Children’s hospital staff cycle 800km to protect people and planet
Health workers urge world leaders to act on air pollution and climate crisis
Press launch at Granary Square, London: 20 October, 2pm
Ride sets off from Great Ormond Street, London: 24 October, 8am
Award-winning artwork Pollution Pods drifts north with journey
Cyclists arrive at Gartnavel Hospitals, Glasgow for COP26: 31 October, 1:30pm
On 24 October, children’s hospital staff and health sector leaders 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 45 million health professionals, and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health. Both spell out the many and inseparable links between climate and health, and call for urgent action. The documents will be handed to the riders in London to make their journey to Glasgow by Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, head of WHO’s health and climate department, who is cycling from Geneva where they were launched earlier this month.
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.
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.
Riders - including health leaders - will be available for interview at the press launch on 20 October in Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, alongside all five pods.
During the week-long ride they will stop - with a single pod - at Birmingham, Sheffield and Newcastle to highlight the effect on health of air pollution and climate change. On the final Glasgow stretch, the riders will be joined by staff and students from Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Health & Life Sciences. Riders and the five pods will arrive in Glasgow on 31 October as COP26 begins, where they will call on world leaders to make air pollution a priority in climate action and sustainable development.
The concept for Ride for their Lives was initiated by Vincent Lee of GOSH. It quickly gained momentum with paediatric healthcare practitioners and other children's hospital staff throughout the UK, who believe it is part of their responsibility to protect people and the planet. The dedicated riders are self-funding their participation in Ride for their Lives, and are now inspiring worldwide support.
More than a thousand people around the world have already joined the ride remotely, from countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Malaysia, South Africa, Switzerland, USA and all around the UK - with more people signing up on a daily basis. They are pledging the distance they cycle during October in support of Ride for their Lives. The goal is to reach a million km by 31 October, with more than 100,000km cycled so far.
A statement by the cyclists, said: “The journey will be long and arduous, but it will act as an inspiration for the journey our species now has to take. Those who protect our children's health now are riding to offer hope for our children's future. They are showing us it can be done.”
Cyclist Toby Hancock, vice-chair of GOSH Young People’s Forum, 18, said:“My message for world leaders at COP26 is this - don’t just say you’re going to take the urgency on board and then six months down the line, a year down the line, we’re in exactly the same place we are in now. Actually make the change.”
Cyclist Dr Tony Waterston, 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.”
Cyclist Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, said: “We need to make talking about and acting on the climate crisis a normal part of the role of healthcare professionals. They have a trusted voice and a responsibility to speak out. It is not only legitimate that they should do so, it is necessary. Air pollution is the more visible aspect of what is wrong with burning fossil fuels and there’s evidence coming through all the time of the harm it does. Sometimes climate change seems a long way away, but air pollution is with us all the time.”
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.”
Dr Paula Franklin, Bupa’s chief medical officer, said: “As a global healthcare company, we know that a healthy planet is a key foundation for a healthy global population. That’s why we are proud to support Ride for their Lives. Mobilising the healthcare community to raise awareness about the health urgency of tackling the climate crisis could be really powerful to drive change for healthy people and a healthy planet.”
The ride will also be supported by micro mobility provider Lime, which has donated an electric support van for the journey and e-bikes to riders as needed.
Hal Stevenson, Lime's public affairs manager for UK and Ireland said: "Air pollution and congestion are rife in our urban environments. We are proud to be supporting Ride for their Lives and Great Ormond Street Hospital in communicating the serious health impacts of these issues, and are committed to making UK towns and cities healthier, happier, places to live."
The NHS is already leading healthcare systems globally in responding to the climate crisis and has bold plans to be the world’s first carbon net zero health system. But this requires action from everyone. ENDS/
Notes to editors
For more information, photos, to arrange interviews with spokespeople or to be added to our journalist WhatsApp chat for updates please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, Jo: 07960 83 371 & Tom: 07740 647 023
Photos and videos can be found here - this will be updated throughout the journey
Additional quotes from cyclists can be found here
A map of the route and list of events can be found here
World map of people taking part in the virtual ride here
Pollution Pods press release here
#ridefortheirlives #pollutiondrift #COP26
Ride for their Lives Schedule
Saturday 16 October Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4BH. Pods open to the public. Full installation.
PRESS LAUNCH Weds 20 October, 2pm Granary Square. Pollution Drift/Ride for their Lives joint press launch and photocall at Granary Square. Riders and all five pods. Full installation.
1:45pm photocall for riders
2:30pm onwards, riders and press invited to experience the pollution pods.
Sunday 24 October, 8am, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Great Ormond Street, London, WC1N 3JH. Riders set off from London. No pods
Monday 25 October 3pm, Science Garden, Thinktank Science Museum, Birmingham, B4 7XG. A group of health care professionals and child patients will ride less than a mile from Birmingham Children’s hospital to join a pod for an event at the science museum. Lone Pod.
Tuesday 26 October, afternoon, Weston Park, Sheffield, S10 2TP (next to Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust). Lone Pod.
Wednesday 27 October, 10am, Weston Park, Sheffield S10 2TP. Riders only. There will be a speech by the President of the Royal College of Physician, and a children’s bike event 10-12pm with bikes to try out for those who don’t have one, a cycling trail, a cake stall, therapy dogs and much more.
Weds 27 October, 6pm, Lancaster Arts at Lancaster University, LA1 4YW. The pod will be joined by cellist, Maja Bugge and a discussion event at the Health Innovation Centre with Michael Pinksy and climate and health specialists entitled How do we breathe? Arts, Air Pollution and Health Equity. No riders, lone Pod
Thurs 28 October, 2pm Peacock Hall lawn, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP. Riders and pod. Lone Pod
MAIN EVENT Sunday 31 October, 1:30pm, Gartnavel Hospitals, Glasgow, G12 0XW
- riders and all five pods arrive for the welcome event. Staff and students from Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Health & Life Sciences will join the final leg of the ride to Gartnavel. Full installation.
Saturday 6 November, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Rd, Glasgow, G4 0BA, WHO Global Conference on Health and Climate Change. Video/speaker, plus pod. Lone Pod.
Air pollution and climate change
The causes of air pollution are often the same as the causes of the climate emergency – the majority of air pollution is from burning fossil fuels for power, transport and industry. And because the causes are largely the same, the solutions can also be the same - renewable energy, electric mobility, public transport, and more walking and cycling.
Globally, air pollution kills an estimated 7 million people a year. In the UK it causes an estimated 28,000-36,000 premature deaths a year - including that of 9-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died in 2013. She had severe asthma but her family was not warned of the risk to her life of living on a road with heavy traffic. In December 2020, after a long battle by her family, the coroner named air pollution as a cause of death, and said health professionals must do more to communicate the problem to patients.
Air pollution contributes to respiratory conditions like asthma, as well as lung cancer and heart disease. Evidence is emerging that it also contributes to dementia, low birth weight and type 2 diabetes. Increasingly it is being linked to mental illness as well as physical illness. Recently the World Health Organisation tightened its guidelines on air pollution levels, describing it as “on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking”. As with the climate emergency, kids are worst affected. They are closer to exhaust fumes, their lungs and brains are still developing, and they breathe faster.
Poorer children in urban settings are most exposed, increasing the impact of social inequalities.
Organisations supporting Ride for their Lives
Clean Air Fund: The pods are funded by the Clean Air Fund. The Clean Air Fund is a philanthropic initiative with a mission to tackle air pollution around the world. It brings together funders, researchers, policymakers and campaigners to find and scale solutions that will provide clean air for all.
Bupa: Bupa is a sponsor of the Ride for their lives.Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives and making a better world. It is an international healthcare company serving over 31 million customers worldwide. With no shareholders, Bupa reinvests profits into providing more and better healthcare for the benefit of current and future customers. It directly employs around 85,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Chile, Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, the US, Middle East and Ireland. It also has associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India. For more information, visit www.bupa.com.
Clean Air Hospital Framework: The Clean Air Hospital Framework, developed by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, gathers in one place everything a hospital can do to tackle air pollution. It covers energy generation, procurement, construction, communication with patients, and outreach/leadership.
Lime: Lime is working to create a future of transport that is shared, electric and zero-emission. It is the largest micromobility provider in the UK, having safely delivered over 4 million zero carbon rides across its service areas in London, Manchester and Milton Keynes. Lime is supporting Ride for their Lives by donating an electric support van for the journey, in addition to providing e-bikes to riders as needed.
Bikeworks : Bikeworks is a community evolved London-based social enterprise, with headquarters in the Olympic Park Velodrome, Stratford. It delivers programmes and services using the bicycle as its tool of engagement. These include six inclusive cycling hubs with a focus on Londoners with disabilities and barriers to cycling, adult and child cycle training, employment and training courses for those furthest away from the labour market, cycling for wellbeing, and Ride Side-by-Side cycling taxi service to people who are isolated or have mobility issues. Bikeworks is supporting Ride for their Lives by providing two qualified mechanics who will both ride in the event and drive an electric vehicle as technical support.
Patagonia: Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia is an outdoor apparel company based in Ventura, California. A Certified B Corporation, the company is recognized internationally for its commitment to product quality and environmental activism—and its contributions of more than $145 million in grants and in-kind donations to date.
Climate Acceptance Studios: Ride for their Lives has been brought together with the Pollution Pods by Climate Acceptance Studios (CAS). CAS brings together experts and creatives in unique projects to communicate the climate crisis. CAS also produces CPD-accredited training for professionals on the link between planetary and human health, combining creative and expert voices to explore the challenge of accepting this growing threat and taking action. CAS’s first webinar series, Every Breath Matters, is on air pollution.
Organisations supporting Pollution Drift
Information about Pollution Drift
Michael Pinsky is a British artist whose international projects have created innovative and challenging works in galleries and public spaces. He has undertaken many residencies that explore issues which shape and influence the use of our public realm. Taking the combined roles of artist, urban planner, activist, researcher, and resident, he starts residencies and commissions without a specified agenda, working with local people and resources, allowing the physical, social and political environment to define his working methodology.
His work has been shown at: TATE Britain; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chengdu; Saatchi Gallery; Victoria and Albert Museum; Institute for Contemporary Art, London; La Villette, Paris; BALTIC, Gateshead; Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow; Modern Art Oxford, Milton Keynes Gallery, Cornerhouse, Manchester; Liverpool Biennial, Centre de Création Contemporaine, Tours; Armory Center of the Arts, Los Angeles and the Rotterdam International Architectural Biennial.
Dr Michael Pinsky graduated from the Royal College of Art. He has received awards from the RSA, Arts Council England, British Council, Arts and Business, the Wellcome Trust and his exhibition Pontis was shortlisted for the prestigious Gulbenkian Museums Award.
Two of the hardest aspects of communicating the facts of climate change are affecting both decision-making and behavioural change. Although researchers have explored visualizing climate change (Nicholson- Cole, 2005; Sheppard, 2005, 2012), research about the contribution of contemporary art to the topic has been scarce. Climart is a four-year, multi-disciplinary research project run by a team of international researchers in psychology, natural science and the arts. Launched in 2014, the research looked at the impact that emotive visual art may have on bridging the divide between scientific information and personal responsibility. This type of artwork may well be more effective not only on those who are already concerned about the issue, but on those who are not.
Pollution Pods has been generously supported by the following organisations:
Arts Council England
Build With Hubs
Clean Air Fund
International Flavors & Fragrances Ltd
Norwegian Research Council
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
The Norwegian Institute of Air Research (NILU)
University of East London
World Health Organisation.
The University of East London (UEL) School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering has a strong focus on sustainability and community, building on effective connections with the capital's businesses to provide students with practical experience and the impetus to make a positive impact locally and globally. Michael Pinsky holds a research and teaching position with the university.
At IFF (NYSE: IFF), an industry leader in food, beverage, scent, health and biosciences, science and creativity meet to create essential solutions for a better world – from global icons to unexpected innovations and experiences. With the beauty of art and the precision of science, we are an international collective of thinkers who partners with customers to bring scents, tastes, experiences, ingredients and solutions for products the world craves. Together, we will do more good for people and planet. Learn more at iff.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
IFF perfumers Nelly Hachem-Ruiz, Laura French, Avinash Mali, Dino Kong and Gabriela Maldonado, worked with Pinsky on the Pollution Pods, leveraging the art of perfumery and IFF proprietary technologies and ingredients. They used the powerful sense of smell to give visitors a visceral, sometimes unpleasant experience, to increase people's awareness of world pollution issues. Norway, London, Delhi, Beijing, Sao Paulo: each city with its own pollution issues, and pollution scents.
Build with Hubs is a start-up based in the UK. They have created 'hubs' – simple to snap together joints that make durable geodesic domes fun, easy and quick to build.
AirLabs is a leading pioneer in clean air technology. With more than 90% of the world’s population exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution, AirLabs’ mission is to deliver measuring, monitoring and cleaning solutions that provide valuable insight, enable action and clean polluted air to make it safe for people to breathe. Its international team of atmospheric chemistry scientists, airflow engineers and sensor specialists has developed cutting edge and scientifically proven solutions for use by government, business and individuals to tackle the growing problem of urban air pollution. AirLabs is headquartered in London and has its R&D labs in Copenhagen.
AirHavn Pro portable air filtration technology will be used to create the atmosphere of Tautra. This also removes airborne coronavirus, and will be deployed across the other pods to protect visitors. The drivers transporting the pods to each city will be protected on route via the installation of AirLabs’ AirBubbl devices in their vehicles, which remove more than 95% of airborne pollutants and pathogens, including coronavirus, and provides 30,000 litres of clean air per hour to keep drivers safe from airborne threats.