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Cycling for All

Glasgow’s population benefits from Commonwealth Games Legacy

2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games mountain bike
2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games mountain bike

The Commonwealth Games are one of the world’s biggest sporting gatherings, with 72 participating countries, almost 5000 athletes, TV viewership amounting to hundreds of millions and an operational budget of £575m. The XX Commonwealth Games were held in Glasgow, Scotland, in the summer of 2014. They have been widely regarded as a sporting and business success: operations were concluded within budget and as much as the 92% of tickets were sold.

Glasgow had won the right to host the Games in November 2007. In its candidature file, the bidding committee had stressed the importance of having a solid legacy concept, as well as of “hitting the ground quickly.” From the outset, the city’s authorities had been clear the Games were about much more than Elite sport. As early as February 2008, a Games Legacy consultation was launched and an ad-hoc agency, Legacy 2014, was set up with representatives from various public and semi-public stakeholders.

The proactive approach allowed all parties involved to come up with a shared vision for a legacy, which the Government published in September 2009.

The scope of this case study is assessing which provisions for better cycling were included in the strategy, in which programmes and with what funding.

Legacy 2014 covers four major themes: flourishing, active, connected and sustainable Scotland. Within each of them, different programmes were and are being created. Currently there are 59 programmes – some completed, others still ongoing.

Flourishing Scotland: Contributing to the growth of the Scottish economy

Thirteen programmes fall under “Flourishing Scotland”. Most of them relate to local procurement, job creation and workforce training. However, one of them, Securing Major Events, aims at attracting high profile and large scale events to Scotland. Within this framework, the national event support agency Event Scotland (part of the public tourism organisation Visit Scotland), has helped secure some high-profile cycling events that will count on public financial support: the cyclo-sportive Etape Loch Ness, the British MTB Marathon Championships 2015, a round of the Enduro World Series and in particular the two Edinburgh stages of the 2015 Tour of Britain, which will test the city’s ambitions for a future bid to host a Tour de France Grand Départ.  For the Tour of Britain hosting rights alone, public investment amounts to £225,000. “Encouraging the take up of cycling in the city” is one of the reasons behind the Council’s intervention.

In addition, Glasgow will join forces with Berlin to co-host the first edition of the European Sports Championships in 2018. Glasgow will host cycling, rowing, swimming and triathlon, while Berlin will stage athletics. The four cycling competitions, track, road race, mountain biking and BMX, will attract around 760 athletes to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, the Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Trails, the streets of Glasgow and a new BMX track to be built in the city.

The event, jointly funded by the Government and Glasgow City Council, will boost the city's economy by more than £100 million ($159 million/€127.5 million), it is claimed.

"I am delighted that Glasgow has been chosen by such prestigious sporting bodies to stage this new and exciting event in partnership with our friends in Berlin," said Glasgow City Council Leader Gordon Matheson.

Active Scotland: helping Scots be more physically active

The results of a study on the country’s health were published in 2010. The alarming figures showed 97% of Scots had at least one of the five factors which contributed most to disease in richer countries - smoking, drinking, poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity. Some 55% of the population had three or more risk factors, and poverty was found to increase the risks. The most recent national Health Survey available (2013) still depicts a worrying picture when it comes to obesity, although exercise levels are increasing and harmful drinking is diminishing.

In recognition of such a substantial health problem the Scottish Government committed to increasing rates of physical activity. The Games created a unique opportunity for this. In February 2014, a 10-year Physical Activity Implementation Plan was launched. This plan provides the framework for delivery the Active Legacy ambitions from the Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow 2014 Active Legacy

The macro-theme Active Scotland encompasses twelve programmes that target physical inactivity and unhealthy lifestyles, and it is here that cycling offers the greatest potential, both as a leisure activity and for transport.

We should note that encouraging active transport is already one of the components of Vision 2030, the strategy of the national agency Transport Scotland. Cycling is substantially factored in to reach the five objectives of the national transport agency (better health and safer travel for all; reducing inequalities; cutting carbon emissions and other pollution; delivering liveable, more pleasant communities; supporting delivery of sustainable economic growth).

Let’s now dig a bit deeper into some of these 12 programmes.

The foremost is the Physical Activity Implementation Plan, mentioned above and delivered by the Government in cooperation with Education, Environment, and Sport and Transport bodies. Among the delivery themes, there is the review of the national Cycling Action Plan, which should be fully implemented by 2019.

Workplaces were the target of a second programme, Fit in ‘14. Among the initiatives promoted to get employees more physically active, the opportunity for them to pledge to partake in Pedal for Scotland, the country’s biggest bike ride.

"Games for Scotland” was a fund that provided local authorities and cultural organisations with up to £10,000 to help stage an event. Along the same lines, the “BIG 2014 Communities programme” was created to provide micro-grants (£300 to £2000) to local sports clubs, community organisations, councils and schools. Some small-scale cycling projects have benefitted from the programme, helping spread the discipline amongst the youth.

Community Sport Hubs is the programme through which sportscotland, the national agency for sports, invests £1.5 annually to create homes for local clubs and sport organisations, with the objective of growing participation and engaging the local community. Cycling clubs have benefitted from the programme, such as those in Cairngorm (Highlands) and Campbeltown (Argyll).

The Legacy 2014 Active Places is a £10m fund managed by sportscotland, supporting community-led projects. Bike parks and MTB facilities are among the fundable ventures, and examples of successful cases include the South Carrick Community Cycle Tracks (South Ayrshire) and the upgrade of the existing trails in Comrie (Perth and Kinross).

Another fund (Legacy 2014 Sustainable Sport for Communities) was established to subsidize community clubs wishing to purchase, renovate or build physical assets, or pursue organisational development. Thanks to this fund, the redundant St Martin’s Church in Glasgow was transformed into the Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike and Activity Centre ,which served as the venue for the MTB events at the Games.

Active Legacy includes two programmes (Supporting Coaches and Volunteers and High Performance Sport) which do have an impact on cycling – albeit specifically designed to sustain elite sports, hence outside the scope of our analysis.

The programme with the highest impact on cycling for all is Active Travel, which promotes healthy transport alternatives and encourages everyone to make more journeys on foot or by bicycle.

It goes without saying that cycling and walking benefit the individual

This was the declaration of Scotland’s Transport Minister Keith Brown when he presented “Active Travel” last October. He added that the benefits were not just physical but also for mental health, the environment and keeping transport costs down. 

Eighteen projects fall under Active Travel – approximately half of them are linked to the delivery of the National Walking Strategy (Let’s Get Scotland Walking), the others to the cycling action plan. Interestingly, virtually all stakeholders from the everyday cycling world are involved in the delivery of the programme: among others, Transport Scotland, environmental charities, park authorities, leading cycling associations CTC and Sustrans, and Cycling Scotland, the national cycle promotion organisation. All these partners share a vision: 10% of cycling modal share in Scotland by 2020 (now it’s 1.2%, with 5% of Scots cycling to work “regularly or usually”, according to Cycling Scotland’s 2013 national assessment of local authority cycling policy). The funded projects include cycling training schemes for children (Bikeability Scotland), bike hand-outs (Play on Pedals), reward programmes for employers encouraging cycling (Cycle Friendly Employer Award), initiatives to tackle the gender gap and to encourage adolescents to continue cycling to school (I Bike) and improvement of bike parking facilities. Find them all here.

Connected Scotland: strengthening learning and culture at home and internationally

17 different programmes are part of Connected Scotland, whose aim was to connect people and communities to the Games. It is more of a cultural programme, but also embraced cycling.

In the programme Legacy 2014 Rewards run by Young Scot, the National Youth Information and Citizenship Charity, adolescents and young adults are asked to take part in online and offline activities, with the goal of raising their awareness about issues typical of their age-group (prevention of unhealthy habits, career counselling, control of alcohol consumption, etc.). Some of these activities aim at promoting cycling – like virtual bike tours and info sessions.

Utterly relevant is the “Young Ambassadors” programme, delivered by sportscotland. The project aims to identify and train 14 to 17-year-olds to raise awareness among their classmates and peers of the opportunities to participate in sport in schools, clubs and community sports hubs, promoting active lifestyles. The influence of these charismatic youngsters is central in ensuring that mass events such as Pedal for Scotland attract young participants.

Game On Scotland was the official education programme for the Games, aiming to inspire young people throughout Scotland and beyond. The website includes a multitude of resources including didactic content about the science behind cycling and content to familiarize fans with the different cycling disciplines.

Very long-term in its vision was the contribution of “33Fifty”, the Commonwealth Youth Leadership Programme”. This gathered young leaders aged 18-25 around the question “What role does the youth of the Commonwealth need to play in progress toward low-carbon economies?” With the creation of this network of young leaders across Scotland, mandated to drive forward the low-carbon agenda, we can expect an enhanced awareness of the importance of cycling in reducing emissions and mitigating climate change.

Sustainable Scotland: Demonstrate environmental responsibility and help communities live more sustainably

Creating a Sustainable Scotland was one of the overall goals of the Games. This was pursued by demonstrating environmental responsibility in the event operations (starting with avoiding building “white elephants”, but rather refurbishing existing facilities such as the Cathkin Braes Mountain Bike Centre, which became available to the citizens after the event) and by making the case for a greener Scotland. Creating bike culture is a clear key part of this picture. Here are the details.

The construction of the Emirates Arena & Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome has been the flagship project of Clyde Gateway, the urban transformation programme of the East End of Glasgow and South Lanarkshire. A previously vacant and derelict 10.5-hectare site is now an absolute world-class multi-purpose facility – open to everyone -  with track initiation sessions and opportunities for children, amateurs and veterans alike.

The £1bTransport Improvements programme, though centred on road and rail transport, does impact cycling. 16km of new and improved pedestrian and cycle routes have been included in the project to renovate the motorways around Glasgow. The purposely refurbished Dalmarnock Station now includes sheltered cycle storage to simplify multi-modal commuting.

In driving forward Sustainable Scotland, a key role is played by nextBike Glasgow, the city’s public bike hire scheme.

Scottish Sport Futures takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them (£1.5m) into free activities and programmes for young people who are most at risk from neighbourhoods which suffer anti-social behaviour. One of SSF’s programmes – Education Through Cashback – has projects that use cycling.

With the project Legacy 2014 Commonwealth Woodlands, 14 woods in and around Glasgow have been regenerated and packed with activities to encourage local communities to use their local green space more often and to increase their physical activity levels. Cycle trails are among the perks provided.

Glasgow 2014 developed its own Sustainable Event Management Programme which has obtained the ISO 20121 certification. Now, thanks to cooperation between the government-funded organisation Zero Waste Scotland and Events Scotland, a Sustainable Events Guide is being developed. Mass participation and elite cycling events will benefit from the Commonwealth Games experience by building on the guide to create sustainable bike races and cyclo-sportives.

Evaluating the legacy

Legacy 2014 has developed a detailed evaluation programme, with several reports being published between 2012 and 2019. The Scottish Government is committed to a transparent and long term evaluation of legacy which will benefit future bidders and hosts. This will generate a wealth of insights for Cycling Scotland and for anyone interested in advocating for better cycling in an event’s host city. Details on methodologies and indicators, as well as the initial sets of results, are available here.

First encouraging figures include the shrinking physical inactivity of Scottish children (graph 1), the rising attendance at leisure facilities (graph 2) and the growing number of adults who took up recreational walking (graph 3).

Graph 1

Graph 2

Graph 3

At the beginning of February 2015, additional participation figures were released by sportscotland. Over the past four years (2011/12 – 2014/15), the country witnessed an 11 per cent increase in memberships of the 17 Commonwealth Games sports’ governing bodies. Cycling is shown as up 31%, which is far better than the average.

To evaluate the performance of Legacy 2014 through the eyes of a cycle campaigner we reached Peter Hayman, National Councillor for Scotland at CTC.

“As a sport, cycling featured strongly in the Games programme, on the track, time trial, road race and mountain biking.

“Cycling was also to be a main way for the public to get to venues. This led to a Council focus on cycle infrastructure to aid access by bike. A cycle route from city centre to the MTB tracks is a good example of Glasgow Council working with local cycling campaigners.

“The new nextbike hire scheme, initially set up for the Games, was a success, as it immediately exceeded the London hire bikes in terms of usage.

“However this route is still not yet completed. Cycling facilities progress slowly, with the Council reluctant to put its own money where its stated ambitions are, unless it is to match funds from other sources and schemes. When money has been available, quite bold two-way segregated cycleways have gone in”.

Karen Furey, Cycling Policy Manager at Legacy 2014, is more appreciative of the landscape.

2014/15 has seen the largest ever investment in cycling by any Scottish Government.

 "And since 2007, 215 miles of National Cycle Network have been added.Almost £40 million has been invested in cycling projects, which in turn has generated over £25 million in matched funding from local authorities, Regional Transport Partnerships and other partners such as Scottish Canals and Scottish Natural Heritage”.

What we know is that programmes promoting physical activity must go hand-in-hand with adequate infrastructure to be effective. A built environment encouraging active transport has been proven effective in increasing PA levels among adults and children.  In this respect, Legacy 2014 may have done a bit better.

Cycle Advocates and Councillors are making the case for a policy and funding commitment to match the ambitions that will make Glasgow a people friendly, green and pleasant place to visit and stay. Cycling in Glasgow is work in progress.

Going places

The next Commonwealth Games will be held in the Gold Coast City of Queensland, Australia, in April 2018. Later this year, the Commonwealth Games Federation will decide on the 2022 host, with Durban (South Africa) and Edmonton (Canada) competing for the right. Whether it will be the fascinating African metropolis that was home to seven FIFA World Cup matches in 2010, or the Alberta city with a superb record in event organisation, exciting times are ahead for the local bike communities. Provided that legacies are planned with cycling in mind.

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