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8th October 2020

Rupert Pigot: Keeping the wheels in motion

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Cycling was very important to Joanna, so much so that even during her diagnosis and treatment for lung cancer, she continued to cycle to school with her children. After her death, her husband Rupert stepped into her saddle and, whatever the weather, ensures their children cycle as much as they can.

“One of the things that really concerned Jo was the way that we just use cars so regularly for such small journeys. She was really worried about the fumes and about the impact it’s having on the planet, but also our health as well.

Cycling was always a big part of Jo’s life. Before we had kids, we lived in Edinburgh, it is a small city with lots of hills in it. It’s pointless to drive a car as often it was quicker on a bike . We used to cycle everywhere together. Jo used to ride around on her bicycle pretending it was her horse.

I remember this one day. I was meeting her in George Square, and she’d turned up on her bicycle. We chatted for a bit and then she had to go back to work. As she whizzed off a really sweet old lady came up to me and said, ‘That woman in red looked absolutely beautiful on that bicycle’. I was like ‘Yes! She’s my wife.’ It just made me the happiest I could be.

When we settled down and had our children, Jo and I were really keen to instil this love of cycling in them and especially after she was diagnosed. She really wanted for the kids to have this idea you don’t take a short journey in the car. You get on the bicycles.

School is only a mile and half away from home so, come hell or high water, they have to cycle. As always, Jo led by example and even after her diagnosis, all through treatment and right up to the very end, she continued to cycle with the kids, it made her so happy to be out in the fresh air with our children.

It was really important to Jo that she maintained our family life, our normal life, and cycling was a big part of that. To keep that kind of air or normalcy, I think helped her cope with it all. She wanted to give to her children, to myself and her family and friends as well, that you don’t stop for this disease; you keep on going and that is how you fight it.

Throughout her diagnosis, Jo worked with Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to raise awareness about lung cancer. She wanted to prevent what was happening to us from happening to other people. I think cycling helped with that too. She was doing her bit to reduce the risk for others.

The school have been very supportive and encourage families to walk or cycle to school. In fact, getting more pupils into active travel is one of their key aims.

My pair have been so good at encouraging their friends not to take the car too. Charlotte was her year’s representative on the school Eco committee and made increasing cycling one of the school’s aims, so it’s safe to say Jo’s ethos is very much still alive.

Since Jo’s death, I have continued to do the school run on the bikes – in all weather. We have winter lights and appropriate high vis vests. The cars around the school drop off can be a challenge but the kids are really mindful. They give proper hand signals and are courteous.

It’s been a challenge because, after I’ve dropped them off, I have about eight minutes to catch up train to work. It’s a mad dash but it’s worth it, because it’s what Jo would have done.”