Highland Perthshire Cycling
With its rural roads and forest tracks meandering through mountains and alongside lochs, Perthshire in Scotland is without doubt a great place for biking. The CBI, Highland Perthshire Cycling (HPC) aims to make the most of this, and wants to encourage more ‘locals and visitors’ to cycle in the county, both for leisure and as a normal means of everyday transport.
HPC started by running leisure events, and continues to do so, including an extreme mountain bike race (‘Dunkeld enduro’), a woman only race (‘Belles ‘n buns’) and youth races. Local accommodation providers and businesses are encouraged to support cycling through (for example) providing storage space, clothes drying facilities, showers and hoses for cleaning bikes. The charity works alongside other supporters of cycling. These include bike shops and rental hubs, coaches and event organisers and the producer of a cycling brochure for the area.
They pioneered the idea of ‘cycle friendly’ communities, which has now been taken up and promoted by Cycling Scotland. Their cycling festival concept has also been widely replicated in other areas of Scotland. However, the group were aware that many local adults and children perceived cycling as dangerous and would be scared to consider cycling on local roads that, whilst relatively quiet, often have fast traffic. In fact, they found that around a third of households (many parts of which are relatively deprived) did not own a bike. With funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund, the group ran a two year project to support more local people to use their car less, especially within local towns and villages for things like the school run or going to the local shop. They set out with a range of ideas including adult and secondary pupil cycle training, awareness raising events to talk about active travel and to inspire about the fun of cycling and start to normalise the idea of using a bike to get around.
Over the two years, community cycling champions were recruited and hundreds of local children and adults received training in cycling skills and bike maintenance. ‘Bikeability’ training is now embedded in local schools and, working with the Local Authority, some basic improvements to local cycling infrastructure have been made. However, ‘unless that infrastructure starts to happen more widely then it is hard for one little organisation to effect change -cycle paths on rural roads would be a huge benefit -National cycle paths locally are not up to current standard and are poorly maintained in terms of quality of surface and not easy to access unless a confident cyclist – and they are hard to find! There is so much that we can do but we need to be part of a larger strategy’.
Over the years, HPC has been successful in winning a number of grants from bodies including the Scottish Government, the Climate Challenge Fund, Perth and Kinross Council, Cycling Scotland and Sustrans. However, reliance on short-term project grant funding and volunteer time leaves it vulnerable and at the present time it has not able to continue to run activities to support active travel projects.