FUNDING of the UK’s “most scenic” cycle route as a safer alternative to a busy Highland road is included in a £3.9 million package announced by the Scottish Government today.
• “Iconic” Great Glen cycle route to receive funding as part of £3.9m transport funding package
• Route between Oban and Inverness to receive bulk of grant, while other cycling projects also set to be given funding
Cyclists hail cash boost for UK’s most scenic route
The move was welcomed by cycling groups, which said the cash that had been previously earmarked for cycle improvements had been protected, despite a big cut in other planned extra transport spending.
The funding comes a day after transport minister Keith Brown pledged to make 2013 the year of “pedal power” to improve fitness, help people save money and benefit the environment.
The bulk of the grant – over two years from April – will go on speeding up construction of the Great Glen cycle path between Oban and Inverness, with £2.6m for the section north from the Corran Ferry to be completed by 2015, taking cyclists off the A82 trunk road. Another £400,000 has been allocated for the Oban-Appin section.
Elsewhere, £500,000 will be spent on links between the Airdrie-Bathgate cycle path and railway stations alongside it.
A further £400,000 will be used for improving cycle parking at schools to encourage more pupils to take to two wheels.
Sustrans, the charity responsible for maintaining the national cycle network, of which the Oban-Inverness section will be part, has described the Oban-Fort William stretch as the UK’s most scenic.
Sustrans Scotland director John Lauder said conversion of a former railway line would provide cyclists with a new route through picturesque coastal areas, such as Appin.
Providing traffic-free paths in rural areas is seen as crucial in encouraging cycling and boosting safety, since in many places the only option is for cyclists to share busy roads with vehicles travelling at up to 60mph.
Mr Brown said: “I am pleased to be able to announce this funding to help improve cycling infrastructure for tourists, commuters and schoolchildren in areas throughout Scotland.
“The Great Glen cycle path will be an iconic route, which will boost the local economy through the additional tourism.”
The funding is part of £205m of extra construction spending announced by finance secretary John Swinney two weeks ago. There was no reduction in the cycling element, despite the amount transport being cut from £75m to £22m.
Lobby group Spokes said the decision had followed its “big and urgent effort” to secure additional funding for cycling.
It said the expected £2.7m to be spent this year would mean the Scottish Government allocating a record 1 per cent of its transport budget on cycling. But it warned at least 5 per cent was needed if ministers had any hope of meeting their target of increasing cycling from 2 per cent to 10 per cent of trips by 2020.