THIS week Craig Borland shares his view on the “farce” of attempts to create an off-road route for cyclists linking Helensburgh, Cardross and Dumbarton following news that it isn’t likely to be complete until 2028.

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APART from breathing a collective sigh of relief that the Millennium Bug wasn’t a thing, what were you doing in the year 2000?

I was in my third year at university, developing a bad habit of spending too much time in the library and not enough taking advantage of the cheap bar prices in the student union.

But 2000 is, roughly, when the Scottish Government – or, rather, the Scottish Executive as it was then – first threw its weight behind the idea of an off-road cycling route between Helensburgh and Dumbarton. Since then the minister who gave her backing to the idea, Labour’s Sarah Boyack, has stood without success to be the party’s Scottish leader, ceased to become a minister, ceased to become an MSP, become an MSP again through the regional list pecking order, and been made the party’s spokesperson on the environment.

Since 2000, too, there have been four different sets of local government elections. And the cycle path remains, according to current predictions, the best part of seven years away from completion – by which time two more sets of elections to Argyll and Bute Council will have been held. No wonder local councillor, and now Provost, David Kinniburgh has described the long and painfully-drawn-out process as a “farce”.

READ MORE: Councillors 'not to blame' for delays to Helensburgh-Dumbarton cycle path, says provost

He told members of Cardross Community Council recently that the delays were not the fault of councillors. It is, he said, the council’s officers who deliver projects. Which is true, but that’s not quite the same as saying “officers are to blame”. As was outlined at the community council meeting, there have been delays in appointing contractors, delays in getting contractors to carry out work, and of course the pandemic, which put a stop to just about everything.

Also mentioned at the meeting was the equally painful process of securing agreement from the owners of land in the area to have the path built on their patch. That is not to criticise said land owners: after all, if someone wanted to lay a stretch of tarmac right across the middle of your garden, you’d be entirely justified in wanting to make sure, however you could, that you didn’t lose out as a result.

Councillors and officers don’t want to go down the route of a compulsory purchase order, which is entirely understandable because of the costs involved. Also, being seen to try and hold a metaphorical gun to the heads of the area’s land owners over a cycle path would not exactly be the stuff of public relations dreams.

No wonder, either, that there has been at least one call made for the council to just wash its hands of the whole thing. But half-finished white elephants, especially those subsidised with large amounts of taxpayers’ cash, are not great for PR either – as anyone who looks from the Cardross shore towards the Ferguson shipyard in Port Glasgow can readily see.

A dedicated cycle path between the two towns is, in my view, unequivocally a good thing. Getting more people out of cars and on to bikes is to be encouraged. But cycling has to be safe, and, as the tragic death of cyclist Colin McCourt on the A814 west of Cardross last November showed, right now, between Helensburgh and Dumbarton, it isn’t as safe as it should be. If nothing else, the desire to prevent another tragedy should be all that’s needed to persuade all involved of the need to get a move on.

READ MORE: Another report, another delay: Helensburgh-Dumbarton cycle path completion pushed back yet again