A NEGLECTED housing scheme could be transformed into Scotland's first purpose-built "bike town" as part of an ambitious redevelopment plan.
Glasgow's cycling tsar, Frank McAveety, is calling for Sighthill, in the north of the city, to be remodelled along the lines of Houten, a new town in the Netherlands, where cars are largely banished to an outer ring road.
The estate, built in the mid to late-1960s, is to undergo a major redevelopment which councillors hope will help attract the 2018 Youth Olympics. The plan includes the demolition of five high-rise tower blocks, and the construction of 830 homes, a village square, shops and education campus.
But Mr McAveety said planners should go further and reconfigure the area to give cyclists priority over motorists. A planned network of green spaces and bridges over the M8, linking the area to the city centre, should be regarded as its main arteries, he argued.
The plan follows a fact-finding visit to the Netherlands by Mr McAveety and fellow cycling tsars from Edinburgh, London, Manchester and Bristol.
The visit included a trip to Houten, five miles from Utrecht. The town – whose 50,000 population is similar to Sighthill – is regarded as one of the most cycle-friendly towns in the world.
There is huge enthusiasm for cycling in the Netherlands, which has more cycles than people and where more than one-quarter of all journeys are by bike. In Scotland that figure is about 2%. Outside the bustle of the main cities such as Amsterdam, many roads have their own dedicated cycle lanes.
In Houten, cars can only access neighbourhoods via the ring road, so journeys across town are quicker by bike. Residential areas and the railway station are linked by cycle paths, and car access to the city centre is limited.
Mr McAveety, a councillor and former MSP, said: "We need to raise our aspirations. In places like Houten people cycle and never see a car. Toddlers cycle, pensioners cycle, the environment's safe. The main form of transport is cycling.
"We will be spending substantial sums redeveloping Sighthill and even if just a fraction of the total goes on cycling-friendly provision it would transform our quality of life and sustainability."
If Glasgow wins the right to host the 2018 Youth Olympics some of the housing planned for Sighthill will be used as an athletes village. The cycling scheme is being backed by the Scottish Government, partly as a result of the games bid. A decision is due next month.
l Mark Cavendish, David Millar and Lizzie Armitstead are among the big name stars converging on Scotland for the British Cycling National Road Championships this week with a time trial in East Ayrshire today and a road race in Glasgow on Sunday. Olympic champions Laura Trott, Dani King and Joanna Rowsell are also among the elite line-up.