Professor Chris Oliver 1960-2023

Professor Chris Oliver was a passionate and outspoken advocate for cycling
Cycling UK member, orthopaedic surgeon and passionate campaigner Professor Chris Oliver has died at the age of 63. Cycling UK’s Suzanne Forup recalls an enthusiastic and energetic colleague who was generous with his time and expertise

Despite his significant weight loss, Professor Chris Oliver remained a larger-than-life character. Unorthodox, direct and great fun to be around, Chris was a stalwart supporter of Cycling UK for many years, serving on both the CTC Scotland committee as chair, and, briefly, on CTC Council.

The rigours of obtaining an alphabet’s worth of post-graduate qualifications, combined with years of being on call and shift work, led to a weight gain that could only be tackled with surgery. A gastric LapBand in 2007 was a turning point for Chris, enabling a 12.5 stone weight loss and the start of his life as the ‘Cycling Surgeon’.

This transformation meant that Chris was already well known online when he was voted into the position of CTC Scotland chair in 2011. He took on this post with his signature enthusiasm and energy, setting up our Scotland Twitter account and increasing our visibility, using his connections to support projects and raise our profile.

Chris was passionate about our Play Together on Pedals programme, understanding the need to enable children to enjoy the thrill of cycling in their early years and start learning a life skill. His interest and connections enabled us to publish our first phase findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, ensuring the impact of our life-changing programme was seen across the UK and beyond.

Despite his heavy workload and range of voluntary posts, Chris was always happy to contribute his expertise and life story to events and use his knowledge to make connections and build alliances. He was a powerhouse of energy, supporting several cycling campaigns, including Walk Cycle Vote and Spokes, giving his time generously to the causes he believed in.

As a keynote speaker at Cycling UK in Scotland’s Cycling to Public Health conference in 2018, he blended his personal experience with the science of inactivity to illustrate the changes that need to be made in Scotland so we can all live a healthy, long and active life.

While much of his time was spent online, speaking to the press and raising the profile of cycling in its many forms, Chris was also willing to get involved in the less glamorous aspects of cycle promotion.

One of my clearest memories of Chris was standing in the pouring rain together under our sagging and damaged CTC Scotland gazebo at Pedal for Scotland, wondering how we would pass the health and safety check that was coming our way. Ever resourceful, Chris produced a roll of duct tape and used his orthopaedic surgery skills to affect a solid repair before we were audited!

Chris was outspoken, unafraid to cause controversy and challenge people, particularly those offering criticism without offering help, but I always found him to be warm, funny and generous.

My last email from Chris was in 2020, reaching out to support the career development of a young woman who was working for another organisation that Chris supported in a voluntary capacity – she went on to successfully apply for a role in the Cycling UK in Scotland team the following year.

Chris has been taken far too soon and will be missed by so many of us across the cycling industry, and far beyond into the health and medical sectors. Our hearts go out to those closest to him.