Every Friday morning around 8.20am one of Glasgow's busiest junctions comes to a temporary pause as dozens of primary school pupils sail past traffic on their bikes.

The Shawlands Primary Bike Bus has made international headlines thanks to its success as a thriving grassroots cycling project founded and led by parents.

During the UCI World Championships it has also become the focus of a crucial question Glasgow must ask itself in the wake of the largest global cycling event: what now?

What will the legacy of the event be now the competitors and spectators have left - will the much-vaunted trickle-down effect on Glasgow and Scotland's bike habits actually happen?

A long-term project from academics at the University of Strathclyde is addressing that issue and using the Shawlands bike bus as a way to do so.

The Active Mobility Hub, with researchers from across disciplines at the university, presented research to the UCI's Mobility & Bike City Forum last October and were challenged to look further at how the World Championships could create a culture change on Glasgow's roads.

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"The idea was that we would use the Shawlands Bike Bus as a stimulus for asking questions to other road users and opening the conversation about what they think is going on when they see parents and children cycling together," said Dr Deirdre Harrington, Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health.

Instead of a standard survey, the group designed a set of open questions to ask road users; the answers were then fed back to the bike bus parents to get their responses.

Researchers went out in Shawlands on a Friday morning between 8.20am and 8.30am and gave cards with a QR code to people driving, bus passengers and passers-by to get their views.

Dr Harrington added: "It's a conversation, so it’s back and forth, which is very different to a usual survey or traditional consultation where you’re surveying people at one point in time and that’s all you do and you report your findings and leave it at that."

From local authority level to third sector groups and to those cycling, the means of getting more people on their bikes is clear: safe, protected cycle routes; accessible bike storage; and access to bikes.

"The top priorities for improving health and tackling climate change through cycling in Scotland are to build a network of cycling routes, improve road safety and increase access to bikes, storage and Bikeability Scotland cycle training.

"Evidence around the world is clear: sustained investment in these priorities leads to sustained progress in getting more people cycling," a spokesperson for Cycling Scotland told The Herald.

But another major issue is how to drive cultural change, both how to persuade people driving to respect those on bikes and to make cycling a normal part of everyday life.

It's a constant challenge for cycling advocacy groups - and for the people responsible for Glasgow's cycling infrastructure, particularly as cycling has begun to be framed as a culture war issue in cities wrangling over 20 minute neighbourhoods and Low Emissions Zones.

Angus Millar is Glasgow City Council's City Convener for Transport and a novice cyclist, having just begun to use the city's bike hire scheme.

The SNP councillor said: "In politics everything can start to be seen through a polarised lens, a culture war lens, and that can be really detrimental to the effects we need to be making.

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"Governments of all hues all over the world are taking forward exactly the kind of shifts that we are in Scotland. It is not a party political issue.

"How we take communities with us is number one."

For the Strathclyde researchers, so far the responses have shown that, actually, people driving are concerned for the safety of the people they see cycling.

Dr Harrington said: "So that gives us the opportunity to open that conversation.

"There is a curiosity and a concern from other road users about what is happening and that allows us to use those feelings to tap on to people’s emotions."

The academic, a keen cyclist, riding her bike around Glasgow makes her feel "powerful".

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She added: "For some reason I just feel that no matter what happens on the road I’ll be ok and I don’t cycle with a helmet.

"I personally perceive that I don’t get aggression or close passes because I don’t have a helmet on and I’m quite visible and people can see my expression and whether I’m smiling and that I’m a female.

"But now I understand that other road users they are sitting in their cars and their protected bubble totally safe but they are seeing me very differently to how I’m feeling."

Dr Harrington uses the South City Way to get from her home in Glasgow's south side to the university but described the non-cycle lane part of her route as a "screwball scramble to get from A to B."

The Shawlands bike bus is part of a global bike bus movement and other bike buses are springing up around Glasgow - but the academics, perhaps counter-intuitively, do not view this as a good thing.

Dr Harrington added: "We don’t want bike buses all over Glasgow because it will take the focus off what we really want, which is well-designed and well-maintained bike infrastructure.

"It shouldn’t be the responsibility of individual parents, this is a council and a government responsibility to make sure children and parents and commuters can get from A to B in a safe manner.

"We want the bike bus to show that parents are creating a human shield to protect their children to allow them to travel safely and healthily and sustainably to school and that should be seen as a failure in transport planning."

Glasgow is currently in the midst of building a network of protected cycle routes.

The Active Travel Network currently has 310km of cycle infrastructure, which includes a number of temporary routes developed during the covid pandemic as part of the Spaces for People programme and now made permanent.

The council’s Active Travel Plan and the Liveable Neighbourhood Plan contains a section called Vision Zero, which aims for no deaths or serious injury occurring in the city by 2030 using the lowering of more city speed limits, segregation between roads and cycleways, and measures to meet the needs of vulnerable road users.

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Mr Millar added: "Building a number of cycle lanes isn’t going to in and of itself revolutionise transport in Glasgow, you need to have the culture shift we’re trying to support, the behaviour change we are trying to enact in terms of encouraging people to view cycling as a more realistic option for them."

While there have been focused efforts to teach Bikeability in city schools, there are primaries in Glasgow where three quarters of children in P2 are unable to ride a bike.

For Dr Harrington, the legacy of the World Championships will be evident if the young people learning to cycle today are able to continue to do so into adulthood.

She said: "So much work has gone into getting kids confident on bikes but as they get older is the infrastructure going to be there so they can cycle autonomously to school?

"Will they be able to cycle to their first jobs when they are 19, 20, 21?

"And that’ll be where the legacy, or the lack thereof, of the UCI Championships might be seen.

"All this amazing, inspirational stuff that’s happened in those 12 days, the local stuff in schools will that pay off in future?

"That’s what we need to be thinking about, is what will the future of Glasgow look like for these kids."

Mr Millar said the World Championships gave the opportunity to create and harness a buzz around cycling but that, counter to this, some people can be put off by the vision of cycling as an elite sport for people - particularly men - in lycra.

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One of the positives was how well-attended the women's road race was, boosting the profile of cycling for women, who are much less likely to use a bike to commute.

The councillor said: "In some ways elite sporting events can be counterproductive because that Lycra and high end sports bike image can sometimes be off-putting.

"As a city we want to be, yes, celebrating these elite sports but the cycle culture in Glasgow should be people in their every day lives going about on a bike."

Dr Harrington's colleague, Dr James Bonner, Research Fellow in Physical Activity For Health, specialises in social and environmental accounting and was instrumental to the bike bus research.

Also a keen cyclist, he wanted the project to focus on what Glasgow will look like in the future and said the survey was designed to move beyond simplistic, binary responses to cycling.

He added: "[The responses] were quite heartening to me because there’s this complexness to this challenge we’re faced with but people are going to have to consider the different needs of different people and I think the approach we’ve taken has helped us get us sense of that.

"Our city, our country, is in a climate crisis, and not just a climate crisis but one of cost of living, of air quality, of physical and mental wellbeing, and things are going to have to change if we are going to try and deal with them.

"People need to drive, people need to use cars, that’s fundamental, but how is our city going to look because things will have to shift if we are going to meet targets.

"Many of conversations around this take away from the complexity. A lot of cyclists are drivers so this binary division doesn’t really represent this or how people really feel.

Glasgow is a signatory to the ITDP Cycling Cities campaign, which aims to adopt key policies to support cycling, so that 25 million more people live near safe cycle lanes by 2025.

In the wake of the championships, Glasgow City Council approved a £3 million city activation programme and work has started to remove barriers to cycling access through schools and community groups using the Go Cycle Glasgow Fund.

And Glasgow is the first UK city to be awarded a UCI Bike City label.

Dr Bonner added: "During those 12 days the city had been different. People were milling around in the city centre, there was less traffic so you could hear one another and it showed our city can be different.

"But we need to change in a way that includes everyone and recognises the challenge we have in Glasgow.

"The World Championships let us recognise that there are other ways we can do things. Presenting that vision as a possibility showed it will take effort and work and inclusion but we have to create something from the UCI being here and not just let it drift away."