A development cluster for mountain biking in Scotland

A development cluster for mountain biking in Scotland

Research demonstrates that innovation is enhanced in clusters of industries, NGOs, public authorities etc. The idea of a creating a cluster, rather than awaiting its emergence, has caught on in Scotland. Key national agencies worked together to plan how best to sustain and grow mountain biking in Scotland in a way which provides optimum and quantifiable returns in terms of participation in mountain biking, economic and tourism development and also in terms of public participation and sporting development and success. The Scottish Mountain Bike Development Consortium (SMBDC) is a principal actor in the process, which aims at developing Scotland to become the best mountain biking destination in Europe.

A concise strategic framework combines various objectives:

• To increase mountain biking visitor numbers by a further 50% over the next 5 years

• To increase domestic participation in mountain biking by 25% over the same period

• To assist Scots to win at least 5 medals in World or Commonwealth competitions

The innovation process requires an engagement of all stakeholders. The development cluster commits  those within the cluster. This may involve finding local ‘champions’ who are motivated and have the skills necessary to make the cluster work.

In a detailed study and strategy document a number of positive factors for mountain biking in Scotland are identified:

  • •”A worldwide and growing reputation
  • • World-class facilities
  • • Trail provision for all abilities
  • • International, national and local events of the highest calibre
  • • Access legislation which facilitates general responsible access to the outdoors
  • • A huge range of natural and informal paths
  • • The development of Core Path Networks
  • • Sporting success by Scots, providing good role models
  • • A positive culture and great enthusiasm for developing the activity at every level
  • • Public sector and commercial investment
  • • Good examples of coordinated inter-agency working
  • • Experience, knowledge and expertise
  • • The outstanding attractiveness of Scotland’s great outdoors as a venue for recreation and adventure sports.”

However, there are issues to be tackled:

  • “The affordability of sustaining trail provision
  • The lack of revenue streams for those making the main capital investments
  • Concerns about liability and an increasing number of accidents and the resulting potential for litigation
  • Inadequate cooperation amongst the key providers
  • Poor communications with enthusiasts
  • Gaps in the geographical distribution of trail centres and other trail provision
  • Lack of joined-up developments
  • Limited buy-in by local businesses
  • Limited promotion and marketing at certain levels
  • Issues with the image of mountain biking as an extreme, macho activity
  • The need to avoid environmental damage associated with sensitive sites and poor planning, design and management of trails
  • Poor integration with land managers and land management
  • Barriers to entry including the accessibility of local and especially urban provision and the costs of transport and bikes
  • A perceived lack of coordination at both national and local level, coupled with a perceived lack of ambition to realise the true potential of the activity
  • Inclusivity of the activity in relation to women, families, children and lower income groups
  • A lack of overall professionalism.”

As a result of a national focus, as cluster development plan is under development, identifying key local actions and sources of funding and support. The action includes:

  • “An assessment of the potential for local provision and widening of participation
  • Identified networks of routes suitable for off-road cycling which require minimum management and are, or could be, way-marked and can be promoted
  • Cycle-friendly connections which link the purpose-built and promoted facilities and the wider access network
  • Coordinated marketing including the preparation of specific materials including maps to promote the Cluster, in line with SMBDC guidance
  • Arrangements in place to enable businesses to work together to enhance the commercial returns from the activity in the area
  • Responsibility for ensuring that new developments are sustainable and established to appropriate standards, in line with SMBDC guidance
  • Local competitions, events, training and club development.”

Why is mountainbiking fascinating? Take a tour here:

Seven well-developed trails are already available in Scotland. They are marketed under a joint profile 7STANES.

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