On 12 November 2018 we launched our report on the review of the National Cycle Network to an audience gathered inside one of the UK’s most iconic buildings, the Houses of Parliament. Our CEO Xavier Brice presented its findings and recommendations to make the Network traffic-free, safe and accessible for all.
The afternoon tea was hosted by Ruth Cadbury MP who co-chairs All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and featured speeches from Jesse Norman MP, Minister of State for the Department for Transport, and Matt Rodda MP, Shadow Minister for Local Transport, who both welcomed the report.
Among the guests were MPs and peers, members of the Network review panel, local government representatives, as well as Sustrans trustees, donors and people for whom the National Cycle Network is more than paths taking them to places.
In her passionate speech, which closed the official part of the launch event, Cardiff-based Gwyneth Sweatman called her daily commute on the National Cycle Network ‘life-changing’.
Gwyneth stressed the importance of safe walking and cycling paths for young people today – as they increasingly are making fewer trips by car – and for generations to come.
Here is an extract from her speech:
“I’m Gwyneth Sweatman. I live in Cardiff, and I have a great job representing students in Wales as the NUS Wales President, which I absolutely love.
Before I started university I was in a very different place in my life. I was living in rural south west Wales, which is very beautiful, but I was a little worried about the big changes that going to university would bring to my life. I was in a bad place mentally, and can say now that I was very depressed, struggling with my weight, self-worth and confidence. I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to manage university.
I had to rely on my parents to take me everywhere, as I didn’t have a car or know how to drive.
I made the decision to start getting active and tried to take some control of my life before heading off to university. I started riding my bike every day and it completely changed my life.
I gained a new sense of confidence, developed my fitness, and it completely changed how I looked at myself, and how prepared I felt for university. I was also able to stop relying on my father to take me places, and had more control of where I went and what I did.
Now, a few years later after finishing university (which was a really positive experience for me), I ride my bike to work every day, to the shops, meetings and just for fun on the weekends.
I’m so incredibly lucky to have access to the National Cycle Network. I can’t really afford a car, they’re so expensive, both financially and environmentally. But I don’t really need one because I have my bike.
Sure, sometimes I arrive at work a little sweaty, but I’m also happy and ready to tackle the day.
And as someone that spends her life speaking to young people in education in Wales, I know how important it is, not just for me, but to all young people to have access to this sense of affordable travel and freedom.
Now more than ever, with the stress associated with being a young person today, we need to be able to get outside and enjoy our beautiful country, without it costing an arm and a leg.
I’m really lucky that every day I get to use the National Cycle Network Route 444 to get to work, and because it’s right by my house travelling to work is quite easy for me. I don’t have to engage with too many cars because it takes me most of the way. And I’m really keen for others to have the same opportunity. I wouldn’t be able to cycle to work if I didn’t have access to a safe path. There’s just no way I would be brave enough to ride on the roads.
I’m really supportive of the work that Sustrans does to ensure all young people from all walks of life, have access to walking and cycling paths and the opportunity that comes with this, to live a healthier and more active life. And it’s very important that the paths are up kept and the quality of these routes are secured, because we want to make sure all kinds of people with all sorts of accessibility needs can access and enjoy them.
For me, the National Cycle Network has been life changing and still is every day. And I’m really happy I don’t need to rely on a car to live my life.
I hope that with the call Sustrans is making, future generations of young people don’t need to have a car to have their own sense of freedom and independence, and that they’ll have access to a safe, well-kept National Cycle Network."