asked to stay local, to shop locally, to exercise locally, to check on our neighbours, and not to prioritise our individual wants and needs over the collective needs of our society.
Initially anxiety levels and loneliness went through the roof but little by little, we’ve adjusted. We’ve paused longer on street corners to hold conversations with strangers. We’ve understood what a powerful mood regulator being outdoors and active can be. We’ve learned to make do when our cupboards run low, and we’ve improvised resourceful DIY fixes instead of immediately calling tradespeople into our homes.
For me, it’s meant time to consider what I value the most. With my calendar wiped clean, I’ve had to sit with the discomfort of feeling like I have nothing to do, no purpose or direction. It took a few days but eventually I yielded to this slower pace of life and as I did so, my world blossomed like spring.
I realised that I move around too much; that by always travelling to other places I don’t leave myself any time to appreciate where I am now.
Lately, when I’ve needed to go somewhere (to the shops, or out for a run or a ride), I’ve really enjoyed moving through our cleaner, quieter streets or exploring tantalising singletracks in local woodland that has helped me map my neighbourhood in ways I would never have chosen to do previously.
I’ve marvelled at the numbers of people out there doing the same. I’ve seen whole families on scooters and one very elderly woman on a flash cross country mountain bike that looked like it had come straight off the race circuit!
I’ve witnessed spring springing in the most vital, almost absurd way. Was birdsong always that loud? Does cherry blossom usually fill a persons nose from other side of the street?
I’ve also loved being part of a team of volunteers and support workers who have rallied together to distribute food to the people who need it the most right now. This crisis has disproportionately affected those of us who already have less; single parents, young people, our homeless community.
So, with two cargo bikes in my household and four strong legs between us, my partner and I have made our own tiny attempt at readdressing this injustice. Most nights we’ve peddled off to pick up charitable donations from supermarkets (60kg of bananas here, eight geese there, more bread than you could fill a skip with) and distributed it all to homeless hostels and emergency shelters across Edinburgh.
This has brought us so much personal joy and satisfaction, that we have now volunteered to help meet the demand for fresh grocery delivery in the city. With supermarkets and delivery drivers maxed out and our roads and high streets sitting deserted, it seemed the perfect opportunity to showcase what cargo bikes can do by delivering fruit and veg for small, independent traders.
I’d suspected it before but now I know first hand, that the way we move ourselves, our children and our goods around our towns and cities can be done differently and in a way that benefits everyone.
It has never been more obvious than now just how linked together we all are. We’ve seen how a virus can spread from person to person, but we’ve also seen how care for one another can spread in the same way.
So now, as restrictions begin to lift and the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People Fund looks set to facilitate the widening of pavements and the segregation of cycling networks, we all have a choice to make. Now is the time to try a healthier, fairer, safer way to get around.
A Call To Action
Blog post by Scotland’s very own Active Nation Commissioner, Lee Craigie.
All photo credit goes to James Robertson.
Interested in Lee and her role? Watch her speak candidly and passionately on keeping active.