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Routes to Growth: Developing Scotland’s Cycle Tourism Sector

Routes to Growth: Developing Scotland’s Cycle Tourism Sector’ recognises the role of leisure cycling in Scotland’s tourism economy. 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 consulted businesses on the Caledonia Way, one of the key cycle tourism routes in Scotland, to assess what is working well with cycle tourism in Scotland and what needs to be done better to capitalise on the sector’s huge potential.

By speaking to businesses and national stakeholders, we found that barriers exist in expanding cycle tourism, such as a lack of safe and convenient cycle paths on key tourist routes, and a need for better connections for cyclists, such as improvements in taking bikes on public transport.

Creating new off-road routes, such as through the West Highlands to Skye, would help to make cycle tourism safe and convenient for people of all abilities. 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 sets out a number of recommendations to grow Scotland’s leisure cycle tourism economy, including:

  • Build fully segregated cycle paths along the length of selected key tourist routes, such as the Caledonia Way, NCN 7 and through the West Highlands to Skye.
  • Enhance integration between cycling and public transport.
  • Promote Scotland as the world’s leading destination for leisure cycling.
  • Put in place a centralised online information resource for cycle tourists.
  • Improve collaboration and leadership between tourism industry stakeholders by establishing a forum or platform to coordinate cycle tourism activity.

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.”

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.”

The report can be viewed here.