Swathes of National Cycle Network across Highlands downgraded in Sustrans routes shake-up
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Huge swathes of the National Cycle Network (NCN) in the Highlands are to have their official status removed as part of a review by the charity which oversees the routes.
The changes mean that all of NCN Route 1 north of Tain will be removed from the network but will still be signed under a new Inverness to John O'Groats named route – with the name yet to be decided.
Route 7, which connects Inverness with Glasgow via Aviemore, will use its existing Lochs and Glens Way name, while Route 78 will retain its Caledonia Way designation, despite the stretch from Dores to Fort Augustus as well as stretches further south near Oban being reclassified as non-NCN.
Sustrans said some of the on-road sections no longer fit with its standards for the network and it was now being more honest about what the routes offer, but insisted that no cycle routes in Scotland were being removed.
Sustrans Scotland director John Lauder said: "In Scotland, we’re not removing anything out of the NCN. What we’re doing is saying to be truly National Cycle Network quality we can’t honestly promote roads where traffic is moving at the national speed limit of 60mph – that’s not a prospect you can market to a family.
"We’ve purchased data that tracks traffic speed and volume, and what it shows us is that on B and C class roads in Scotland the volume of traffic is low but the speed is sometimes over 40mph, and when it’s over 40mph you should really be looking to segregate cyclists.
"When you can’t do that, you’ve got to say this is a recreational pursuit best suited to people who are comfortable knowing they are going to be passed by a moving vehicle.
"The reality is that was the market that was always using those long stretches of rural road for a National Cycle Network experience. It was always an adult audience; we’re just being a little bit clearer now about how we market and promote those routes."
The off-road Loch Ness 360 route is also being promoted as one of three new routes for experienced riders in partnership with VisitScotland, which will see interactive journey planners for each route and all material translated into German for the overseas market.
The Lochs and Glens Way and the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals route between Glasgow and Edinburgh will also join the existing Caledonia Way on the new website.
Sustrans and VisitScotland hope the changes and promotional campaigns will build on the country’s reputation as a leisure cycling destination.
Tom Bishop, Sustrans Scotland head of network development, said: "The changes to the way we map and promote cycle routes in Scotland will help manage user expectations and provide a more consistent user experience when cycling in Scotland.
"This will help us to build on Scotland’s huge potential as a world-class destination for cycle tourism. We have already seen success in our promotion of the Caledonia Way. Highlighting even more of Scotland’s best leisure cycling journeys to a worldwide audience through our partnership with VisitScotland is a key part of our plans to encourage many more people to spend their time and money along these unique and beautiful routes."
Sustrans said that by making these changes, it hoped to create a more accessible and consistent National Cycle Network, suitable for families, disabled people, people with long-term health conditions and those new to cycling – and also to promote the Highlands as a world-class leisure cycling destination through targeted marketing of named routes.
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