“Book Pedaller” brings books by Bike during COVID-19

When the first wave of Coronavirus restrictions hit in March this year, Rev’d Angela Lorrigan got to pedalling books. Literally.

Whilst she loves riding her bike around Bendigo, it was also a practical way for her to connect and serve the community of St Pauls’ Anglican Church, where she is volunteer Minister. “Oh, I’m all about practical. I love practical,” explains Angela, who is also a geologist.

“Back in March, when the Bendigo library closed quite suddenly, people – especially older people – were quite shocked that they couldn’t get books,” she says. “Many of these people aren’t comfortable or able to order books online or read ebooks.”

“We put a call out to see if anyone would donate books to an informal ‘Lockdown Library’ and people were very generous: over 500 books arrived in a hurry!”

After quickly cataloguing the books by author surname, Angela circulated the book list to the St Paul’s community to find out who wanted to borrow which books. Each week, she’d then load up her panniers with books and cycle around the city, dropping off and collecting books along the way.

“I live out Junortoun way and so the furthest I’ve ridden with the books is out to Maiden Gully and I regularly ride to Epsom and Kangaroo Flat,” Angela explains. “I know it’s not a long way for people who ride with the road bike bunches every weekend, but with 14 kg of books in the panniers, a 30km return trip makes for a good ride.”

Angela has also found herself riding up streets and lanes she never knew existed and exploring different parts of Bendigo. As a geologist, she also finds riding through new parts of town a great way for her to observe our local environment. “There’s a lot of building underway at the moment in Bendigo. With some of the extractions, we’re seeing rock structures we’ve never seen before.”

Affectionately known as ‘The Book Pedaller’, Angela has benefited from more than just the physical experience of cycling. She believes it’s been a good part of the church’s ministry to engage those who she describes as ‘electronically isolated’.

Standing on the doorsteps of elderly people’s homes, Angela has heard some amazing stories as they compare life during the coronavirus pandemic today with their experiences during the World Wars.

“They would tell me how they were running into air raid shelters all the time and didn’t know when the war would end,” she says. “It’s been so nice to be exchanging both spoken and written stories during this time, albeit at a social distance.”

And the most popular books during COVID? “Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas,” Angela replies quickly, “followed by Scottish crime writer, Val McDermid.” Not surprisingly, fiction has been much more popular than non-fiction, too: “People have been seeking an escape.”

As Bendigo resettles into life under Stage 3 restrictions once again, the ‘Lockdown Library’ has restarted and Angela is looking forward to getting back on the bike: “I’ve just got to watch out for the magpies now!” she says.

Nigel Preston