THE green light has been given to a new initiative to put the Scottish Borders on the map as a recreational cycling destination.
Already regarded as one of Scotland's top mountain biking locations, the 100,000 project will focus on promoting the Borders' leisure cycling offer - from way-marked distance routes to a series of newly developed signed town trails.
Backed by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of the Scottish Borders Recreational Cycling Group, the initiative has just been awarded match funding through the Scottish Borders LEADER programme.
This will allow the recruitment of a cycling development officer who will work with local businesses to maximise the recreational cycling potential of the region - bringing economic benefit and encouraging use of the area's cycling facilities by both visitors and local people.
As part of the project a new website www.CycleScottishBorders.co.uk has been developed.
Linked to the Visit Scotland Borders site, it showcases all forms of cycling opportunities within the region and features downloadable maps of the main cycling routes.
The site will be further enhanced over the coming months as part of a marketing and public relations drive to showcase the Borders to cyclists as a potential holiday and day-trip destination.
Nicola Watt, Scottish Enterprise said: "Cycling tourism was worth an annual 219m to the Scottish economy and we want to see the Borders gain a greater share of this market. This is especially relevant this year with more people than ever expected to opt for a UK break rather than go overseas.
"We are fortunate that our region already has some stunning long cycle trails including the Tweed Cycle Route and Borderloop.
"Scottish Borders Council has also recently developed dozens of short cycle trails that start and end in popular tourist towns such as Melrose, Kelso and Jedburgh. Most are circular making them ideal for anyone looking to enjoy some stunning scenery and exercise.
"As they vary in length from 5 to 26 miles, they are ideal for those who are new to cycling as well as enthusiasts."
The Leisure Cycling project will span a two-year period (May 2009 – March 2011). It has already gained widespread support from accommodation providers and cycling businesses within the region who believe there is real potential to attract more visitors to the area to cycle.
Christopher Rainbow of Christopher Rainbow Bike and Tandem Hire said: "The creation of a cycling officer role will greatly benefit the development of leisure cycling in the Borders; it cannot fail to."
VisitScotland's Area Director, Sandi Hellowell, commented: "As well as cycling routes we have over 100 cyclist welcome accredited businesses in the Borders, ranging from visitor attractions and restaurants to hotels, B&Bs and self catering cottages so there is great infrastructure to capitalise upon.
"The new website aims to bring together all of the information a cyclist would need - from downloadable maps to suggested itineraries and links to book accommodation in the region. Now this is in place we will be undertaking a mix of marketing activity to drive potential visitors to the site which we hope will help increase tourism to the area."
The project will be co-ordinated by the Scottish Borders Recreational Cycling Group that includes representatives from Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Enterprise, Visit Scotland Borders, Sustrans Scotland and Borders Sport and Leisure Trust.