IF the Great Glen Cycle Route is going to deliver effectively then we need to develop and promote public transport connections, with a vision slightly wider than getting bikes carried on trains ("£3m puts Great Glen bike route on track for 2015", The Herald, January 3).
We are fortunate that Scotland probably leads the rest of the UK in this respect, but does not really promote or develop the potential as well as it could do.
A cornerstone for riding the existing infrastructure of forest trails, which might best be described as challenging, was secured by ScotRail and local bike hirers in Oban, Fort William and Inverness, providing a one-way bike hire deal of rent here-leave there. Even the mix of on-road and trails (using the 1726 or 1732 Wade routes) provides the stiff climb/challenging descent of Glen Doe, and the switchback through Foyers (with the avoiding route through Glen Lia). A 40mph speed limit on those roads might not go amiss even as an interim measure.
However, the greatest gain can come from using bus and coach services, both to get to the three key node points, to complete part routes and access the southern extension down into Argyll – potentially starting from Arran (via Cloanaig) or Lochgilphead.
The stiff climb out from the ferry at Cloanaig is mitigated by the fact that the buses connecting the three ferry piers and Lochgilphead carry bikes, and West Coast Motors report that this is a popular feature.
Scottish Citylink and West Coast Motors jointly operate the main express coach routes, and carry appropriately "packed" cycles, as do the Stagecoach Express coaches. This offers a substantially higher capacity than many trains, as reports are of up to 10 bikes being carried on a 50-seat coach against 4-6 bikes on a 140-seat train. We do however need to work on the protocol of doing this so that it does not disrupt the current operation of coach and bus services, perhaps even requiring a booking for the oversize luggage issue of bikes (and surfboards – given the excellent surfing provided by an Atlantic coastline) demanding space in the hold.
Now is the time to start this discussion ready for the delivery of the Great Glen route as a cycle touring corridor, and also to do some clear "before" monitoring of the current levels of cycling-generated economic activity.
Perhaps as a starting point all Scottish local authorities should follow suit with Western Isles Council and make cycle carriage a default condition on all supported bus services, making these services available to a far wider area than can be achieved by a walk to the stop. It used to be this way, and in the mid-1980s I caught the bus with my bike to Galashiels, Peebles, Callander, Killin and the like. Please get this facility restored.
6 Woodlands Terrace, Glasgow.
It is enormously welcome that £3 million is to be spent on upgrading and completing the cycle route between Inverness and Oban, and various other more urban routes and cycle facilities. However, I would like to draw attention to a small missing link in the national cycle network – part of the triangle between Argyll and Bute and West Dunbartonshire. One side of the triangle, between Dumbarton and Balloch, is part of Sustrans Route 7, which runs along the traffic-free towpath alongside the River Leven. The second part of the triangle, the road between Balloch and Helensburgh, also has a cycle route almost all the way at the side of the road, although not an official Sustrans route. But the third part of the triangle, between Dumbarton and Helensburgh, the B814, remains a cycle-free zone, unless one risks life and limb on this narrow, busy and dangerous road.
There would be great benefits if the triangle could be completed and the missing link was joined to the other two sides. It would provide a safe and pleasant cycle route, and walk, for approximately eight miles through largely rural surroundings, with spectacular views of the Clyde, two excellent garden centres, a National Trust property, and a friendly village, Cardross, halfway along the route. There would be added economic benefits to Helensburgh at the end, from increased cycle and pedestrian visitors.
I have for some years been attempting to encourage Argyll and Bute Council and Sustrans to consider this suggestion, and my latest information is that the main problem appears to be that of multiple land-ownership issues.
82 Bonhill Road,