events transport

Celebrating Britain’s cycleways

One of Britain’s long-running sustainable travel projects is the National Cycle Network. Set up and run by Sustrans, it has been quietly building and networking the country with cycle paths since 1995, using cycles lanes, bridleways and disused railway lines. The latest round of expansion has added 84 new routes, bringing 4 million more people within a mile of the network.

The initiative works. As more and more workplaces, shops and services become accessible through the network, people choose to travel differently. In the places where the latest routes have opened, research shows a 73% increase in walking and cycling. That works out as 1 million fewer car journeys.

The summer is a good time to get out and explore the network where you are. You can browse the map online here, or support Sustrans by buying a hard copy. It’s particularly worth checking it out now because a three-week cycling tour sets off tomorrow in London, traveling the country using the network and joining together a whole series of local bike rides and festivals. It’s called Pedal On UK, and here’s their video:


  1. Hmm… A celebrity-filled bike ride a cycling revolution does not make.

    If we want to ‘Make it easier for people to cycle to work, the shops and school’ we really need to make good, safe infrastructure, not have the odd fancy event. People riding in one of these free festivals will be rather disappointed the next Monday when they try and go cycling along the same roads to find it is dominated by cars, white vans and trucke who object to their presence, or cycle routes hat take them miles out of their way to get where they want to go.

    If the UK wants to get serious about cycling, the absolute bare minimum is direct traffic free cycle ways and a legal change that in the event of a car vs. bike collision, that the driver of the car has to prove the cyclist is at fault, rather than the other way around as it is now. (This also means that in a cyclist vs pedestrian collition the cyclist is at fault unless proven otherwise), We have this at least in our part of Germany and it makes a diference.

    It still doesn’t make a big difference though, If you really, really want cycling to be as easy and safe as the trailer suggests, what is needed is a full, segregated and joined up cycle network with cycle lanes going where people need to go. The Dutch managed it, so have the Danes and many German cities, the UK needs to follow suit.

    1. I understand your skepticism, but the bike ride is not the big news. The ride is to celebrate the network, which is widening the number of traffic-free routes all the time. If celebrity riders can raise the profile of the network, it’s easier to fund the next stages of it and connect more communities.

      So no, no revolution just yet! Most of the UK is not serious about cycling – Sustrans is a charity after all, not a government body. But perhaps, as the oil price rises and the number of people cycling grows, the momentum towards real change will build. London has learned from other European cities and is putting in place a proper cycling network. It will spread to other cities, but there’s a very long way to go.

      1. I’ve very little personal experience of Sustrans routes but people I know in the UK suggested they are less than ideal. ‘Traffic free’ routes have often been described as far too indirect and often badly surfaced (a critcism I could make of local cycleways, but as we have so many here’s usually an alternative) and worse, some reportedly stop when they meet a major road leaving cyclists to struggle on alongside HGV’s. And then there’s the bridges that have steep steps, ‘cyclists dismount’ signs, badly made barriers, etc that I came across riding on their routes in the UK.
        The London ‘bike network’ is described in less than flattering terms by people who use it as well. ( What is little known (ie, I only found out last night) is that Boris Johnson scrapped the ‘Transport Heirarchy’ after getting into office, which would have meant that all new designs for London would have to first allow space for pedestrians, then cyclists, public transport, deliveries, and private cars last of all. This means that now, cycleways are only considered it they don’t get in the way of cars and the cyclists of London are still pretty furious.
        To see what we need to actually make a difference have a look at written by someone from the UK who gave up and moved to the Netherlands instead.

        1. Don’t get me wrong, the state of cycle infrastructure in the UK is woeful. But I see no harm in celebrating the small steps on the way towards improving it.

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