On yer bike Invercyde!
One of my cherished memories from my childhood is going to Millport with my brother, sister and assorted cousins. We would hire bikes and cycle round and round Cumbrae just as many people had before us and many, like me, continue to do so to this day. Cycling round the island was a carefree and enjoyable way to spend summer days. As a child it was just fun and it gave me a sense of freedom and independence. As an adult I am maybe more aware of the benefits to my health and the financial savings compared to a private car or even public transport. Obviously depending on the distance of the journey and in the West of Scotland the weather and topography, it may not always be suitable to cycle but then again 60% of all journeys undertaken in Inverclyde are less than 5 kilometres (that’s 3.1 miles in old money) so maybe it’s not as unrealistic to cycle as you think. And those hills don’t need to be as daunting if you have an E bike. Electric battery assisted bikes are becoming increasingly common and they take the edge off the extra effort required to manoeuvre the hills that adorn Inverclyde. And if it’s just the weather that’s putting you off then specialist shops are full of suitable clothing but to be honest jeans, jumper, high visibility jacket and a helmet are enough. If you are wary of cycling after a long layoff then courses are available via the Bothy, located at Gourock Railway Station, and the expert supervision provided will ensure you are confident and safe. While the main roads may not be your idea of a safe, relaxing cycle there are many alternatives in Inverclyde. From the waterfront paths in Greenock town centre and Port Glasgow and the more rural routes around the Cut and Loch Thom. The Scottish Government has committed £51 million to Active Travel and locally the cycling Bothy, run by Josh Wood and Shona Morris along with Community Tracks fronted by Stewart Phillips are looking to utilise some of that funding by working with Sustrans to develop the cycling route 75 which runs through Inverclyde. The route needs some tender loving care and, in some parts rerouting, to make it more accessible. When we look to the future and the possibilities for cycling in Scotland we don’t need to look abroad and in particular the Netherlands, we need to look to the past and the Island of Cumbrae to understand that a cycling culture carefully nurtured and supported is perfectly feasible and indeed desirable in the West of Scotland.