IT was set to be one of the most ambitious pieces of cycle infrastructure in Scotland, allowing cyclists to ride all the way from Milngavie and Bearsden to Glasgow on a route protected from traffic.

Today the Bears Way project in East Dunbartonshire lies in tatters after SNP, LibDem and independent councillors clubbed together to oppose the Labour-Conservative coalition and stop the cycleway in its tracks in a tight 12-11 vote last week.

The result means the scheme is now at a standstill with only Phase One, from Burnbrae roundabout to Hillfoot, complete. A "strip of cycleway in the middle of nowhere, connecting to nothing", as one frustrated council source described it.

With local authority elections looming in 2017, the situation is unlikely to change until a new administration is voted in - although a petition, signed by 2,600 locals, has called for the existing stretch of cycleway on the A81 to be ripped out and the road restored. That may well be the final outcome: a victory for the drivers, homeowners, and traders who bitterly opposed the loss of roadspace and parking, but a bitter blow for cyclists and environmentalists who had supported the European-style vision of safe cycling infrastructure.

Ironically, the vote came just days after Scottish transport statistics showed a small dip in the number of people cycling - to 1.2 per cent - sparking warnings that the SNP's long-time goal to have 10 per cent of all journeys made by bike by 2020 was now impossible.

The Nationalists' cycling ambitions seem to have been repeatedly thwarted by their local authority counterparts who, in fairness, must balance the interests and wishes of their constituents against party priorities.

In the case of Bears Way, the debate became so heated that public meetings featured everything from death threats on post-it notes to 999 calls to the police. To say opinion was split is an understatement.

SNP councillor Keith Small blamed "anger and frustration" over Phase One of the cycleway for actually creating conflict between motorists and cyclists.

In a similar vein, Edinburgh councillors - with the exception of the Greens - voted in August to put the controversial Roseburn tranche of the capital's segregated cycleway on ice after the debate became "too polarised". Mirroring East Dunbartonshire, battle lines were drawn between residents angry that a loss of roadspace for cars would exacerbate congestion, while those in favour argued that unless infrastructure is overhauled to make cycle routes safe and direct Scotland will never hit its cycling targets.

Today, an SNP motion going before South Ayrshire council is calling for a bi-directional cycle lane in Ayr to be removed and the carriageway restored to its original condition, again seemingly at odds with national objectives.

On the one hand, campaigners have a point when they urge the Scottish Government to spend at least 10 per cent of the transport budget on walking and cycling, compared to two per cent now.

But spending is only part of the battle. A tougher dilemma is local democracy.

How do councillors balance loyalty to their constituents with party policy? And is a "popular" decision necessarily the right decision given the growing threat from obesity and sedentary lifestyles?

For now, Scotland's cycling policy looks to be on a road to nowhere.