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Caithness plan to get more people walking and cycling rather than driving on short journeys

By Gordon Calder

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AN initiative aimed at getting more people to walk or cycle rather than take the car on short journeys is being run in Caithness.

The project, called Rural Connections, was launched in the county in the summer by the charity Cycling UK to encourage active travel instead of driving to go to the shops, visit friends or attend appointments.

The scheme aims to encourage more people to cycle and walk rather than take the car.
The scheme aims to encourage more people to cycle and walk rather than take the car.

George Ewing, the charity's Caithness-based development officer, outlined the thinking behind the scheme when he spoke at the most recent meeting of the Thurso Community Council.

He explained that the far north is one of seven areas covered by Rural Connections – the others being Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Moray, Argyll and Bute and the Scottish Borders.

Mr Ewing, a retired police officer, said a key aspect of the project will be the offer of short and long-term cycle loans to help people find a bike that suits them.

A variety of bikes are available, including electric ones, tandems and trikes as well as off-road wheelchairs and children's cycles. They are free to loan to anyone who wants to use them, he said.

"We are trying to fill a niche where there is a requirement for it and want to encourage people to be more active and change their attitude to everyday journeys," he told the meeting. The initiative wants people of all ages and abilities to get involved.

The scheme is funded by the Scottish Government.

As well as arranging bike loans, the development officers support local organisations to co-ordinate and add walking, wheeling and cycling opportunities to their existing activities. Volunteers will be sought to deliver activities in their communities and keep cycles working if there is no local bike shop.

Mr Ewing, a cycling enthusiast, began his role with Cycling UK in June. He answered a number of questions after his talk.

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