A REPORT has called for cycle paths along key tourist routes in Scotland.

Transform Scotland released the Routes to Growth: Developing Scotland’s Cycle Tourism Sector report today after consulting companies 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.

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).

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: “[More than] 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 non-existent 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.”