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Sustrans calls for overhaul of UK-wide cycling network to make walking and cycling accessible for all

By Tom Walker    13 Nov 2018
Just over a third of the paths on the Network are separated from motor traffic / Shutterstock

Sustrans has called for the transformation and improvement of the UK-wide National Cycle Network, which would open up walking and cycling to more people.

The walking and cycling charity made the call as it published the first ever review of the existing 16,575-mile network of paths and roads.

In its Paths for Everyone report, the charity unveils the current state of the existing, 23-year-old network and outlines a long-term plan to make it traffic-free and tackle physical problems.

According to the report, only 54 per cent of the Network is currently suitable for a 12-year-old to use safely – a road safety benchmark set by the UK Government.

Problems highlighted within the network include poor surfaces and barriers that prevent access for users, particularly those with adapted bikes or prams.

Just over a third of the paths on the Network (32 per cent) are separated from motor traffic.

However, on-road sections account for 68 per cent of routes on the Network and include nearly 2,000 miles of busy A and B roads.

Sustrans said The National Cycle Network – which was founded by the charity with the help of a National Lottery grant awarded in 1995 – is a critical part of the UK transport infrastructure. It links towns, villages and cities across the country, from the Shetland Islands to Land’s End.

Launching the report at the Houses of Parliament, Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, said: “The National Cycle Network is a well-loved, well-used asset that’s enjoyed by millions of people across the UK every day – and we want to build on its success and make the Network safer and more accessible for everyone.

"Our Paths for Everyone report lays out an ambitious vision to make the Network traffic free and safe for a 12-year-old to use on their own.

“However, historic problems such as poor surfaces, incomplete signage or barriers mean that for people with mobility issues or those of us who are less physically active, there may as well be a ‘no entry’ sign on their local path.”

Chris Boardman MBE, Greater Manchester Commissioner who sits on the National Cycle Network advisory panel, added: “The little blue and red sign indicating a segment of the National Cycle Network is a long-recognised and trusted mark, used by cyclists and walkers alike, to navigate their way around the UK without cars.

"That alone should tell us just how valuable an asset it is.

“In times of high obesity and poor air quality, travelling actively has never been more important and the National Cycle Network is a key tool in helping address these problems.”

The Paths for Everyone report is the conclusion of a review and independent audit commissioned by Sustrans.

The review involved interested stakeholders and sets out 15 recommendations to transform the network.

These include the removal or redesign of 16,000 barriers on the Network to make it accessible to everyone, doubling the number of paths away from cars from 5,000 to 10,000 miles, and improving safety at junctions where the Network crosses roads and railways.

Other recommendations include improvements to signage so everyone can follow the paths without a map or smartphone and the adopting a new quality design standard for paths so all routes are classed as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ by 2040.

Sustrans, which owns 500 miles of the network, has estimated the overhaul will double the number of people travelling actively – be it on foot, by bike or in a wheelchair – up to 8.8 million, totalling a £2.8bn investment over the next 22 years.

To read the full Paths for Everyone report, click here.

Sustrans  National Cycle Network  Paths for Everyone  Chris Boardman  Xavier Brice 
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