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Get your rocks off (by bike): Researchers encourage gig-goers to cycle by creating active travel and music map of Glasgow

By linking the bike lane to the mosh pit, the University of Glasgow’s Professor Matt Brennan hopes the Glasgow Music City map can inform conversations about how the city’s cultural life can align with its sustainable transport planning

It turns out that Belle and Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch’s passion for getting around by bike isn’t the only common thread linking cycling with Glasgow’s vibrant music scene (the medal podium-cum-outdoor music venue in George Square for this month’s UCI Cycling World Championships doesn’t count because it was temporary, unfortunately).

Researchers at the University of Glasgow, exploring the links between the city’s cultural and environmental footprint, have now created a map which overlays Glasgow’s many music venues with its sustainable and public transport infrastructure, with the aim of encouraging live music lovers to cycle to their next gig.

Matt Brennan, a professor of popular music at the University of Glasgow, hopes the Glasgow Music City Map will inform conversations with policy makers and venue owners about how the city’s cultural life – which has spawned influential bands and artists such as Frightened Rabbit, Primal Scream, Chvrches, Simple Minds, and countless others – can interact and align with sustainable transport planning as Glasgow works towards achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

Created in collaboration with Glasgow City Council and Creative Carbon Scotland, the map contains information on over 220 live music spaces in Glasgow, including the iconic Barrowland and King Tut’s venues, layered with details of infrastructure such as cycle hire stations, bike racks and parking facilities, and recommended cycle lanes and paths.

Bikes parked outside King Tut's, Glasgow (Lost Glasgow, Facebook)

The ubiquitous sight of bikes parked outside the legendary King Tut’s

This attempt to create a direct link between the bike lane and the circle pit (or the acoustic folk singalong, depending on your preference) forms part of an ongoing project led by Prof Brennan titled ‘Imagining a just and green future for music cities: the case of Glasgow as a UNESCO City of Music’, which is funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Natural Environment Research Council.

Speaking to the Herald, Prof Brennan explained how the project links his dual research interests in the music industry and sustainability.

“I’ve got a real interest in Glasgow’s status as a music city,” he said. “I’m from Canada and I originally moved to Glasgow because of its music scene essentially. I was drawn to the city because it had this very vibrant music scene.

“I’ve always been interested in trying to do a research project on Glasgow’s musical heritage and the current challenges that the city might be facing from a music perspective, and also from a climate perspective, as one of the other things I research is environmental sustainability.

“The rationale for the map is that, since 2008, Glasgow has, deservedly, held this UNESCO City of Music title, but I think with all the challenges that local authorities have faced in the last 10 years, austerity and the pandemic, it’s been a rough ride. That’s still quite an aspirational identity.

“And then in 2021, Glasgow also hosted COP26 of course and as a consequence of that, created this thing called the Glasgow Green Deal and an ambition to become a Net Zero city by 2030. I think, by the council’s own admission, that is also an aspirational identity.

“There are a lot of issues facing the live music sector at the moment as we recover from the pandemic. Also achieving net zero is something that many cities around the world are trying and struggling to achieve. This project is really about putting those two identities of the city into eye lock with one another, because that’s something that I haven’t seen done very much.”

Glasgow Music City map

A “recent convert” to cycling in Glasgow, Brennan believes that the city’s approach to its cycling infrastructure, as well as general attitudes towards people riding their bikes to get around, have changed dramatically in recent years.

“I’ve lived in Glasgow since 2006 and I didn’t own a bike until 2021,” he says. “I don’t own a car either. My wife and I both got bicycles to try and expand where we could go under lockdown.

“I’m not a very confident cyclist and when asking pals if it was worth getting a bike in Glasgow, 10 years ago, people were saying that it was quite difficult. But a lot has changed in those 10 years.

“There’s lots of great cycling paths that have been created recently that puts you sort of out of the line of road traffic and it’s becoming an easier city to cycle in and increasingly easy with each passing year.”

> Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Bike manufacturer Scott loses trademark case against late AC/DC singer’s estate

He added: “The map is something we are hoping to build. At the moment we have this music and cycling focus but in the autumn we are hopefully going to get students to flesh out the historical aspect of it. I’ve got a student starting in October who is working on disability access to music venues and she’ll be contributing to the map.

“Hopefully this will be a resource that kind of grows over time. Cycling is a kind of initial focus at the moment, but we hope to have a really rich and layered map that kind of shows how you can think through all kinds of social issues through music. That’s the longer-term goal I guess.”

While Prof Brennan and his students hope to continue to expand their music city map, in the meantime Glasgow’s cyclists can avail of the new handy resource when they’re plotting the route to their next big gig.

Although, judging by recent analysis of the music people listen to while riding their bikes (spoiler: it’s not great), perhaps it’s best that some cyclists shouldn’t be encouraged to attend live music events. I for one wouldn’t want to be associated with anyone cycling to see David Guetta or Tiësto…

> Do cyclists have terrible taste in music? Outdoor ‘experts’ reveal the most popular songs to listen to while cycling

Oddly enough, Glasgow’s music and bike map isn’t the first time this summer that cycling has been linked to an iconic rock band associated with the Scottish city.

Last month, Swiss bike manufacturer Scott Sports lost a legal dispute with the family of Bon Scott over trademark rights to the legendary AC/DC frontman’s name.

The estate of the Scottish-born singer, who died in tragic circumstances in 1980 at the age of 33, just months after AC/DC’s long-awaited American breakthrough with Highway to Hell, had sought to register his name as a trademark for merchandise, including a line of clothing, sunglasses, and bags.

However, cycling and sportswear company Scott contested the application, claiming that the ‘Scott’ trademark was too similar to their own and could potentially lead to “customer confusion”, ostensibly between their range of aero bikes and wallets bearing the name of a hard rock icon.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ruled in favour of the late singer’s estate, managed by his two brothers and nephew, allowing the trademark to proceed to registration, and ordered Scott Sports to contribute £1,050 towards the estate’s legal costs. Dog eat dog, as Bon himself once wrote.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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