£1.9 million annual boost from Scottish hikers and cyclists

canal running through the great glen
The Caledonian Canal is part of the NWCN in Scotland (Image credit: Getty Images)

Hikers and cyclists in Scotland have reportedly contributed to a £1.9 million benefit to local economies in just a year.

A new report from NatureScot, Sustrans and Scottish Canals reveals the huge benefits of Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network (NWCN) for the economy, tourism, health and wellbeing in 2019.

The NWCN extends to 6879km across the country and includes Scotland’s Great Trails, the National Cycle Network and Scottish Canals towpaths.

The study shows that hikers and cyclists made 145.1 million trips on the network in 2019, spending almost £2 billion and supporting around 27,500 jobs.

Use of the routes and the associated reduction in car travel is estimated to have contributed a further £108 million to the economy, most significantly through improvements to health outcomes.

Walking and cycling trips on the network are estimated as taking 19.5 million car journeys off the road over the year, saving 7.1 million kg of CO2e.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of recreational bikers and hikers said the network had helped them to increase their physical activity (84%), improve their wellbeing (75%) and boost their overall life satisfaction (93%).

canal towpath near edinburgh

A report shows many people are hiking on the canal towpaths in Scotland (Image credit: Getty Images)

People exercising beside the Forth & Clyde canal, Glasgow

People exercising beside the Forth & Clyde canal, Glasgow (Image credit: Lorne Gill/NatureScot)

Working together on walk and cycle network

Since 2015, NatureScot, Sustrans and Scottish Canals have collaborated on a programme of improvements to the network, spending £30 million on upgrading 625km of strategic walking and cycling routes.

In addition,

The organisations believe the research reveals a huge future potential and benefits for communities and users. This is especially true following anecdotal evidence of  2020 and the many months of UK Covid-19 pandemic lockdown during which there has been a surge in walking and cycling.

Catherine Topley, CEO of Scottish Canals said: “The report showcases the value of the National Walking and Cycling Network in tackling climate change and improving health across Scotland.”

John Lauder, Deputy CEO of Sustrans, added: “The rise in walking, wheeling and cycling over the past number of months has demonstrated huge public appetite to make happier and healthier journey choices across Scotland.

“The report demonstrates the huge environmental, health and economic benefits of investing in walking, wheeling and cycling. Bold, long-term support and backing is now needed to build upon this positive shift towards active journey choices.”

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.