Cycling UK is launching a new project to get more people in rural and remote areas of Scotland walking, wheeling, and cycling.
Called Rural Connections, the project is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of Shetland, Orkney, Highland, Eilean Siar, Moray, Argyll and Bute and Scottish Borders. Dedicated Cycling UK staff will be based in these seven areas and will support people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to get active for everyday journeys, leisure, and adventure.
Scotland has seen a surge in cycling during the Covid pandemic, with cycling journeys up 47% in the 12 months following the start of the first lockdown in March 2020. In two of the areas featured in the project, Dunoon, and Lerwick, Cycling Scotland’s counters recorded an increase of more than 100%.
However, car use remains high with 78% of people in rural and remote areas traveling to work or education by car compared with 65% in the rest of Scotland.
The project will work in a number of areas to support walking, wheeling, and cycling for all abilities including:
offering short and long-term cycle loans to help people find a cycle that works for them
supporting local organisations to coordinate and add walking, wheeling and cycling opportunities to their existing activities
upskilling of volunteers to deliver activities in their communities and keep cycles working if there is no local bike shop
building localised networks of organisations, communities and individuals supporting walking, wheeling and cycling initiatives
As activity is known to boost mental and physical health, Rural Connections aims to enable more people to choose to get active instead of driving for these short journeys, whether it’s a trip to the shops, a visit to friends or to attend an appointment.
The project also aims to encourage people in rural and remote areas to walk, wheel or cycle to explore their surroundings: to enjoy a picnic, a family cycle ride or a pleasant walk without the use of a car.
The programme builds on Cycling UK’s current community work, such as the Scotland Cycle Repair Scheme which saw more than 30,000 bikes repaired during the pandemic.
Funded by Smarter Choices Smarter Places, development officers embedded in local communities will use their expertise and local knowledge to work closely with community organisations, local businesses, public sector agencies and individuals.
Fiona Johnston, Rural Connections senior project officer, said:
“Cycling UK knows walking, wheeling and cycling improve people’s health and wellbeing but the benefits are wider than that. When more people choose to use their cars less, communities become more pleasant places, there can be an economic boost, so everyone in the community can benefit.
“For those living in rural and remote areas, even if you want to travel in an active way it can sometimes seem like there’s no other option than the car. Rural Connections aims to provide an alternative and the support many people need to make that change in behaviour.
“Our staff will be people who live and work in the communities themselves, as they have the best knowledge of what will work in their area. I’m delighted to introduce Louise Haggarty who can’t wait to get started in Moray.”
Louise said: “I will be working all over Morayshire, but specially focusing on Lossiemouth, Buckie, Forres, Elgin and Keith. I’m currently making connections within the communities, but I’ve got some exciting plans up my sleeve for the people of Moray. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.”