Published: 5th JUNE 2024

Volunteer Joni enjoys freedom of National Cycle Network

With National Cycle Network Route 93 on her doorstep, Joni Millar prefers to jump on her bike and cycle into Londonderry for most of her short local trips. She has even become a Sustrans volunteer to help share the joy of cycling with others.

A woman wearing an orange jacket and black leggings and helmet stands beside bikes out an Active Travel Centre.

Joni Millar is a volunteer with Sustrans in Northern Ireland and enjoys the benefits of having National Cycle Network Route 93 on her doorstep in Londonderry. Photo: Sustrans.

For Joni, who works in the public sector, cycling is so much easier, cheaper, and healthier. Here, she shares her experience.

She said: “I live on the edge of the village of Newbuildings, and cycle 3 miles to town for shopping, leisure, and exercise, and occasionally to get to work at Gransha Park, 6.5 miles out the Waterside Greenway, still part of National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 93. 

“I particularly enjoy cycling to town on a Friday afternoon when traffic is very congested and cycling in and out is much quicker, with free and easy parking!


Train station sits on Route 93 

“Sometimes, I need to travel with my job. When that happens, I cycle to Waterside Station directly along NCN 93, park my bike up and get the train to Belfast. 

“Coming home on the return journey after a busy day at work, it’s lovely to be able to sit down and switch off. 

“When we reach my stop at the end of the line, I’m back in the saddle and it feels so liberating and refreshing to be able to cycle along the National Cycle Network, giving me a burst of exercise and fresh air on my commute after being inside all day.


Led-rides on local greenways

“I am a volunteer with Sustrans and take led rides each month with another volunteer along various routes in and out of town, of which NCN Routes 93 and 92 are included.   

“These usually begin at the Active Travel Centre hub, sited at the train station, and we cycle for an hour each way, sometimes to Strathfoyle, along the new greenway which is being incorporated into the local stretch of Route 93, or out the other direction to Newbuildings.

"Or we cross the bridge to the cityside and cycle ‘out the line’ – the now defunct railway line to Donegal known as Foyle Valley Greenway which is part of Route 92.   

“These sessions are a chance for people of all cycling abilities to meet new people, cycle in a social group and see their town from a different angle. Most if not all of the journey is on traffic-free greenways. 


Feel lucky to have easy access to NCN route

“I also use these routes with my family to walk the dog or to go for a walk at lunchtime from work. 

 “I really enjoy using these sections of the NCN and feel very lucky I have access from home and at work.   

“I’m not sure if many people are aware of the full extent of the network. 


Wanted to help cycling grow

“I had always been involved in voluntary governance of not-for-profit organisations but felt I would like to be involved in a more practical element.

"I had worked for a UK charity previously and liked the format, so decided to apply to volunteer with Sustrans as I have an interest in growing cycling as the preferred mode of transport for people living within 20 minutes radius of the city, which I feel is very accessible. 

“I admire the focus Sustrans have and the volunteer co-ordination in Northern Ireland is exceptional, with great support from the volunteer co-ordinator, Rachael Ludlow-Williams. 


Social element of group activities

“I am a volunteer led rider and have accessed training provided by Sustrans. I have linked with the Active School Travel programme, enabling a comprehensive programme in my children’s primary school. 

“The biggest change I have seen with Sustrans is a social approach to cycling, which raises awareness of cycling as an alternative transport and brings a social element to our monthly cycles, welcoming new people to the city and those who are keen to revisit cycling. 

“I cycle because it helps fight climate change and I support Sustrans because they bring a cycling culture to local communities. 

“I think more people would cycle if cycling was made the easiest option, with cycle lanes provided where useful. Cycling is so good for your health and an easy way to get around.” 

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