I arrived in Edinburgh close to dark, so it was not until the next morning as I was driving up the west coast that I got a good look at Scotland. Even through the dark mist and rain, it was a beautiful sight. After about five minutes, I had to pull over and stare, because I could not believe what I was seeing. What made we want to shout “YES!!!! FINALLY!!!!” at the damp woods? Was it castles, craggy peaks, men in kilts? No. It was a piece of visionary human engineering: a bike path.
Scotland gets it. Boy do they. And the Scots have built a world class fully separated bike path. Actually it’s not a path, it’s a “National Cycle Network”. The official name better conveys the ambition of this mighty creation. Imagine if MANY major roads in your country had running right next to them fully separated bike paths and you’ll be dreaming of what the Scots already have. Smooth enough to roller ski on (next trip) and wide enough to ride several abreast, it’s not just a bike path. It’s a thing of beauty.
A network like this is a win all around. It is the single biggest new tourist draw you could have. When cyclists don’t have to dodge lorries around blind corners, they will come in droves. And you can tell by the proliferation of small businesses servicing the cycle economy along the network that biking is now a key part of Highlands tourism.
But it’s also good for the people who live there. This time of year cyclists may be thin on the ground, but dog walkers are out in force, meandering and talking as traffic whizzes by a safe distance away. How nice to be able to take back the roads. GO HUMANS!!!! And dogs.
AND – most importantly – the network stands as a living example of a better way. Of what could be – if you have the vision. It’s inspiring to see a community really nail it. And you think, “If we can do this – what else can we do?”
Scotland shows how easy it is to do something great when you have the vision.