CYCLISTS have received a New Year boost with a saddlebag full of cash to improve dedicated routes around Inverness over the next two years and take riders off busy roads.
The main beneficiary is the National Cycle Network Route 78 linking Inverness and Oban, which is allocated £3 million and should be fully in place by 2015.
The windfall has been announced by the Scottish Government as part of an additional £21 million investment in transport and aims to encourage more people to move from four wheels to two.
The Inverness to Oban stretch will be one of Scotland’s most picturesque cycling tourist routes, taking in part of the already established Great Glen Way.
News that it is being earmarked for priority funding has been welcomed by John Davidson, The Inverness Courier’s cycling columnist.
"It’s great to see this long sought after route finally getting towards completion," he said.
"It will be great for cycle tourism and also for locals to get about between communities without having to resort to using their car for every journey.
"Hopefully it will encourage more people to get out of their bikes across the Highlands."
Transport minister Keith Brown announced the package, which will also offer better cycle access to train stations and improve bike parking at schools.
He said: "2012 has been fantastic for cycling in Scotland with our Olympic successes and this has led to a huge surge in interest in cycling both for recreation and as a way of getting around.
"So as we enter 2013 and more people think about taking up cycling with the fitness, financial and environmental benefits that brings, I am pleased to announce this funding to help improve cycling infrastructure for tourists, commuters and schoolchildren in areas throughout Scotland.
"The £2.6 million Corran Ferry to Inverness section will be managed by Transport Scotland in partnership with Highland Council and deliver much-needed safe cycle routes linking remote communities and taking cyclists off the trunk road network by 2015.
"The Great Glen cycle path will be an iconic route which will boost the local economy through the additional tourism in an area which already attracts over 20,000 spectators to the World Mountain Bike Championship each year in Fort William."
The government is also committing £400,000 for the Oban to Appin cycle route, while a similar amount will be spent increasing cycle parking at schools and extending the safe routes to schools initiative.
The funding forms part of a £205 million programme of capital projects announced by finance secretary John Swinney.