Jo Cox's parents praise 'wonderful' organisers of annual bike ride in memory of the former Batley and Spen MP

The parents of Jo Cox have praised the volunteers who help to stage the annual bike ride in her memory and continue the legacy of the former Batley and Spen MP.

The Jo Cox Way, a 288-mile route from Cleckheaton to Westminster, was started in 2016 by North Yorkshire businessman and keen cyclist Sarfraz Mian BEM.

Sarfraz, who is riding the full route this year, said: “We are in changing times and this message that she [Jo] had is a message for all time, this message that we do have more in common.

“If we look around the range of people that we have here, they actually celebrate the diversity that we have got in the UK and the fact that actually when communities work together they can achieve so much.

Pictured from the left are Irfan Mohamed, Clare Black, Kim Leadbeater MP and Sarfraz Mian

“It is an incredible turnout, lot’s of work has gone into it.

“We have riders who are undertaking the full route who have come from across the whole of the UK and we have got lots of local people who have turned out today and who will be riding with us to support us for the initial part of the ride.

“The incredible thing that happens is that we have people who don’t really know each other and over the five days some wonderful friendships are made and as we pass through the country we see some lovely areas and meet some wonderful people - it is fabulous to make that connection.”

The Jo Cox Way is a fully volunteer-led campaign to highlight the work and values of the former Batley and Spen MP and the legacy work that continues in her name.

Riders on the start line

The cycle challenge will raise funds for the work of the Jo Cox Foundation and the More in Common Network, which strives to tackle loneliness, social isolation and encourages social action in communities.

Jo’s parents, Jean and Gordon Leadbeater, said: “We think about Jo and talk about Jo every day, which is vitally important but things like this highlight the effect that her principles have had on the community.

“The fact that the numbers are growing in terms of age, ethnicity and sex is perfect. It does really remind us very much of Jo’s principles.

“Every year we love waving them off and then we love welcoming them in London, but we do cheat in the middle bit and go on a train. That is part of the enjoyment and enjoyment is what it is all about as well.

“We can’t thank enough the organisers and the sponsors, without whom we couldn't do it, and of course Sarfraz, a wonderful man who brought it all together in the first place.”

Kim Leadbeater, current MP for Batley and Spen and Jo’s sister, said: “It has grown year on year and has gone from strength to strength.

“We are so lucky that since Jo was killed so many people have done things to remember her and to remember the values that she lived her life by.

“What it shows is that people, despite the negative stuff that goes on in the world and in the country, genuinely want an opportunity to come together and do something positive.

“It is a really special event for us as a family but as a community as well.

“What is really lovely about this year is that we have the highest number of riders. The sense of camaraderie is huge and seven rides down the line it is wonderful that people still want to do things like this.

“This year I am doing the first little bit - probably about the first 10 miles - then I am going to be in one of the vans giving out the much needed flapjacks, bananas and hugs where appropriate, to make sure we get every single cyclist to London.

“I am incredibly grateful to so many people because this event is organised totally by volunteers - no one gets paid a penny for doing any of this. Without them it wouldn't happen.”

The bike ride sees cyclists from all levels of ability take on the challenge from beginners to experienced cyclists, who are all fully supported on the journey.

Yasin Lorgat, from Batley, is embarking on his second Jo Cox Way Bike Ride. He said: “I am looking forward to it and I am excited to meet old and new friends along the way.

“It is all about having more in common with people and having that more in common attitude by coming together and promoting cohesion, working with people with the same goal and achieving that.

“It is not going to be an easy ride, it never is.

“It is about coming together with people and raising awareness about what happened in Batley and Spen and continuing that legacy for Jo.”

First time rider from Thornhill Lees, Hanif Rehman, said: “The cause of the Jo Cox Way in terms of ambitions, values and ethos really resonated with me in terms of having people of all walks of life, gender, background and demographics coming together

“It’s going to put me out of my comfort zone by engaging with other people, because primarily I work from home. This is something very different, but let's give it a go and see where we end up.”

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Record number of cyclists set off on the Jo Cox Way Bike Ride to Westminster