Cycling Scotland Conference 2023 highlights
1 December 2023
More than 250 delegates and speakers joined us for the Cycling Scotland Conference, held this year at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh.
Exploring the theme of “Cycling towards a healthier, fairer, safer and greener Scotland”, this year’s conference brought together professionals from the active travel sector, campaigners, local authorities, frontline delivery organisations, civil servants, politicians, and volunteers across Scotland for a day of networking and knowledge sharing.
Edinburgh City Council assisted with guided walks to the venue from Waverley Station, giving delegates a chance to connect with contacts old and new on the way to the conference.
Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health at The University of Edinburgh opened the day as our first keynote. Prof. Sridhar shared how interventions to support increased physical activity in daily life in cities around the world, including by supporting everyday cycling, have led to significant health benefits for people of all age groups: reducing incidence of chronic disease, tackling respiratory conditions, and promoting better mental health.
The ministerial address was delivered by Scottish Government Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenant’s Rights, Patrick Harvie MSP. The Minister highlighted the need for sustained efforts to make everyday cycling more inclusive for people across Scotland, emphasising the need for persistent commitment, sustained funding and continued change across the whole transport system.
Delegates had the opportunity to ask questions of the Minister, including about how we can ensure young people are involved in the conversation around active travel, on the importance of continued funding for development and maintenance of cycling infrastructure, and what steps we need to take to remove barriers to cycling.
Sally Thomas, Chief Executive of Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, discussed the work being done to increase access to secure cycle storage for residents at housing associations across Scotland. Citing success such as Highland Housing Association in Shetland, where hundreds of residents now have somewhere safe to store their bikes, Sally remarked on the importance of this work in ensuring people have a range of travel choices: “The more people we can encourage and support people to walk and cycle, including using wheelchairs, mobility scooters, cycle sharing, other physically active means, the more we can reduce poverty, improve health and tackle climate change”.
In the afternoon, the conference broke into three sessions where delegates had the chance to join speakers exploring key issues around creating a safer, easier and more accessible environment for cycling:
Road safety, including infrastructure:
- Becca Thomas (New Practice)
- Daisy Narayanan (City of Edinburgh Council)
- Simon Bradshaw (Cycling Scotland)
Access to bikes & storage
- Kate Spalding (Fife Council)
- Matthew McLachlan (Edinburgh High School)
- Russell Pepper (Dundee City Council)
- Gordon Smith (Scottish Borders Council) and David Collins (Cycling Scotland)
- Katherine Cory (University of Strathclyde / Shawlands Bike Bus)
- Madhavi Apparala (ScoreScotland)
Cycling Scotland’s twentieth anniversary
Cycling Scotland Chief Executive Keith Irving shared snapshots from cycling over the last twenty years including new safe cycling infrastructure, increased access to bikes, cycle parking and storage, and record-breaking delivery of Bikeability Scotland national cycle training in schools across Scotland.
Cycling Champion of the Year awards
The day also saw the announcement of the winners of the Cycling Champion of the Year awards 2023, presented jointly by Cycling Scotland, Cycling UK, Scottish Cycling, and Sustrans Scotland.
A lunchtime bike ride was facilitated by The Bike Station, with delegates getting fresh air and a chance to cycle in the area, including on new separated on-street cycle paths connecting to the Innocent Railway Tunnel.
The conference was wrapped up with a summary from our chair, Catriona Stewart, writer at The Herald, who provided a thanks to all contributors and attendees. We look forward to welcoming delegates to future conferences.