2 August 2023
This week sees Scotland hosting the biggest cycling event of its kind as the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships kicks off in Glasgow. While top level cyclists from 120 countries will battle to win the coveted world champion rainbow jerseys, the strapline "The Power of the Bike" is encouraging locals to get on their own bikes and enjoy the benefits it brings. For the last year the University of Strathclyde's Active Mobility Hub has been applying knowledge exchange, community action and academic research to understand more about the power of the bike.
The Hub is an inter-disciplinary research, knowledge exchange and practice group. Recognising Strathclyde's commitment to active travel, and foreseeing the World Championships coming to Glasgow, colleagues Professor Sarah Dodd and Dr James Bonner from the University's Business School partnered with Neil McBeth from Sustainable Strathclyde, the University's body for all things sustainability, in Summer 2022 to develop ideas and networks around active mobility themes.
An initial gathering of interested staff took place in September 2022, with participants representing numerous Faculties and professional services.
The Hub developed with support from the University's Executive Lead Sustainability Dr Roddy Yarr and Prof. Sarah Dodd of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship.
This development coincided with the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale; world governing body of cycling) Mobility & Bike City Forum launch event in October 2022 that took place in the University's TIC building. The Hub was invited to present to the UCI Cycling for All Commission. Presentation snapshots included:
- Dr Neil Ferguson (Civil & Environmental Engineering) on Master student research on cycling route mapping
- Dr Deirdre Harrington (Psychological Sciences & Health) on behaviours and attitudes towards cycle commuting during lockdowns
- Dr Farid Bardid (Education) on children's cycling levels in Scotland from the Active Healthy Kids Report Card
- Cat Mann (Strathclyde Sport) on the University's eXHALE lifestyle support programme
- Katherine Cory, one of a group of parents who started the Shawlands Bike Bus, who spoke about the need for better infrastructure to allow families to cycle to school safely.
This Commission included members from various countries including Australia, Norway, Switzerland, and Active Travel England's National Active Travel Commissioner and Olympic and World Cycling champion Chris Boardman.
Hub members after their presentations at the UCI Mobility and Bike City commissioners' event (credit: Deirdre Harrington)
Following the group presentations, the value of academic research in strenghtening the promotion of cycling was highlighted. This included specific reference to the Shawlands Bike Bus as having significantly caught the attention of several commissioners. The Hub left with the challenge put forward by the Commission members "how can we create a culture change on our roads?"
The Hub continued to evolve and is now led by Dr Deirde Harrington from the Physical Activity and Health research group (within PSH), with members from Civil and Environmental Engineering, Education, Strathclyde Sport, Strathclyde Business School, Electrical Engineering and Sustainable Strathclyde.
The cross-Faculty group have now been funded via the IAA EPSRC Bridging the Gap scheme to deliver a knowledge exchange piece with the community-led Shawlands Bike Bus. The project asks how do we take a successful community-initiated initiative like a Bike Bus and apply it as a catalyst for wider change? Can it prompt people to think about cycling and other active mobility issues and advocate for safer cycling and better infrastructure for all?
This place-based project in the Shawlands area of Glasgow's south side has seen Strathclyders visible and gathering perspectives from key 'placeholders' including drivers, pedestrians, bus passengers, school crossing patrol people and business owners. These views are allowing an "opening of the conversation" between road users with the goal of creating a culture change on our roads. Crucially, the fieldwork team included Strathclyde students as workers who were sourced via the Strath Union JobShop co-ordinated by Meghan Friel (Entrepreneurship Coordinator) and trained in the research methods in practice.
Fieldwork prompting road users to think about active mobility as Shawlands Bike Bus roll through (credit: Katherine Rose)
This on-going work is seeing fundable 'proof-of-concept' place-based questions emerge. For example, what does meaningful and iterative active mobility knowledge exchange and research across academic disciplines, between Strathclyde and our local community and even between road users look like?
A typical Glasgow summer morning for the Active Mobility fieldwork team (credit: Jennifer Roberts)
This work has also opened up new global research connections too. The Hub's strong connection with the Shawlands Bike Bus initiated Deirdre Harrington and James Bonner's attendance at the inaugural Bike Bus Summit in Barcelona in March 2023. We developed ongoing relationships with individuals and academic researchers working on similar themes.
This is an ideal time for Strathclyde to reach out to the community to deliver visible and impactful active mobility research and knowledge exchange to deliver health, societal, cultural, infrastructural and environmental benefits. The Hub is proving itself to be responsive and agile to some of these cross disciplinary areas, and is inclusive of academics across faculties, and that use different research approaches. The Hub is also visible in the community and in place, and has been garnering attention and involvement from external stakeholders. The new academic year will see the Hub's first inter-disciplinary PhD (Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management and Psychological Sciences and Health) and MRes (HaSS and Civil and Environmental Engineering) students.
Like the UCI, we believe in the power of the bike and also the power of other forms of active mobility like walking and wheeling too! We are keen to hear from others who have a similar passion for active mobility, whether in their research/teaching or personal life.
For more information about the Hub email: Deirdre.firstname.lastname@example.org.