Recently we reviewed the entire National Cycle Network, all 16,575 miles, and in 2018’s Paths for Everyone report we were honest in highlighting where the Network doesn't meet the high standards we've set ourselves at Sustrans. The report identified 50 activation projects that Sustrans will focus on fixing and upgrading that are key to improving the entire Network.
We’re incredibly proud to see the very first of these reach completion, with a new traffic-free link at Ledaig, between North Connel and Benderloch, on the iconic Caledonia Way in the Scottish Highlands.
It’s an important first step in a far longer journey. We want the Network to truly represent the idea of paths for everyone. You can’t genuinely label a trunk road as a ‘path for everyone’. Our vision is to make all the Network traffic-free or quiet-ways, suitable for people of all abilities. That’s a big challenge with a huge price tag but what it breaks down to is a series of small projects like this.
The new path at Ledaig represents so much of the work Sustrans does. Not only high-quality, traffic-free paths; but also communities, landowners, schools, local politicians, residents and central government coming together. It’s taken more than 10 years and Sustrans has been there through it all, helping to bring people together and make things happen.
Creating a national asset for all
We often talk about Sustrans’ vision, strategy and ambitions. The numbers are quite staggering: 16,575 miles of the National Cycle Network and 750-million trips a year, over 6-million on the Caledonia Way alone.
But what is really rewarding is coming somewhere like Ledaig and seeing these paths in action. Watching children cycle to school, talking to residents and locals - the people who actually use the infrastructure we help fund and build – reminds us that this isn’t about numbers or even just transport, it’s about creating places to be. Places to be human. It’s about people on bikes, people walking, people with mobility scooters, people with dogs, all coming together and sharing the space.
The Network is a national asset but it’s also about local communities, just like North Connel and Benderloch, who use these paths on a regular basis for daily journeys and commuting. It links these communities to something far bigger and I think in our increasingly divided times that’s really something worth celebrating: a UK-wide Network that is open to all, joining us all together.