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Bike Plan Switzerland to create trail plans for key Mountain Bike Destinations in the Highlands of Scotland

Swiss bike-specific destination development and spatial planning experts, Bike Plan Switzerland, have been awarded the contract to understand the current mountain biking offering versus current and projected future demands, in key growth markets, ultimately leading to increased levels of investment into an improved trail network.

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), part of Scottish Cycling, have partnered with interested parties including Highland and Islands Enterprise, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Government and the relevant Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) to drive the sustainable development of mountain biking in the Highlands.

Jointly they have identified the need to strategically, and sustainably, plan the mountain bike offer in these destinations linked with business and community development to sustainably grow the economic contribution of the Scottish mountain bike tourism sector and for it to play an important role in helping communities to become healthier, happier and more resilient.

Adrian Greiner CEO of Bike Plan Switzerland said

“The resources of this Earth are limited, as is space. The mobility of people and the need for nature experiences, on the other hand, are steadily increasing. The challenge is to find fair compromises and solutions for mountain bike regions with all stakeholders. We are passionate about this. We are delighted to now be involved in creating a bike plan for such an important region in Scotland. We understand that there is a recognised demand for an improvement in mountain bike facilities in the Highlands and we want to ensure the region, and Scotland, maximises the impact of hosting international level events, can provides attractive itineraries for growing mountain bike markets and ensure the mountain bike community is better integrated and better-equipped to improve the sustainability of mountain bike trails.”

The process should seek to identify the current strengths and weaknesses of each area in terms of current tourism offer including current and future markets, accommodation base and relevant other activities, promotion, the extent, nature and potential of the trails including an evaluation of their sustainability. The bike plan would then identify necessary developments and strategies that could be put in place to maximise the sustainable growth potential of mountain biking in each area and provide positive economic benefits to the community as a whole. This process should take into account key growth markets including families, enduro, adventure riding, e-biking and bike park.

The purpose of this exercise is to provide DMBinS, and partner organisations, with evidence-based recommendations for strategic trail network developments and guidance on community-led trail development and stewardship, and appropriate business development.

The remit of the consultants will be to develop trail network designs that can be taken forward in phased stages. Bike Plan Switzerland will develop design layouts including plans and elevations and will present these in the form of a report (print or digital) which outlines the design proposals, illustrating the scheme in scale plans, sections and elevations to enable the spatial arrangements, materials and appearance to be approved in future funding applications.

DMBinS and its partners will use the report findings and recommendations to secure future funding for trail network development.

Ruari Watt, DMBinS Highland MTB Coordinator, said

“DMBinS is responsible for overseeing the national strategy for mountain biking in Scotland (the MTB strategy). The MTB strategy has an ambitious vision for Scotland to be recognised as the leading nation in Europe for mountain biking.

The strategy has a mission to increase the economic contribution of mountain biking by 51% to be worth £158m GVA per annum to the Scottish economy, grow participation to 2m rides per annum and for Scots to be crowned world champion or world series winner in every mountain bike discipline.

To achieve this exciting vision and mission the Highlands region will play an important role. The MTB strategy identifies Fort William and Lochaber as a ‘Premier Destination’ and the Cairngorms and North of Scotland, primarily Sutherland, Wester Ross and Skye, as a ‘Priority Destinations’.

For a variety of reasons, there has been very little product development and marketing of these destinations. As other areas of Scotland, UK and Europe are investing in this growth market there is a risk that the Highlands might lose its market position, and suffer economically, as a result. We want to ensure that this does not happen and I am looking forward to supporting the work of Bike Plan Switzerland in the coming months.”

Due to funding, the western Cairngorms from Laggan to Grantown-on-Spey, will be the first destination to undertake the bike planning process.

Carolyn Robertson, the project manager for the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, which is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), said

We are pleased to support the strategic planning of the mountain bike offer in the western Cairngorms, to ensure it fits the needs of riders – both locals and visitors - and integrates sustainably into land management and the internationally important ecology of the area. Bike Plan Switzerland have a global reputation working in sensitive environments across many diverse locations, and we welcome their appointment and look forward to working with them and the local community to create an exciting plan for the future of biking in the western Cairngorms.

The DMBinS Highland project forms part of the Highlands and Islands led Northern Innovation Hub (NIH), a project that received £11m from the UK Government and £1.7m ERDF support as part of the Inverness and Highland City Region Deal. The Deal is a joint £315 million initiative supported by both the UK and Scottish governments.’and the National Lottery Heritage Fund through CNPA’s Cairngorms Capercaillie Project, with further funding expected by Fort William and Lochaber, Sutherland, Skye and Wester Ross.

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