On Friday, June 9th, cyclists from all corners of Yorkshire gathered to embark on a pedal pilgrimage between the three Cathedrals of the Diocese of Leeds as part of the annual Cathedrals Cycle Relay. This remarkable event, coinciding with the 100th annual Bike Week, marked the third time the relay took place at the cathedrals, showcasing the region’s commitment to cycling and heritage.

In previous years, the relay journeyed across all 42 English Cathedrals in 2021 and 2022. However, for 2023, a series of local routes were undertaken, including a route between Carlisle, Durham, and Newcastle, as well as rides originating from Peterborough and Rochester.

The cycling enthusiasts commenced their journey from Ripon Cathedral in the morning, heading towards Bradford as the first leg of the pilgrimage. From Bradford, they continued their route to Wakefield Cathedral, completing the second leg of their remarkable journey.

The Cathedrals Cycle Route, a unique partnership between the Association of English Cathedrals and Cycling UK, with support from Sustrans, the British Pilgrimage Trust, and Northumbria University, aims to enhance the cycling infrastructure around cathedrals and promote cycling as a sustainable and eco-friendly means of travel. Each cathedral involved in the initiative has appointed a dedicated cycle champion to improve cycling facilities, offer a warm welcome to visiting cyclists, and encourage more cyclists to visit these historic landmarks.

Revd Dr. Philip Hobday, Sub-Dean at Wakefield Cathedral, expressed his delight at being part of this year’s Cathedrals Cycle Route, stating, “It’s a partnership close to our hearts at Wakefield Cathedral. As well as raising awareness of our scenic county and historic buildings, it also shows the commitment to greener living and sustainable travel which our award-winning Eco Group does so much to promote.”

Maurice Manktelow, Bradford Cathedral’s Cycle Champion, echoed the sentiment, saying, “We love having the opportunity to be at the heart of initiatives to support and connect our communities, and the Cathedrals Cycle Route is one way of doing that. It allows visitors to Bradford Cathedral to appreciate not just the beauty and sanctity of our building, but to enjoy the journey between them as well.”

The brainchild behind the Cathedrals Cycle Route is Shaun Cutler, an academic, entrepreneur, and avid cyclist from Northumbria University. Designed to help people emerge from lockdown and embrace physical and mental well-being, the initiative encourages short cycle rides between cathedrals, fosters new partnerships, and raises funds to support various activities.

Shaun Cutler expressed his vision, stating, “The Cathedrals Cycle Route is about connecting our historic cathedrals and enjoying the spaces between them. The last few years have seen a lot of change, and the Cathedrals Cycle Route is a great way to rediscover and reconnect, supporting people’s mental and physical health and promoting the mission of England’s cathedrals through pilgrimage, wellbeing, and heritage.”

Visitors to the participating cathedrals, whether arriving on foot or by bike, are welcome to obtain their Pilgrim Passport, which can be stamped and stickered as a memento of their journey. Pilgrim Passports are available for purchase in the shop, serving as a starting point for those embarking on their own Cathedral journey.

Plans are already underway for the 2024 route, promising another exciting year of cycling events. To learn more about the Cathedrals Cycle Route and future cycling events, please email events@bradfordcathedral.org. Stay tuned for more updates on this inspiring initiative that celebrates Yorkshire’s rich heritage and promotes sustainable travel.