Like everyone else, things are strange for the PoP organising team right now – normally we’d be flat out busy in the run up to PoP, instead we find ourselves in limbo. In this guest post, one of the founding organisers, Sally Hinchcliffe, pauses to consider what we’ve learned -and what might happen next.

We have learned that when we are confronted with a global crisis, we can do extraordinary things – collectively and individually.

We have learned that our supply chains are fragile and that the people we need the most are among the lowest paid.

We have learned that we can change everything, from the way we work to the way we shop in a matter of days.

We have learned that when the chips are down, more people will choose to help others than we might have thought.

We have learned that we can teach our parents and grandparents to video conference.

We have learned that when the population as a whole each does one small thing at the same time then the collective results are enormous – whether that’s buying extra toilet paper, or washing our hands.

We have learned that when people are restricted to taking exercise once a day, they will walk and cycle as never before with families especially taking to their bikes as if it were the Netherlands.

We have learned that our streets are much wider than we think, once we take most of the cars away.

We have learned to slow down.

We have learned that birds sing, even in our cities.

We have learned that the sky is blue.

Deserted Princes Street
Princes Street deserted – photo by Iain Jack

What does this have to do with cycling? It has everything to do with it and nothing to do with it.

Apart from those on the front line of dealing with this global pandemic, here we are in the middle of a national time out. Many of us are at home, worried about our livelihoods, worried about our families, worried about ourselves – but also finding the space to reflect, and to ponder how we might come out of this to a different and better normal, one that reflects these lessons we have learned.

It might take a global crisis to mobilise our efforts in the extraordinary ways that we are witnessing right now – but we have learned that we should no longer be limited by what we believe is possible just because it has always been that way. As we emerge from lockdown and turn to the task of rebuilding our economy we need to be bold.

So if we have learned anything, it is that we should not accept simply returning to business as usual – to towns and cities where the car is king, and where walking and cycling have returned to the margins. But this won’t just happen on its own – we will have to keep fighting for it just as we have done for years. But now we will be armed with the powerful new knowledge that we can change, and far far more radically than we might ever have believed.

Learning the Lessons of COVID-19