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“Unprecedented success” of Glasgow World Championships inspires 80% of Scots to cycle more, independent report finds

According to the report, 82 per cent of spectators used active travel during Scotland’s ‘mega-worlds’, while over half of the non-cyclists who attended said they were inspired to cycle

It may have taken place in the midst of a crumbling domestic racing scene, the impending financial ruin of one of its organisers, and the scything active travel cuts and anti-cycling rhetoric of an indifferent government, but a new independent report has revealed that Scotland’s 2023 cycling world championships delivered a range of socio-economic, environmental, and health benefits for the UK as a whole, and helped convince more Scots to ride their bikes.

Because, instead of a curious throwback to the glory days of 2012, a glorious two-wheeled, 11-day mirage amid a barren active travel wasteland, August’s UCI ‘mega worlds’ – the first of its kind to feature almost all of cycling’s disciplines under the same umbrella – has today been lauded by organisers and politicians for crafting a “powerful legacy”, one that will “pave the way for positive longer-term change”.

Women's road race, Glasgow 2023 World Championships (Thomas Maheux/SWpix.com)

(Thomas Maheux/SWpix.com)

According to an independent report published today by accounting firm Ernst & Young, which conducted extensive research into the event’s economic impact, social contribution, and sustainability, the world championships were attended across Scotland by just over one million spectators, with Sunday 6 August – the day of the men’s road race, won by Mathieu van der Poel – attracting 356,000 fans to the road and trackside.

Meanwhile, 537 million tuned in on television in 130 countries, totalling 200 million hours globally – almost doubling the average number of hours watched during a typical year of separate UCI world championships between 2017 and 2022.

> “It felt like the Tour de France”: Have Scotland’s world championships been a success? We ask the riders, fans, and locals

And while the racing on offer certainly provided the requisite spectacle for those watching live or on TV, the report also found that the world championships have the potential to leave a lasting legacy and act as a “catalyst for positive change” for cycling and active travel.

The report found that 82 per cent of adult spectators – 40 per cent of whom were female – used a form of active travel during the worlds, with 91 per cent of respondents noting that the events improved their awareness of Scotland’s cycling facilities.

Over half (52 per cent) of spectators said they were likely to increase their use of active travel after attending the worlds, while 55 per cent of those watching the racing who previously didn’t ride a bike claim to have been inspired to take up cycling. 79 per cent of Scottish spectators, meanwhile, said they were inspired to cycle more often thanks to the worlds.

2023 world road race championships stopped following protest (Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

(Pauline Ballet/SWpix.com)

While the report noted the disruption caused to some businesses in the run-up to the championships – a common theme of the pre-event press coverage – it also revealed the significant economic benefits generated during the 11 days.

According to the report, visitors spent £220m during their time in Scotland, while the total fulltime equivalent employment (FTE) supported by the event included 5,285 jobs in Scotland, 3,312 jobs in Glasgow and 5,878 jobs in the UK.

The Gross Value Added (GVA) economic impact for Scotland also amounted to £205m, and £129m for Glasgow, while over £6m has so far been invested across all 32 Scottish local authorities.

In a more general sense, 97 per cent of attendees found the worlds to be inclusive, while 95 per cent of Scots felt that they fostered a strong sense of civic pride.

> How was it having the Cycling World Championships in my home town?

“The 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow and across Scotland were an unprecedented success at every level. As the EY report shows, this success extends beyond sport, to the economy, tourism, and sustainable development,” UCI president David Lappartient said in a statement today.

“An event like the one we experienced in August 2023 leads to long-term benefits for the host communities and their residents. We are all the more pleased because, well before it took place, this was the event's main objective: to delight those who love sport, but also to ensure that the power of the bike would enable the organisers of the UCI Cycling World Championships to achieve broader objectives related to development, wellbeing, and health.”

Wout van Aert leads Mads Pedersen and Tadej Pogačar during 2023 world road race championships, Glasgow (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

(Zac Williams/SWpix.com)

The SNP’s culture secretary Angus Robertson, meanwhile, said the 2023 cycling world championships “stand as a testament to the benefits that major events can bring to our communities across Scotland”.

“This report showcases the powerful legacy of the event, one that extends beyond simply winning medals – it boosted the economy and inspired healthier lifestyles,” he said.

> Scotland could soon host Tour de France stages after "successful" World Championships

Paul Bush, the event’s chair, added that the worlds’ ability to deliver a “variety of social, economic, and environmental benefits” has set a “benchmark for future editions and paving the way for positive longer-term change”.

“From the first race to the last; riders, fans, and officials told us that the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships would go down in history as not only the biggest, but one of the greatest ever held,” says Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken.

“Now we can see in black and white just what that means for the city – not only economically, but in terms of civic pride, our global reputation as a leading events host and as a catalyst for change.

“One of the big themes of the event was ‘The Power of the Bike’. For Glasgow, that will continue to be the chance to make an already great city more vibrant and healthier; accessible, active, and connected.”

Ryan joined road.cc 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 road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’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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7 comments

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Aberdeencyclist | 3 months ago
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Inspired 80% of Scots to cycle more ? No evidence so far on anything like that scale . But then a lot of the year in Scotland is cold and wet

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Rendel Harris replied to Aberdeencyclist | 3 months ago
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Aberdeencyclist wrote:

Inspired 80% of Scots to cycle more ? No evidence so far on anything like that scale . But then a lot of the year in Scotland is cold and wet

I did wonder, a lot of people might harmlessly say something in a survey that makes them feel better about themselves - "Oh yes I'm definitely going to get more exercise next year" - as we all do to ourselves occasionally. Also, inspired to cycle more might mean got the rusty clunker out of the garage and had a couple of turns round the park on it, not necessarily indicative of longterm change. However it's worth noting that the figures are "79% of Scottish spectators...said they were inspired to cycle more often", not 79% of Scots; the respondents are only those interested enough in cycling to go and watch, so one assumes already predisposed to be more enthusiastic than the average person.

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Geoffroid replied to Aberdeencyclist | 3 months ago
1 like

I think the report actually said that 79% of Scottish spectators have been inspired to cycle more. Not 79% of the population of Scotland. Being "inspired to cycle more" is not the same as actually cycling more when confronted with reality, and is also not much of a benefit if people are inspired to drive somewhere to then cycle more.

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chrisonabike replied to Aberdeencyclist | 3 months ago
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Aberdeencyclist wrote:

Inspired 80% of Scots to cycle more ? No evidence so far on anything like that scale . But then a lot of the year in Scotland is cold and wet

True that.  Except not all Scotland is (wet - I'll grant the cold part!)  In fact Edinburgh is drier than Amsterdam and broadly comparable to Copehagen in climate (slightly warmer on average, less of the extremes).

I don't think a bit of sport will encourage people to cycle regularly, any more than the other ways we've liked to "encourage" cycling previously.  Perhaps there is something else - other than changing the weather - we could do though?  That might change behaviour even during cold or rain?

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SteeveB | 3 months ago
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It was such a great event in the city. Haven't noticed many more cyclists on my commute to work yet though ...

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stonojnr replied to SteeveB | 3 months ago
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In a decades time there will be articles like this about it https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2024/feb/06/cycling-boom-was-not-...

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chrisonabike replied to SteeveB | 3 months ago
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While I think getting some more people on bikes is good this has reverted to equilibrium like most fads / fluctuations.  We'll see once again the level of cycling which is provided for / funded (few percent).  Where infra and safe parking doesn't exist AND motorised traffic is prioritised (so volumes high / little concern for cyclists) cycling will always fade away.

Luckily it's such an efficient mode and so cheap in money / resources it hasn't quite ever died out completely.  It's practically extinct as a transport mode in many places in the UK though.  Adequate provision can make the process work the other way round - nice article here shows that they *will* come if you actually make a useable network of infra.  Even where they weren't cycling before.

Sometimes it seems to me as if the media / powers that be are even trolling by hyping this up in a rather ridiculous manner.  "Cycling increased by 100%!" - yeah, from 10 to 20, or 1% to 2% of trips.  Whoop whoop.

Mind you the "bike boom" has long history - and some were genuine major (re-)adoptions of cycling by a substantial fraction of the population - at least in certain places.  History shows what happens when the lack of interest in providing infra for this / focus on the motor vehicle returns us to normal.  (Carlton Reid has written a few interesting books on this e.g. Bike Boom)

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