National Cycle Network review launched in South of England

Three men in suits stand in front of a banner for a launch event

Xavier Brice, James Cleeton and Matt Rodda at the England South launch of the National Cycle Network review

30 November 2018

For the first time the National Cycle Network has been audited across the South of England providing a snapshot of the whole of the Network in the South of England.

The review revealed that the main issues – traffic safety, surface, signage and flow – are causing the routes and paths to underperform.

Almost half (41%) of the issues on the Network in the South of England are due to traffic safety concerns.

We are calling for more investment to make it safer, accessible and more inclusive, underlining our commitment to working with communities and local authorities to help find solutions to revitalise the Network.

James Cleeton, Sustrans Director for the South of England said:

“The National Cycle Network is a hugely important asset for the region which is enjoyed by millions of users every year.

"In the South of England, we are extremely proud of our National Cycle Network. We are fortunate to have second longest Network of all the UK regions and nations, with almost 3,800 miles of routes and paths, covering an area that stretches from Land’s End in the West, to the Isle of Wight in the South, the Isle of Thanet in the East and Banbury to the North.

“We also have some of the most iconic routes of the whole Network, including the Bristol and Bath Railway Path that sees over 2.5 million users every year, the Camel Trail in Cornwall, the Viking Coast Trail in North Kent and the 170 mile Eurovelo 2, a long distance route that links European capitals from Dublin to Moscow.

“Walking and cycling is good for us – it improves our health and well-being and contributes towards a cleaner and greener environment. Active travel and commuting tackles congestion, obesity and the air quality crisis. And while the health, economic and environmental benefits of the Network are well established, it is the vital role it plays in our local communities which is its real value.

“This review is our opportunity to secure the investment and commitment needed to make our National Cycle Network safer and more accessible for all users, creating paths that truly are for everyone and safeguarding its heritage for future generations.”

Launched today, Friday 30 November at an event held at Reading University, the Paths for everyone report reveals the current condition of the 23-year-old Network.

The key speaker at this event Matt Rodda, Shadow Minister for Local Transport, recently spoke at the national launch in London, where he congratulated Sustrans for having the ambition and the courage to review the Network and acknowledge that it could be better.

He also said the strategic aim to make the Network safer, more accessible and inclusive was welcome.

Matt Rodda, Shadow Minister for Local Transport said: 

“I particularly welcome the commitment to the removal or redesign of some 16,000 barriers that presently prevent some users from accessing the traffic-free sections.

“Making the Network suitable for adapted bikes and buggies will make the whole Network significantly more accessible. I also welcome the aspiration to raise safety standards.

“The estimated spend required to rejuvenate the Network sounds like a lot but it’s small compared to the overall value of the National Cycle Network’s economic contribution and its wider benefits.”

Of the 16,575-mile Network, over 3,700 miles are in the South of England.

UK-wide, the review shows that while over half (57%) of the UK population lives within a mile of the National Cycle Network, improvements are needed to enable everyone to use it, especially vulnerable users - including children, people with impaired mobility and the less physically active, as well as, people using adapted bikes such as tandems and parents with pushchairs.

Nationally, of the almost 6,000 people surveyed 81% said they want to see more traffic-free routes where everyone can feel safe.

The report also highlights 55 key projects across the UK, including eight in the South of England - the Bristol & Bath Railway Path, Chilton Road in Upton, Oxfordshire, Leigh Road in Wimborne, Christ’s Hospital in West Sussex, the Kennet & Avon Canal, Ashton Court in Bristol, Reading Barriers and Misbourne Greenway in Buckinghamshire.

Each project highlights a range of issues including poor signage, barriers, dangerous junctions and uneven surfacing, as well as solutions for creating safe, accessible and traffic-free paths. Working with local authorities and communities these are anticipated to be finalised by 2023.

Of the total Network in the South of England, 2,591 miles (68%) is on-road and, of this, 233 miles are on A or B roads. The remaining 32%, a total of 1,207 miles, is on traffic-free paths. Of the total Network in the South, only 1% cent was audited as very good.

Robin Lapworth of Lifecycle UK and Two’s Company the charity who specialises in giving people who are visually impaired or disabled the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on a tandem bike, says that some routes are very difficult for adapted bikes, including one of the eight key Activation Projects in the South of England, National Route 33 B3128 Ashton Court, Bristol.

Robin Lapworth of Lifecycle UK and Two’s Company said:

“Often not enough space is provided for all those slightly longer, or wider bikes which are often used by some of our least able cyclists. This includes tandems and adapted cycles.

“One example is the narrow refuge crossing of the main road near Ashton Court on NCN33. The traffic is so fast moving there, and the space available is so small, it is awful getting our tandems across to reach the safety of the Festival Way.”

National Cycle Network routes can help us attract and manage tourism, which we see as a vital economic boost for our market towns.

Heather Blake, Senior Transport Planner at Wiltshire County Council who attended the launch said:

“We are regularly contacted by residents who want to see improved walking and cycling routes to help them get to school or to work, or for leisure rides to improve their health.

“Sustrans have successfully taken on a huge task reviewing the whole network and we will continue to work jointly with partners to look for ways to deliver schemes in the context of current limited resources.

“These National Cycle Network routes can help us attract and manage tourism, which we see as a vital economic boost for our market towns.

"We hope to continue working with Sustrans, Highways England and other partners to make improvements along routes such as the NCN 24 to Salisbury Cathedral, NCN 45 to Stonehenge or NCN 4 which connects many of our North Wiltshire towns.”

Find out more about the National Cycle Network Review

Explore cycling routes on the Network