As evening venues go, a bench on an old viaduct more usually frequented by teenagers probably wouldn’t have been my first guess at where my first post-lockdown after-dark outing would take place. But if I’ve learned nothing else over the past 9 years, it’s that Pedal on Parliament will take me to some strange places doing stranger things. With that in mind, the fact that I spent the evening of the first occasion in Scotland when we could go further than our local area and meet people from more than one household by cycling down to Bigtown with my bike bags packed with some carefully cut cardboard boxes and all the bike lights I could lay my hands on, makes perfect sense.

Stencil light boxes

Obviously,* we haven’t been able to run a mass ride on the Scottish Parliament this year, but as it’s an election year, we knew we had to do something to tell our candidates that they needed to start taking active travel seriously as part of the solution to the climate crisis. So POP this year has taken the form of light-based actions – from lit up window displays to laser projections.

Putting fairy lights on Kirkpatrick McMillan statue

Here in our little corner of southwest Scotland we wanted to do something that would be clearly local, but get the national message across. And fortunately, one of our local legends offered just the opportunity. Add in some fairy lights, some home-made light boxes and a bit of fancy footwork with a few torches and we reckoned we could stage something that would get our message across next weekend

But first, we needed to fine-tune our setup and get some practice in. Which is why I spent a very enjoyable if slightly chilly evening (once darkness had finally fallen – thank goodness POP isn’t in June) mucking around with torches, cameras and a couple of like minded souls – to the faint bemusement of any passing yoof (sadly, none of their bikes had lights or we’d have roped them in).

And then I had the joy of cycling home in the dark for the first time in I don’t know how long.** It might not be the trip to the pub or the cultural outing most people have have been pining for … but actually it will do me just fine.

Dusk falling over river

* I say ‘obviously’ but someone saw the POP poster on my bike last weekend and asked me if I was taking the train up to Edinburgh for POP next weekend. A sentence that would have made perfect sense in 2019 but sounds like a bizarre futuristic fantasy in 2021.

** Long enough that, naturally, my back light suddenly turned out to be not working when I finally needed it. Because whatever else may have been suspended during the pandemic, Sod’s Law isn’t one of them.

light box saying 'machine'

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