This month two enthusiastic cyclists from Age Scotland – Greg McCracken and Ciaran McDonald – were delighted to receive an invitation to an evening reception celebrating 20 years of the National Cycle Network at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
This month’s theme for the Age Scotland Hot Tips Calendar is Transport. In his guest blog, Ciaran shares his thoughts on the National Cycle Network, cycling and how we can all make the most of getting out and about.
Welcoming us to this event, John Lauder, the Director of Sustrans Scotland revealed that such an occasion of support for cycling just would not have been possible a decade ago. Fittingly, a number of respected figures gave thanks to the invited audience of supporters, volunteers and partner organisations, including the Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay MSP and the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Catherine Calderwood. Having the backing of these respected figures demonstrates how much of an important value society places on the National Cycle Network. Indeed it has recently been reported that in 2014 alone, the combined number of journeys taken on foot or cycle on the Network generated health benefits equating to £321 million!
Taking part in a physical activity is a fantastic way of reducing the likelihood of a number of conditions including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. So there’s no excuse not to enjoy the 2100 miles of the National Cycle Network that cover a variety of landscapes across the country. At this event I learned that most journeys taken on the Network are actually on foot, which should come as no surprise given our country’s beautiful yet diverse scenery and the fact that 41% of the Scottish population live within a third of a mile of the Network.
Whether you live in an urban neighbourhood or a more rural community there’s bound to be a stretch of the National Cycle Network open for you. I was particularly encouraged by the showing of a promotional film at this event previewing the opening of Route 78, known as ‘The Caledonian Way’, which will stretch from Campbeltown to Inverness once it opens next month. Clearly such a project would not have been successfully completed were it not for the dedicated work of Sustrans Scotland in ensuring its development.
Besides hearing from distinguished guests and learning about new routes to try out, this event was a social celebration. For me, one of the best parts about getting out of the office is having the opportunity to contribute to conversations that I would not have otherwise expected. It was only apt that by chance I go chatting to a number of attendees who shared an interest in active ageing.
One gentleman I met as I was locking up my bike outside had a litter picker fixed to his cycle’s frame. I asked him why and he told me that every week he voluntarily cycles along the Union Canal in Edinburgh picking up rubbish from the towpath. Dedicated to the task, he heads out regardless of the weather and it’s great to see his commitment celebrated at events such as this.
Another fellow we met in the venue informed us that due to health reasons cycling was now one of the main methods he chose to get out and about around the city. Whilst another enthused of his love for cycling and indeed rock climbing. In fact he had not long returned from a rock climbing holiday in Morocco with a group of senior climbers from Ratho climbing centre. This struck me that this should surely be our next port of call for our work on promoting physical activity!
Undoubtedly this event underscored that regardless of age, being physically active plays a big part in many people’s lives. For me it was refreshing to meet so many people with a common interest in pushing the cycling agenda in Scotland and I hope that this will gather pace in the near future. Until then though, many happy returns to the National Cycle Network!
Download your 2015 Hot Tips Calendar here and get information and advice throughout the year.