Does Scotland have the world’s best ecosystem for MTBs?

Glenfinnan, Scotland. Photo by Roman Popelar. Flikr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Recently, in my quest to learn more about sustainable mountain biking, I came across a podcast by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland. They have only 5 podcasts available so far, but all are interesting. This is not a podcast about the tech, the gear or the techniques of mountain biking, rather it covers how MTB-ing affects society and the environment, and how it can best be supported and developed. From the podcasts, I have learned that:

  1. Scotland has a Right to Roam policy (see The Scottish Outdoor Access Code) which in its essence allows responsible access to all lands and waters. Yes, even privately owned lands, except for private homes and gardens and lands on which crops are growing!

Scotland’s access rights are yours to enjoy – as long as you do so responsibly. These rights apply to most land and inland water and include walking, cycling and other non-motorised activities.  


2. They have a government-funded society, NatureScot, that “…advises Scottish Ministers on natural heritage matters.” They actively encourage people to take advantage of the Right to Roam policies and to enjoy the outdoors responsibly, including on bicycles. They have published a guide for land managers and riders on Unauthorized MTB Trails.

3. There is a single government agency, Forestry and Land Scotland, responsible for how forests are managed, Their mission is to, “…look after national forests and land to enhance biodiversity, support tourism and increase access to the green spaces that will help improve Scotland’s physical and mental health and well-being. We will also continue to provide vital timber supplies to support the rural economy.” They encourage outdoor activities, including mountain biking, by creating a network of trails and by running the 7stanes mountain biking trail centres.

4. There is a national, publically funded agency, SportsScotland, that supports “…influencing, informing and investing in the organisations and people who deliver sport and physical activity.” Part of that support goes to Scottish Cycling, which, in turn, supports…

5. Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland, a charitable foundation that does what it says.

Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland ‘The National Strategy’ from Dominic Simmons on Vimeo.

What struck me as I listened to the podcasts was the sincerity that all these agencies had, working together to support mountain bikers and biking as a healthful outdoor experience while at the same time protecting the environment. I believe that in Canada, only British Columbia has (somewhat near-to) this level of support for the MTB community. For mountain biking to be sustainable, it will need input from all stakeholders, including environmental groups, natural history clubs; national, provincial and local governments, as well as bike shops, bike clubs and tourism operators.

British Columbia MTB links:

More on cycling in Scotland:

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