Sustrans announces plan for major overhaul of the National Cycle Network

Only 54% of the Network is currently suitable for a 12-year-old to use safely, a road safety benchmark set by the UK Government.

Just over a third of the paths on the Network (32%) are separated from motor traffic providing safe spaces for people to walk and cycle. However on-road sections account for 68% of routes on the Network and include nearly 2,000 miles of busy A and B roads.

The “Paths for Everyone” report, which is the conclusion of a major review and independent audit commissioned by Sustrans, sets out 15 recommendations for local authorities, private and charitable landowners, national governments and agencies, to transform the Network, including:

  • Removal or redesign of 16,000 barriers on the entire Network to make it accessible to everyone, especially those facing mobility challenges;
  • Doubling the number of paths away from cars, from 5,000 to 10,000 miles and diverting all routes off busy and fast moving roads onto new quiet-way roads;
  • Improving safety at junctions where the Network crosses roads and railways;
  • Improving signage so everyone can follow the paths without a map or smartphone;
  • Adopting a new quality design standard for paths, including width and surface so all routes are classed as ‘very good’ or ‘good’ by 2040.

Sustrans, working with local authorities, aim to deliver 55 schemes across the UK, ranging from improving signage to re-designing junctions and creating traffic-free paths. These are to be finalised by 2023.

All four national governments have backed the review of the Network, with the Scottish Government having committed £7 million in 2017 towards the development and maintenance of the paths in Scotland.

Whilst the National Cycle Network has the potential to help people live healthier lives, Sustrans argues it should also been seen as a major piece of transport infrastructure with untapped economic potential.

The charity, 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 £2.8 billion investment over the next 22 years.

These trips will generate £7.6 billion in economic and local benefits every year, as a result of reduced road congestion and health benefits from increased exercise, including £5 billion alone in benefits to local businesses from tourism and leisure – up from £3.8 billion per year in 2017.

“Paths for Everyone” is available here.