Two cyclists broke the world record for the largest GPS drawing ever created, spelling out ‘Refugees Welcome’ to raise funds for a charity welcoming in refugees.
Georgie, from Glasgow, and David, from Bournemouth, are part of a community of cyclists called Thighs Of Steel, who have raised over a quarter of a million pounds for grassroots refugee projects by cycling thousands of miles from London to Athens every summer since 2015.
However, this year was different.
The new Nationality and Borders Bill currently being discussed in parliament sparked Georgie and David into gear as they began the ride on 17 August in St Austell, Cornwall, and were joined by more than 50 other fundraising cyclists across their month-long trek.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, a politician with the ruling right-wing Conservatives who supported Brexit, and the driving force behind the bill, claims the reforms are aimed at fixing the UK’s “broken” asylum system.
The bill would mean that anyone entering the UK by an illegal route, such as by a small boat across the Channel, could have their claim ruled as inadmissible, receive a jail sentence of up to four years, have no recourse to public funds and their family members barred from joining them.
“Our ride was partly in reaction to Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill which is in direct opposition to the 1951 Geneva Convention. And to show how we really do not agree with this, we decided to campaign against it and send a message through what we do best – cycling!”
“So the cycle art came as a natural idea.”
Thighs of Steel co-founders, Harri Symes and Oli Kasteel-Hare, devised the idea of spelling out the words while Georgie planned the route for the challenge across Southern England using navigational app, Komoot.
According to the 27-year-old organiser, the south of England was the most obvious place to plan the ride because Dover is the port of entry for many refugees.
“The route sends a very profound message of compassion and the letters fit nicely,” she said.
“You can never really anticipate what the ride will be like until you’re on the road and Dorset and Cornwall were much more hilly than we expected.”
Georgie also works as a project worker for Safe in Scotland, where she has lived for six years, to provide accommodation and support for people experiencing asylum-related destitution.
In a statement last month, UNHCR warned the Nationality and Borders Bill would “penalise most refugees seeking asylum in the country via damaging and unjustified penalties” if it comes into force.
“More awareness needs to be raised about these issues,” stated Georgie.
“It’s horrendous what the asylum seekers in the UK have to deal with. They get less than £6 a day to live on for food, clothes and all other things and that’s if they’re lucky enough to even get that minimal support.”
Having cycled more than 2,400 kilometres beating the previous Guinness World Record for the largest GPS drawing by bicycle of 761 kilometres, the most difficult part for the cycling duo was the admin work during the journey.
The strict criteria in order to be awarded the official record required the pair to fill in a witness log book every 20 kilometres to verify their presence at that time and location. In addition to this, countless photos and ten-minute long videos were to be recorded every day, then submitted.
“There’s a lot of admin behind fulfilling a world record, and it was hard managing it with the fatigue that comes with the ride in traffic, train rides and hills while carrying our backpacks,” explained Georgie.
The pair also suffered from excruciating knee pain, despite being experienced riders.
Although tiring, the duo’s efforts paid off.
On 18 September at 7pm on Dover beach in Kent, Georgie and David completed the final letter with 30 other cyclists raising close to £55,000 ($75,000).
“It was a real intense feeling at the end because we’ve gone through a whole month of constant riding and being on the go and we smashed the world record,” said Georgie.
The success of the challenge, she explained, was down to hundreds of ordinary people doing a little something to help. “Their boost of positivity made the hard days on the road much easier to cope with,” she said.
Everyone’s been so supportive and even in places we haven’t been sure they’d support our cause, they really have. It’s all about taking time to talk to people and doing what we do best to raise awareness.
“Everyone wants to do their part to help. It’s heartwarming.”