Our role as custodian of the National Cycle Network

Sustrans created the National Cycle Network.

And as custodians, it is our role to care for it, improve it and champion a long-term vision for its future.

Black and white photo of people gathering on a section of cycle path, with grassy banks to the side

The opening of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path in Easton, 1984.

How we started the Network

In 1979, we built our first traffic-free path that would become part of the Network, the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.

Over the years we created more walking and cycling routes across the country.

Then, in 1995 we won a National Lottery grant of £42.5 million from the Millennium Commission to create a UK-wide network of convenient routes for walking and cycling.


How we care for the Network


Sustrans only owns around 271 miles, or 2%, of the Network.

The rest belongs to various landowners, who are ultimately responsible for their own stretch.

However, Sustrans staff and volunteers help these landowners to maintain, improve and develop their routes, while adhering to quality standards we have set.

And, our supporters help us to raise funds so this work can be done.

We act on behalf of users, and coordinate between communities, partners and stakeholders to ensure the Network remains a well-used and loved resource.

It is Sustrans’ role to promote the Network. We provide accurate information so people know what and where the Network is, why it is relevant to them and how they can make the most of it.

We set the tone for behaviour and work with partners to promote this message.

We also monitor usage of the Network to show the impact it has on communities.


How we’re improving the Network


In 2018, we presented a new vision for the Network in our Paths for Everyone review.

We are working with our partners, volunteers, supporters and local communities to make this vision of a safer and more accessible Network a reality.

We’re involving local communities in shaping and caring for their local paths, and responding to feedback from people who use the Network.

We’re also promoting the Network to those who’ve never used it before, to encourage more and different kinds of people to discover their local routes.

And, we’re reporting on the impact of the Network, to strengthen the case for this iconic national asset.

By bringing together individuals, communities, organisations and partners who share our vision of creating a Network of paths for everyone we can achieve far more than we could on our own.

If you would like to play a part please get in touch.


National Cycle Network data on Living Atlas

We've now published our data on the Living Atlas for professionals and organisations.

This vector tile package depicts the breadth of the Network and will allow our partners and local authorities to stream our National Cycle Network data.

Open the map