Glasgow showcases the power of the bike

1 September 2023

This article was co-written by Joe Brady, Policy Officer at the Glasgow City Council, and Eurocities’ Daniela Berretta. 

Do artistic cycling, gran fondo, mountain biking, or cross-country marathon say anything to you?

They’re some of the disciplines featured in this year’s Cycling World Championship that took Glasgow by a storm in early August.

The adrenaline filled 11-day event marked an important milestone for the municipality as it continues to establish itself as as one of Europe’s most bike-friendly locations.

In recent years, cycling uptake has grown substantially in Glasgow, boosted by the city’s efforts: a £42 million (€49 million) investment as well as the launch of the 2016 Strategic Plan for Cycling that aimed to establish cycling as the largest local participation activity by 2020.

For the municipality, fostering a modal shift from cars to bikes is a logical response to the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, with the latter highlighting the need to give the streets back to people.

Cyclists near the Doulton fountain in Glasgow. The picture was taken during the Cycling World Championship in Glasgow
Cyclists near the Doulton fountain in Glasgow during the Cycling World Championship. Photo by: City of Glasgow

Today, Glasgow boasts 415,8 kilometres of cycling paths, with plans for an expansion. Local leaders aim to extend the City Network – the municipality’s biking infrastructure – with further 270 kilometres of safer infrastructure over the next five years thanks to an expected £100 million (€116 million) investment.

The enlargement will enable inhabitants to travel anywhere in town by bike in 30 minutes and eventually achieve an overarching goal: ensuring that no one lives more than 800 metres from a safer route by 2030, and that schools are located no more than 400 metres from the City Network.

A vehicle for inclusion

The Cycling World Championship marked a dual accomplishment for the Scottish municipality, which was already awarded the 2023 European Capital of Sport accolade. The cycling competition, one of the most high-profile of its kind, was a hit for the 500,000 people who flocked to Glasgow to cheer their sporting idols as they faced each other on the saddle.

Local politicians highlighted how the 3-13 August event showcased the transformative influence of this old yet new sport cum mode of transport. “For Glasgow, the last eleven days have demonstrated that The Power of the Bike is making an already great city more vibrant and healthier; accessible, active and connected,” remarked Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council.

Glasgow Councillor, Bailie Annette Christie, with two young girls cyclists
Glasgow Councillor, Bailie Annette Christie, with two young cyclists. Photo by: City of Glasgow

For  others, the success of the Cycling World Championship will serve as a catalyst to drive local action and aspirations in the future: “The remarkable feats of the elite athletes really are inspirational, and we need to build on the feel-good-factor from the championships by continuing efforts to make cycling an everyday, realistic option for travel and leisure even after the world-class competition ends,” said  Councillor Angus Millar, City Convener for  Climate, Glasgow Green Deal, Transport and City Centre Recovery.

Glasgow is indeed determined to continue its journey to promote bicycle use for a variety of urban activities, from commuting to leisure, from tourism to sport, local officials say.

A chief priority for the city hall is to also make cycling inclusive and enable everyone to hop on the saddle, regardless of their social and economic situation. This goal enjoys the support of grassroots initiatives like the Go Cycle Glasgow Fund which helps community groups to create cycling projects that tackle inequalities, are accessible and sustainable.

Cyclists in Glasgow
Cyclists in Glasgow. Courtesy: Dig BMX magazine

Inclusion also frames the vision of the municipality’s newest scheme, Glasgow’s Cycling and Urban Sports Strategy. Launched in June 2023, the plan aims to “create a vibrant city where cycling and wheeled urban sports are accessible, inclusive, safe and attractive to all regardless of gender or background”. The project will rely on peer mentors, role models, and volunteers as well as on new cycling lanes and dedicated events with schools and the local community.

“There is a multitude of benefits from cycling, so many reasons to give it a go, be it improving health and wellbeing, financial, or to help the environment… the beauty of cycling is that the bike offers something for everyone, regardless of age, ability, or aspiration,” said Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life/ Glasgow City Convener for Culture, Sport & International Relations, who also serves as Chair of the Eurocities Social Affairs Forum.


Daniela Berretta Eurocities Writer