Scottish Canals

Creating a cycling friendly culture along Scotland's canals.

Canals across Scotland

Scottish Canals employs over 245 people across the country and is responsible for the management of five of Scotland’s canals. The canals are used every day by people for travelling to work and for leisure, and represent a rich part of Scotland’s cultural and natural heritage. Prior to receiving funding from Cycling Scotland, lack of bikes and places to store them securely was a barrier for staff incorporating cycling as part of their commute and business travel.

A phased approach

Scottish Canals took a phased approach and applied for funding across three rounds of employer funding, receiving over £87,000 with the aim of overcoming these challenges across their multiple sites.  

  • Phase 1 of the project saw £32,000 of Cycling Friendly Employer funding being used to purchase eight pool bikes and seven shelters for staff and visitors at sites along the Forth & Clyde Canals at Applecross, Bowling, Auchinstarry, The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies, and this initial phase was used as the learning experience to move onto the next stages.
  • In phase 2, £33,000 was awarded to sites at the Union Canal and Crinan Canal to install five cycle shelters for staff and visitors as well as six pool bikes and accessories.
  • The final phase, £22,000 from the Cycling Friendly Employer development fund was used in eight sites at the Caledonian Canal in Corpach, Banavie, Gairlochy, Cullochy, Fort Augustus Ardchattan, Dochgarroch Lock, Inverness and Clachnaharry Lock to buy 13 pool bikes and three bike shelters.  

Staff are able to 'think bike'

All 245 members of staff at these sites are now able to easily book out pool bikes and securely lock their own bikes, making commuting to work by bike easier, more accessible and attractive. With the new storage and pool bikes front and centre at the sites rather than tucked out of the way, staff are more able to ‘think bike' more often and a special effort was made to ensure that the style of pool bikes gave confidence to all levels of competency of people who cycle, not excluding any staff from being able to use them.

Mental and physical health

Andrew McSherry, Head of ICT and Cycle Champion at Scottish Canals, describes the impact the bikes have had on him personally: “with the new bike storage in place at Glasgow, I’m able to commute safe in the knowledge that my bike is securely stored during the day.  My mental and physical health I feel has improved - especially my mental fitness.”

Scottish Canals has worked hard to embed an active travel culture throughout the organisation. A Strategic Bike Delivery group was formed after the first round of funding was received, dedicated cycling champions were appointed at head office and satellite offices throughout Scotland, and a cycling forum was set up using an online platform (Yammer) meaning that all staff in the organisation can keep in touch and ask questions.

All Scottish Canals staff have the Essential Cycling Skills app installed on their smartphones, complete ‘Essential Cycling Skills’ onboarding training before using the pool bikes and can access an Outlook calendar to book out pool bikes. Staff can now use the pool bikes for personal or business trips, such as going to meetings or between sites along the towpath and are covered by Scottish Canals public liability insurance.

Any new development now considers the wider aspirations of the organisation from a cycling perspective, ensuring that buildings and facilities are designed with cycling in mind and meaning that dedicated changing, storage facilities or secure bike storage are incorporated into the design from the beginning, as opposed to ‘bolted on’ afterwards.

Support from Cycling Scotland 

Andrew was also positive about the opportunities offered by Cycling Scotland, commending the “breadth of funding opportunities, and the benefits that can be achieved by an organisation” as a result of engaging in the process.


Scottish Canals has now achieved the Cycling Friendly Employer awards for five more of their sites in Applecross, Auchinstarry, The Kelpies, The Falkirk Wheel & Bowling Sea Lock, with the remainder of the estate on target to complete in 2020.

Over the last 13 years, Scottish Canals has worked in partnership with local authorities, Scottish National Heritage, Sustrans Scotland and other bodies to upgrade over 110km of towpath to become cycling friendly and continue to work towards maintaining infrastructure to be used by active travellers every day.

Find out more about becoming a Cycling Friendly Employer.