A cycle campaigner and writer from the Highlands has said that the Great Glen Cycle Route, last week given three quarters of a total of £3.9 million funding provided to cycling by the Scottish Government, will not only benefit tourists, but also provide much needed links between local communities along its route from Inverness to Oban.
John Davidson, cycling correspondent for the Inverness Courier, editor of the Active Outdoors supplement of that newspaper and sister titles in the Highlands and author of a guide to Walking and Cycling in Inverness and the Highlands, said: "It’s great to see this long sought after route finally getting towards completion.
"It will be great for cycle tourism and also for locals to get about between communities without having to resort to using their car for every journey.
"Hopefully it will encourage more people to get out of their bikes across the Highlands."
£2.6 million of the £3.9 million funding announced last week by Scottish Government Transport Minister Keith Brown will go on the Corran Ferry to Inverness section of what will become National Cycle Network route 78, the Great Glen cycle path. A further £400,000 will be spent on a link from Appin to Oban.
Last week, American news channel CNN named Scotland as the best tourist destination in the world to visit during 2013, with outdoor routes such as the West Highland Way listed among its leading attractions.
Describing the funding as a “windfall,” John Lauder, Sustrans Scotland director, said that while he welcomed the investment, he wanted to see greater planning when it came to providing increases in investment.
Quoted in The Herald, he added that the Great Glen Cycle Way "will help provide a planned, signed and mapped alternative to using trunk roads between Oban and Inverness.
“It shows we are moving in the right direction and that the Transport Minister has got confidence this investment is producing results."
David Le Feu of Spokes, the Edinburgh and Lothians cycling campaign, told the Herald: "Given that we have this target of making 10% of all journeys by bike by 2020, having just 1% of the transport budget spent on cycling is just hopeless.
"If you look at European countries that have been successful in achieving a significant increase in cycling levels, 5% is a much more appropriate figure."
According to Mr Le Feu, Edinburgh City Council is the only local authority of the 32 in Scotland that has pledged to devote 5 per cent of its transport budget to cycling.
In November, representatives of ten separate cycling organisations covering the Highlands and Moray called on the Scottish Government and local authorities to “to help bring about a Scandinavian-style cycle culture to the north of Scotland.”
In a press release published on Mr Davidson’s blog – he was there in his capacity as a volunteer ranger for Sustrans – organiser Ged Church of the Highland Cycling Campaign said: “These desires will be recognised by many. It’s surely time to get our politicians to recognise the immense value of the cycling habit to community health, well-being and the environment, and act rather than talk.”
Mr Davidson added: “The government has worthy targets but when it comes to investing in their own ideas, they fail to back that up with action. A change in attitude is needed from the very top, so that cycling and walking options are a top priority in any development.
“Study after study shows how money invested in cycling and walking saves on health spending but unfortunately politicians are obsessed with short-termism and fail to see the bigger picture.
“We are calling on them to invest for the good of our communities, to help reduce congestion, improve health and well-being and create a safer, better connected cycle network for people of all ages and abilities to benefit from for the long term.”
The next meeting of the Highland Cycle Campaign will be on Thursday 31 January at 6.30pm at the Velocity cycle café in Inverness.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.