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A Meaningful Ride

Helen Clifton discovers a bike ride that should be more than blast

Published on May 29th 2009.

A Meaningful Ride

Charity bike rides – some might say a very attractive way to give, especially when taking place in some sun-kissed exotic location.

Perhaps the true test would be to take the challenge along a less glamorous location. The Manchester Ship Canal, for example.

And this Sunday, more than a thousand cyclists are proving their compassionate credentials with a 38-mile bike ride along the waterway to Liverpool. It’s all in aid of the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), a Nobel Peace Prize-winning international charity. Based on Sackville Street in the city centre, MAG is one of the only large humanitarian groups in the UK to be located outside London.

As such, Events Officer Lesley Achim says, it’s crucial that Mancunians support the event.“We have done bike events in previous years, but we wanted a prescription event for Manchester. All our usual events took place over ten days,” she says. “It is looking like we are heading for 1,200 cyclists now. We are absolutely thrilled with the response.

“It is really important for us. We want people to know who we are. The problem may not be directly related to anyone here, but it is a major problem and a major cause of poverty worldwide. Just for people to know about the issues – that is half the battle for us.”

MAG was set up 20 years ago in a caravan in the Lake District, and now employs 50 people. They work to clear the remains of conflict in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Cambodia, and help those left dealing with the often heart-breaking consequences of unexploded landmines.Princess Diana was famously a passionate supporter, and in 1997 MAG were co-laureates of the Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to an international ban on anti-personnel landmines.Lesley says the event hopes to raise around £60,000 – but is it about raising cash or all-important awareness?

“Both” says Lesley. “It’s a big deal for MAG. People don’t know who we are, even though we are one of the biggest humanitarian organisations in Manchester.”The ride starts in Salford Quays and follows the canal along the Trans-Pennine Trail through Warrington and Widnes, finishing at Liverpool’s Otterspool Park.

Designed by Bike Events, the route takes cyclists along Penny Lane before arriving at the finishing line. The ride is designed to be traffic-free and suitable for families, and all cyclists over eight years of age are welcome. The cyclist who raises the most sponsorship by the end of June will win a brand new bike, donated by the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative. And there is still plenty of space - last-minute entrants simply need to turn up on the day.

Lesley says any cash raised will be spent on areas with the greatest need.“The money is unrestricted money, which means that we can spend it on whatever we need to. It will help plug the gap between funds from major donors, which means that we can respond to emergency situations.

She adds there is scope for the event to become a permanent fixture in the city’s calendar. And, judging by the forecast, it looks like it could be a good day out.“It would be lovely if it sunny,” says Lesley. ‘But we’ll have to wait and see!”

Cyclists are welcome to turn up and register on the day. For more information, go to www.maginternational.org/manchestertoliverpool or call 0161 236 4311

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