This week, I had the opportunity to attend the Cycling Scotland Conference 2023. This years’ theme was “Cycling towards a healthier, fairer, safer and greener Scotland”. At first glance this is a lot of adjectives to cover in one day. However, underlying these words is a focus in active mobility – people. Curious to see where these words may overlap, I’m excited to share with you an overview of the day.
The day was hosted by reporter Catriona Stewart and packed with three keynote speakers and a breakout session.
Professor and Chair of public health at the University of Edinburgh, Devi Sridhar, presented health risks and resolutions from across the world. By pulling parallels, for example, between deaths connected to air pollution in Delhi and London she emphasised that active travel and safer streets are part of a global agenda. In exemplar countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden, she argues there is opportunity to learn but equally an obligation to act now.
MSP Patrick Harvie, co-leader of Scottish Greens and Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenant’s Rights focused more on the momentum of progress. Alongside listing infrastructure developments such as the new route being built between Dundee to Broughty Ferry, Patrick Harvie also shared an appreciation towards community-led projects such as new paths developed by Lanark Community Development Trust. In high spirits, however, he urged for a continued consideration to accessibility to ensure everyone feels the freedom of active mobility. He stands determined to maintain political commitment through sustained funding to support change.
Sally Thomas, Chief Executive at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), emphasised the importance of partnerships. It’s “not only about getting people to travel but giving people a place to travel to”. Sally Thomas highlighted the affordability of cycling which can enable access to education, jobs, markets, and community activities. Safe bike storage and maintenance projects as well as developing calm and safe spaces outdoors with benches and community gardens are all ways people are encouraged to go outside.
In breakout sessions, representatives from City councils, organisations and educational institutions further discussed ‘Road Safety, including infrastructure’, ‘Access to bikes and storage’ and ‘Training’. Discussions reiterated the importance of integrating cycling into everyday life.
It was exciting and inspiring to end the conference with videos from individuals and organisations awarded with Cycling Champion of the Year.
There is momentum towards a ‘healthier, fairer, safer and greener Scotland’. I look forward to the opportunity within my Master of Research at the University of Strathclyde to better understand road users through a mix of research material, policy, and practice. As Professor Devi Sridhar highlighted, the number of people cycling in the Netherlands used to be the same as in the UK but a parental movement in the 1960s, focussed on road safety, largely inspired the Dutch cycling culture it has today. Similar to the movement in the Netherlands, the Active Mobility Hub in Strathclyde University are working closely alongside Shawlands Bike Bus. There are indications which signpost increasing active mobility in Scotland. If you have thoughts or views on any of this, please comment on this blog.
More information about the conference can be found here.