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Published: 27th FEBRUARY 2024

Wales enjoys widespread benefits due to National Cycle Network but Sustrans calls for urgent action to protect for future generations

The National Cycle Network is a national asset that has widespread positive impacts for people’s health and well-being, as well as for the economy, according to a new report from Sustrans Cymru. Walk, Wheel and Thrive looks at how the National Cycle Network actively helps Wales to meet its well-being goals.

A walker on an NCN route in Wales, with an estuary either side of the path.

A new report from Sustrans Cymru underlines the extent to which the Network positively impacts people’s lives. Credit: Abhijith Sebastian.

A new report from Sustrans Cymru demonstrates the value of the National Cycle Network.

Walk, Wheel and Thrive: Well-being and the National Cycle Network sets out the contribution of the Network against all seven of the Wales’ National Wellbeing Goals. 

A Millennium Milepost on NCN 5 in front of Flint Castle.

The Network is a collection of paths and routes that are regularly used by all kinds of people. Credit: Kim Williams.

What is the National Cycle Network?

The National Cycle Network – sometimes referred to as the NCN – is a UK-wide network of signed paths and routes that are commonly used for commuting, for leisure, and for tourism. 

It's made up of traffic-free and low-traffic routes, and despite its name, it's mostly made up of shared-use paths. 

Almost 60% of Wales’ population lives within a mile of the National Cycle Network, and it runs through all 22 of Wales’ local authority areas.

Three cyclists on a rural NCN route, with green hills around them.

The National Cycle Network runs through every part of Wales and can be found in every county. Credit: Abhijith Sebastian.

Positive impacts across people’s lives in Wales

The National Cycle Network has been shown to have numerous benefits to people’s lives, both in terms of people’s health and well-being, as well as financially.

People surveyed on their reasons for using the National Cycle Network indicated that it plays a hugely positive role in their physical and mental health.

83% of UK National Cycle Network users said that it improves their overall satisfaction with life, while 70% said they use the Network to improve their well-being.

Physical activity on the Network is also estimated to have prevented nearly 600,000 sick days.

According to the report, local businesses across the UK are estimated to have benefitted by £1.7 billion from the National Cycle Network’s users.

A landslip on NCN 4 by Wisemans Bridge in Pembrokeshire.

Landslips and flooding happen quickly and sever the Network. Credit: Pembrokeshire County Council.

An urgent need for recognition and support

Alongside the positive report comes a need for urgent action to protect the Network for future generations.

The impact of extreme weather is leading to significant issues that can shut down routes completely. 

Flooding and landslips are becoming very common and can happen very quickly, severing communities for long periods of time with high repair costs.

In Wisemans Bridge, Pembrokeshire, a section of National Route 4 is completely closed following a major landslip.

In Conwy, the Dulas Bridge is in need of replacement beams after having been damaged due to recent flooding.

Christine Boston, Director of Sustrans Cymru, explains:

“An ageing and under-resourced Network can’t serve the needs of the future, so we need to be proactive and invest in prevention now before it’s too late.

“If we don’t protect the Network now, then we will lose all the social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits which are so important for the people of Wales.  

“We’re working positively with Welsh Government and local authorities across the country to protect, improve, and ensure the National Cycle Network continues to serve the people of Wales, but there’s an urgency here to make sure we don’t lose what it provides.”


Read the Walk, Wheel and Thrive: Well-being and the National Cycle Network in Wales report in full.


Support the National Cycle Network and the work we do to safeguard it for future generations.

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