The National Cycle Network is over 12,000 miles of quiet, traffic-free lanes and on-road cycling routes throughout the United Kingdom. Three-quarters of the population live within two miles of the network and 55 per cent live within a mile of it.
The aim of the network is to create an environment where cycling is a safe and viable option. These routes offer a serious alternative to using a car, giving many people the opportunity and confidence to travel by bike.
The network is well signed and connects villages and towns, coast and countryside all around the UK, making it easier to cycle to work, school and the shops or just for fun and exercise.
Sustrans, a leading sustainable transport charity, co-ordinates the network. Its vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. It is achieving this through innovative but practical solutions to the UK’s transport challenges.
Network Usage On The Up
During 2007, an estimated 354 million walking and cycling trips were made on the National Cycle Network.
This marked the eighth consecutive year that usage had grown on the network and represented a 4.7 per cent increase on the total for 2006. Since 2000, usage on the network has nearly quadrupled from fewer than 90 million to 354 million trips a year. During the same period the network itself has grown in length from 5,000 miles to just over 12,000 miles.
In 2007, nine per cent of cyclists on the network described themselves as new to or returning to cycling and, while 86 per cent of network users had access to a car, very few used their cars for any part of their journey.
Women made 42 per cent of all journeys on the network and 78 per cent of users said the presence of the network in their community had helped them increase the amount of physical activity they took regularly.
Travel behaviour research shows that if everyone in the UK drove one less car journey a week, overall levels of car traffic would reduce by 10 per cent and, as well as carrying school children, commuters and shoppers, the network is even helping the Royal Mail deliver the post.
Sustrans is aided by around 2,500 volunteer rangers who donate their time to maintain routes in their communities.
Many rangers work together – 65 per cent of them are in 190 groups, each coordinated by a volunteer liaison ranger – and so benefit from each other’s skills and experience.
Twelve local authorities contribute funding to the ranger programme (Cornwall, Devon, Essex, Gateshead, Kirklees, North Tyneside, Northumberland, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Rochdale, Stoke-on Trent and Thurrock) and have formed partnerships with their local ranger groups to improve co-ordination.
Two-thirds of the network is on quiet, rural roads and traffic-calmed roads through towns. The rest is of the routes are generally free from traffic.
Where the network uses roads, measures have been introduced to reduce the speed and volume of traffic, while safe crossings have been added to busier roads.
There are locations where existing footpaths or bridleways have been incorporated as part of the network.
As this action has implications for walkers and horse riders, who have an existing legal right to use the way in question, it has only been taken when there are no other suitable traffic-free alternatives and all feasible and safe on-road options have been exhausted.