Accessibility on the National Cycle Network

One of our top priorities is making the National Cycle Network accessible to everyone.

But not everyone can easily access the Network.

There are currently far too many barriers on the paths.

These barriers make it harder to use the routes, and for some people, they prevent access altogether. 

We work hand in hand with communities to find the best ways to redesign or remove these barriers.

This is to help everyone experience the benefits of walking, wheeling, cycling and horse riding in their local area.

Find out about what we're doing to tackle barriers on the National Cycle Network, and learn more about the types of barrier you might encounter.

Help us make the National Cycle Network accessible for all

With your help, we can make sure that everyone gets to enjoy the Network.

How we're making the Network more accessible

Removing and redesigning barriers is a crucial part of our work.

There's no one-size-fits-all solution in this process.

We deal with barriers at a local level, working with communities, local groups and landowners to design alternative solutions together.


Barrier audit

We are in the process of auditing the barriers on the National Cycle Network.

Our volunteers are out on the paths, measuring, photographing and logging each barrier.

The goal is to catalogue every barrier and restriction on the Network.

Once the audit is complete, we'll aim to release the data as soon as we can.

This will help people find out how accessible the Network is in their area and help them plan their routes. 


Improvement projects on the Network

A truly accessible National Cycle Network is a better Network for everyone.

By 2040, we want every mile of the National Cycle Network to be at a good or very good standard. 

We have improvement schemes all across the Network with this vision in mind. 

Find out how we're making the Network better near you by taking a look at our Paths for Everyone projects map

Man removing a barrier from a cycle path

Martyn Brunt, Land Manager for Midlands and East

"When it comes down to it, it seems there are a lot more people who want barriers gone than want them there."

Find out how our team go about removing barriers in the Midlands

Types of barrier on the National Cycle Network

A frame barrier at Five Mile Bridge

A frames and K frames

A frames are access barriers designed to prevent vehicles such as motorcycles and mopeds from accessing footpaths and cycle routes.

However, they are often ineffective at stopping motorbikes from getting onto the routes. And if the opening isn't wide enough, they are impossible to navigate for wider cycles, prams, mobility aids, trailers and anyone who can't dismount.

K frames are similar in design, but include a steel plate on either side of the opening.

Person on foot with umbrella trying to squeeze past someone on a bicycle through a restrictive barrier on the route


Chicanes use barriers to create a turn in the path. 

If the gap is wide enough, chicanes may not be a problem.

But if the barriers are close together, lots of people won't have enough space to turn.

If you're unable to dismount, pulling a bike trailer or using a cycle that's longer or wider than a standard bike, a tight chicane might be impossible to get through.

Chicanes can also reduce the capacity of paths. At busy times, this can lead to queues and congestion.

A person on a mobility scooter next to a metal gate


Gates come in various shapes and sizes.

Kissing gates are common on cycle routes. They use a single swinging gate between two barriers to create a space that one person can pass through at a time.

Gates such as these can be a problem for people who are unable to get off their bike and manoeuvre it through the gap. They may also be impossible to get through if you're using a wide or long cycle or a mobility aid.

Two Women Cycling Through Barriers On Street In Manchester

Other barriers

Other common barriers on the Network are:

  • Steps and stairs 
  • Narrow sections of path
  • Steep slopes
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Bollards

Some of these barriers require people to dismount and push their cycles, which not everyone is able to do.

Others may block access to people with non-standard cycles, mobility aids or pushchairs.

Adam with his carer Gemma on the Water Rail Way, Lincolnshire

Linda and Adam's story

Linda and Adam love getting out into nature, but found their local route blocked by a barrier. 

Sustrans worked with Linda, landowners and the local community to trial a redesigned, wider barrier.

The change was met with overwhelming support in the community, and so we made it permanent.

Now more people can access the route and experience the joy of being outdoors.

Read Linda and Adam's story