The Jo Cox Way bike ride in memory of the murdered Batley & Spen MP is celebrating its fifth anniversary, as more than 70 mixed-ability cyclists left West Yorkshire on Wednesday morning (28 July) to start a gruelling five-day, 280-mile journey to London.
After staging only a virtual event last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team are flying the flag for community spirit and supporting causes that were important to Jo.
Joining the cyclists for the entire route is Jo Cox's sister, Kim Leadbeater, MBE, who has just won the Batley & Spen seat herself in a by-election.
The ride will finish at Flat Iron Square, Southwark, on Sunday 1 August following overnight stops in Buxton, Derbyshire, Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, and Uxbridge, Middlesex.
Kim, who was included in the Queen's New Year's Honours List for her services to social cohesion and loneliness, said: "I am delighted and extremely excited that the Jo Cox Way ride is back, providing a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages and different backgrounds to connect and engage with one another.
"The past 12 months has been incredibly challenging for us all, as so many people have been affected by lockdown and physical distancing.
"But it is amazing to see that, despite all the difficulties, many people's commitment to making a difference has only grown stronger, with cyclists joining together for a reinvigorated ride to celebrate the fact that we have 'far more in common than that which divides us' - words from Jo's maiden speech in Parliament."
The wheels on this pedal-powered initiative were set in motion in 2016 by North Yorkshire business executive and keen cyclist Sarfraz Mian, BEM. "This year's ride is going to play an important role in helping to establish a new normal for us all," he said. "Individuals taking part will form lasting friendships through this shared experience and we will celebrate community in the towns and villages we ride through and do our bit to bring business to local hotels, shops, cafés and pubs as we wend our way through the countryside."
"I never actually met Jo, but her belief in creating a fairer, kinder world for everyone really touched me and spurred me on to develop the Jo Cox Way so that I and my fellow cyclists can help continue her work and celebrate her big heart, generosity of spirit and commitment to bring about change."
This year, organisers are also running a virtual ride to allow people from all over the world to participate by getting on their bikes and pledging miles. "We introduced this model last year, when Covid brought a halt to our original plans, and couldn't believe just how successful it was," explained Kim.
"We set a target of 25,000 miles - the distance required to circumnavigate the globe - and were astounded to see this smashed by families, community groups, friends and individuals who clocked up a staggering 30,267 miles between them.
"Cyclists loved taking part and really rose to the challenge, so the virtual ride is back by popular demand - and this time we are aiming to cycle twice around the world, a total of 50,000 miles! Anyone can join in by doing a short family ride or taking on their own personal physical challenge."