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Making tracks

Celebrating 20 years of the National Cycle Network

Celebrating 20 years of the National Cycle Network

For 20 years now, the National Cycle Network has been changing the way people cycle and walk, all over the country. Sustrans’ Martyn Brunt tells us more about the Network, from its roots, to the path to the future.

This year Sustrans are celebrating 20 years of the National Cycle Network, which now boasts over 14,000 miles of traffic-free and quiet on-road walking and cycling routes right across the UK. These routes have transformed the way people travel, making it easier for them to get around by foot and bike. Now nearly five million people make the most of this incredible Network every year.

When Sustrans was set up, we had one goal in mind: addressing the almost total lack of provision for cyclists in British cities. Our founders were a committed group of Bristol-based campaigners who fought hard to get the issue taken seriously. By the 1990’s Sustrans had built cycle paths all over the country but they weren’t linked together. So in 1995 we campaigned and won a grant from the Millennium Commission to create our vision of a UK-wide network of high-quality, convenient routes. We believed that with these routes, people would choose to leave their cars at home and travel on foot and by bike. And we were right.

Martyn Brunt, National Cycle Network Development Manager at Sustrans“Without doubt, the National Cycle Network has been the catalyst to a step change in walking and cycling in the UK.”

Martyn Brunt, National Cycle Network development manager, Sustrans

Twenty years later, the success of the Network has shown the benefits of taking walking and cycling seriously and contributed to a positive shift in attitude and investment over the last few years. Without doubt, the National Cycle Network has been the catalyst to a step change in walking and cycling in the UK. We’re so proud of what the Network has achieved. It’s moved us in the right direction, but we know there is still so much to do. Sustrans’ aspiration is to double the number of journeys under five miles being made by foot, bike and public transport.  To achieve this we need to ensure that when people step out of their front door, the space is so welcoming that they feel able to choose to walk and cycle. In villages, towns and cities we want streets and neighbourhoods to be safe, inviting places for people of all ages and all abilities to get about on foot and bike.

Cyclists on the National Cycle NetworkThanks to our supporters’ kind donations, we are able to spend over £1 million on vital repairs to the National Cycle Network every year. Donations are the only income we, as a charity, can rely on each year.  All our other funding is to deliver specific initiatives on behalf of government, local authorities and others that commission our practical work across the UK. With no ring fenced government funding for maintenance of walking and cycling routes, we simply do not have the resources to fund the growing need ourselves. We look to governments at all levels to provide dedicated funding to develop and maintain walking and cycling networks as they do every other transport network in the UK.

“With no ring fenced government funding for maintenance of walking and cycling routes, we simply do not have the resources to fund the growing need ourselves.”

Martyn Brunt, National Cycle Network development manager, Sustrans

Unlike other countries in Europe, walking and cycling in the UK lacks long term dedicated funding at the levels seen elsewhere.  Things may be changing, with the Scottish Government having committed £10 a head to cycling up to 2016, the Mayor of London spending approximately £16 per head per year to 2015, and around £9 per head per year thereafter until 2022 and the new Infrastructure Act creating a duty on government to publish a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy in England. We want at least £10 per head invested in cycling in England in the next parliament, with a similar sum for walking, rising to £20 per head for cycling by 2025. Achieving this would transform local travel for many millions of people. To get there Sustrans is calling for:

  • substantial long term funding  for walking and cycling – just as there is for roads and rail
  • legislation requiring local authorities to maintain and develop high quality walking and cycling routes

In this anniversary year we want more people than ever to join Sustrans in making sustainable travel the most obvious and convenient option. There are so many ways you could help us. Find out how you can get involved at www.sustrans.org.uk/celebrate

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Martyn Brunt, Sustrans

Martyn Brunt is the National Cycle Network Development Manager at Sustrans. Martyn joined Sustrans after working in the public transport industry, most recently for National Express in their bus, rail and coach operations. Previously he has worked in senior roles in financial services, higher education and the media. Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. It is a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. Sustrans works with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in. To find out more about Sustrans visit www.sustrans.org.uk

 

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