24 Oct 2023
by Michelle Stewart

Glasgow to Rotterdam by bike: a green conference travelogue



At the Annual EAIE Conference and Exhibition, participants are encouraged to travel green whenever possible. For many that means taking a train instead of flying, or finding other ways to minimise their carbon footprint along the way. For EAIE Immediate Past-President Michelle Stewart, however, the trip from Glasgow to Rotterdam for the 2023 Conference meant an epic cycling adventure through flowering fields and seaside scenery. In this blog post, she reflects on her green journey to and from the Conference this year, and what others might learn from it.

It’s all about the bike.

I love cycling, always have. The first proper paycheck I received was used to buy a road bike. I bought it from a shop on a retail park and had no way of getting it home, so I cycled the 35 miles (56 km) to where I lived. I love to travel by bike, not just to commute, but travel to places and experience them at the pace a bike allows (that being slow in my case). I have clocked up a few great cycle rides across Cuba, India, Sri Lanka, Laos and Spain.

This was my first long-distance cycle ride where I had to arrive on time (I failed), have clothes that would allow to me to look presentable and not be denied access to the conference (I succeeded). Time pressures and fitness factors meant I had to combine trains and ferries on my trip, but on the Glasgow to Rotterdam leg, over four days, we clocked up 240 km by bike. Not that impressive, I know, but remember the luggage, and let’s not forget I also had to carry a laptop.

Cycling offers a clean, green and healthy means of transport, and the bike industry, including touring, is growing

When I finally arrived at the Conference, I was overwhelmed by the number of people, most of whom I had never met, congratulating me on my achievement. This was unexpected, but it lifted my spirits and helped my energy levels. The cycling wasn’t tiring, but the ferry ride was not the most restful.

My experience was largely positive, and the cycling was amazing. Travelling along the Northumberland coast with its stunning beaches and castles, pedalling past old mining towns and green fields with new wind farms was a joy. Arriving in IJmuiden marked the start of a terrific, gently undulating route through dunes and seaside towns.

Cycling into a sustainable future

What’s not to like? Is the world ready for the long-distance commute by bike? Well, some things could be better and there is still much to do.

When you are travelling by bike it’s the first thing you think of: will it be safe, and will it be ready to roll the next day? One hotel in the UK offered free parking for cars, but I had to pay £10 to store my bike. The hotel in Rotterdam said they could not make any provision for my bike. Thankfully, the EAIE stepped in and offered bike storage. I would love to see an option to filter hotels on the availability of bike storage. You can check to see if pets are allowed, but you must contact hotels directly to check on bike storage.

I was really surprised by how little provision was in place for cyclists given the trends we are seeing, and the value people place on bikes. Cycling offers a clean, green and healthy means of transport, and the bike industry, including touring, is growing.

• Over three times as many bikes as cars were sold in 2021. (Statista)

• The total global bicycle industry is worth $64.6 billion. (Grand View Research)

• By 2029, the global cycling industry is set to be worth $127 billion. (Fortune Business Insights)

• Around the world, 488 bikes were sold every minute in 2021. (Statista)

Maybe the hospitality sector will pick up on the market opportunity they’re missing out on?


Despite the challenges, the trip was fantastic, and I will always be a fan of cycle touring. My journey to Rotterdam was a way of connecting with the communities I passed through, and I made personal connections with fellow cycling enthusiasts. I am now back in Glasgow, cycling to work and planning my next route. I am also thinking of a campaign to work with hotels and booking agents to make it easier for cyclists to identify bike friendly places where they can store their precious vehicles. After all, for me it really is all about the bike.

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