Getting inspired at the Scottish Gathering 2022

Five cyclists riding on a cycle path in Stirling
The Cycling UK in Scotland Annual Gathering is an official meeting to elect the Scottish Advisory Committee for the coming year. It’s not just business though – there’s a chance to reflect on the past year and hear some entertaining speakers too. Chair Andrew Abbess reports on this year’s event

Despite industrial action resulting in all rail services to Stirling bring cancelled, an impressive 50 of the 65 people who’d registered managed to make it to this year’s Scottish Gathering on Saturday 29 October.

We are always lucky to have an inspiring range of speakers at our gatherings and this year was no exception.

Our keynote speaker Mel Nicholls amazed us with her presentation about handcycling 4,800 miles around the coast of the UK, reminding us of the importance of the kindness of strangers and the value of riding our cycles for our physical and mental wellbeing.

We were pleased to welcome Janet Atherton, chair of Cycling UK’s Board of Trustees, who provided an update on Cycling UK’s work from a UK-wide perspective.

Cycling UK’s head of development for Scotland, Suzanne Forup, gave us an update us on the amazing development projects Cycling UK has been running in Scotland.

Jim Densham provided updates on the excellent campaigns and policy work. Later Emily Farquhar gave an inspiring talk on Cycling UK’s Rural Connections project, delivering walking, wheeling and cycling activities in seven rural local authorities across Scotland.

Shona and Brenda from VIE Velo, an Edinburgh-based Cycling UK-affiliated tandem club which pairs visually impaired riders with sighted ones on social rides, described the joy of cycling for both of them. They are growing their community through regular organised rides, and if you know visually impaired or sighted people who might ride with them then please spread the word.

Christina Mackenzie had been due to update us on her record-breaking non-stop North Coast 500 ride, but unfortunately she is still recovering from a recent ‘failed to stop’ collision and was unable to join us. A get well soon card was passed round for people to sign. Instead Paul Timms and I gave brief talks on the Land Reform Scotland Act and recent changes to the Highway Code.

Finally, Christopher Johnson intrigued us all with his fascinating lockdown project of visiting every square mile in Ayrshire!

Looking back on 2022

This has remained a challenging year, with Covid ongoing and some activities curtailed. Although the Scottish Advisory Committee (SAC) had met in person, we spent the year regularly meeting on Zoom with Cycling UK director of influence and engagement Matt Mallinder.

Matt has now departed Cycling UK and we are looking forward to meeting our new point of contact with the Cycling UK senior management team.

This year the SAC helped facilitate a webinar for Cycle Advocacy Network volunteers throughout the UK, where SAC vice chair Claire Connachan shared her extensive knowledge and experience of planning issues and community councils with the wider network.

It was particularly interesting to see the differences faced by campaigners in England who were finding the police often objecting to paths connecting new housing schemes as they might encourage criminals to nip between housing schemes, whereas it is Scottish Government planning policy to encourage active travel connections between housing areas.

The new committee

The formal business of re-electing one third of the committee was completed, meaning the Scottish Advisory Committee for 2023 are:

  • Andrew Abbess (chair)
  • Claire Connachan (vice chair)
  • Eileen Abbess (treasurer)
  • Paul Timms
  • Gary Cummins
  • Julia Loecherbach
  • Sam Shaw
  • David Parry
  • Bob Downie

You may have noticed that the chair and treasurer share a surname. We are husband and wife. For good governance reasons I am not a signatory on the bank account so the two of us cannot write a cheque for the contents of the bank account and run away with it! Paul Timms has also stood down as secretary although remains on the SAC – we have an urgent task to appoint a new secretary.

Get involved

The more members Cycling UK has in Scotland the more influence we have, so if you are not a member, please consider joining.

Have you considered joining the Cycle Advocacy Network (CAN)? Changes for the better are happening in Scotland as more people get on their bikes as the Scottish Government spends increasing amounts of money on active travel – cycling, walking and wheeling.

Cycling UK wants to support and grow the movement of people speaking up for cycling in locations across Scotland – to help you raise your voice and call for positive change in your local area.

We are currently looking at running a training session for SAC members and CAN volunteers in the new year with Planning Aid Scotland, an educational charity and social enterprise which helps people to shape the future of their community by engaging with the planning system, in an open and inclusive way.

The committee needs you

The committee is keen to co-opt another member. The aim of our work is to harness local intelligence and experience, to inform the charity’s activities.

We’re keen to have as diverse and inclusive a committee as possible, with people coming from a wide range of backgrounds, places, types of cycling and perspectives. We welcome applications from younger people and underrepresented groups in cycling, including ethnic minority groups.

In return for your passion, commitment and skills, we can offer you the chance to make a significant difference to cycling in Scotland and across the UK. Please take a look at the application pack or if you’d like to know more or just have an informal chat, please email Andrew Abbess, chair of the Scottish Advisory Committee.