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New report sets out ‘Routes to Growth’ for cycle tourism economy

Published 25 June 2018 by Transform Scotland

Report calls for fully segregated cycle paths along selected key tourist routes

Transform Scotland today (Monday 25th) launched the report ‘Routes to Growth: Developing Scotland’s Cycle Tourism Sector’. The report builds upon earlier research by Transform Scotland and Sustrans Scotland which highlighted the multi-million pound benefits of leisure cycle tourism to the Scottish economy (up to £345 million per year).

‘Routes to Growth’ highlights the growing value of cycle tourism to Scotland’s economy and the opportunities to further develop cycle tourism and boost local and rural economies. The report finds that barriers exist in expanding cycle tourism, such as a lack of safe and convenient cycle paths on key tourist routes.

The report consulted businesses along one of Scotland’s key cycle tourism routes — The Caledonia Way (Campbeltown to Inverness) — and gathered views on the benefits of cycling to their businesses and what barriers existed in attracting more cyclists to Scotland.

Commenting on the report, Jamie Wylie, spokesperson for Transform Scotland, said:

Segregated cycling routes should be implemented on key cycle tourism routes across Scotland. This is vital in order for Scotland to capitalise on the economic opportunities of leisure cycle tourism and to compete with other countries in Europe, where key cycling routes are often entirely traffic-free. On-road cycling routes, as is the norm in Scotland, force cyclists to mix with vehicles, which can be an unpleasant and potentially dangerous experience.

“Existing routes such as the Caledonia Way, and NCN7, which runs from Inverness right through to the Border, would benefit from having more traffic-free sections. We think it’s essential that new off-road cycle routes are created, such as through the West Highlands to Skye.”

John Lauder, Director of Sustrans Scotland, said:

Over 150,000 cycle tourists visit Scotland every year, making a substantial contribution to the Scottish economy. The National Cycle Network offers a fantastic experience for cyclists in Scotland, including large lengths of traffic-free paths which make cycling easy and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities.

There are many tourist businesses that are taking advantage of the increasing cycle tourism economy in Scotland. However, much more could be done to realise the full economic opportunities afforded by the growth of the leisure cycle tourism sector.”

Ben Thompson, owner of Fort William-based Nevis Cycles said:

My business serves everyone from families to long distance tourers to Mountain Bike World Cup racers – who all come to experience the Highlands’ world class outdoors. Without them my business wouldn’t exist. Unfortunately our active travel network is often below an acceptable standard or even nonexistent in key places.

“That we have no safe active travel options at all to our most iconic Highland attractions is mind boggling! Not least because that investment would help deal with our road capacity issues. Our customers are often surprised how busy Highland roads are, and the lack of quieter, safer travel options is a major barrier to getting folk out of the cars that pollute and clog the very environment they’ve come to see.”

Scottish Government Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said:

We welcome this report which highlights the increasing importance and potential of cycle tourism in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has just doubled the Active Travel budget to £80m and a significant portion of this will be used for the development of more cycling infrastructure, such as through the National Cycle Network, Community Links and Community Links Plus funds.

“Whilst the primary aim of this funding is to encourage more people to walk and cycle for shorter everyday journeys, it also has the potential to support cycle tourism and our economy.”

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said:

Scotland’s reputation as a cycling destination is growing every year and makes a significant contribution to the visitor economy – with cycling tour companies, restaurants and accommodation providers just some of the beneficiaries from this year-round leisure pursuit. Scotland is regarded as one of the best destinations in the world for mountain biking and has more than 500 miles of traffic-free paths for visitors to explore. VisitScotland is doing its part by working closely with key partners such as Sustrans Scotland and also ensuring that visiting cyclists have access to the best quality facilities with our Cyclists’ Welcome Scheme, and we welcome this discussion on new ways to improve and develop tourism in this important area.

The Transform Scotland report calls for investment to create traffic-free routes on key tourist routes across Scotland. Such investment would include, firstly, the development of existing routes, filling gaps and bringing more sections off-road, but also, secondly, the establishment of new routes:

  • Further development of off-road sections of routes such as NCN78 (The Caledonia Way) and NCN7 (from Inverness, via the Cairngorms, Trossachs, Glasgow, and Ayrshire to Dumfries & Galloway).
  • The creation of new off-road routes, such as through the West Highlands to Skye, in order to ease the ever-increasing visitor pressure. Such investment would facilitate the future growth of cycle tourism on these routes, relieve pressure on the local road network in rural communities, and unlock further economic growth for rural communities across Scotland.

The report recommends that the Scottish Government should use the recently-commenced Strategic Transport Projects Review as an opportunity to identify routes with a high cycle tourism potential, and fund the creation of segregated cycle facilities along the length of these routes.

The report is available to read here.