Saturday, 8 September 2012

Sustrans in the city, please

I love Sustrans routes. They are good! I adore the Coast to Coast. An off-road stretch on the NCN72 (along Newcastle's quayside) even gets me into work. And, just the other day, I sampled the Berwick to Edinburgh stretch on the NCN1 (Coast and Castles) with @cathscaife. Loads of nice quiet roads. There was the space and the environment to chat along and while our time away.

The mental picture of cycling with a cuppa in your hands, is probably most fitting I suppose. Although at one point we did get a bit nervous "Oh, is that the time?" and speeded up a little. There are some short sections with fast careless motor traffic, where cycling is uncomfortable, and you would not advise a family ride along there. All in all, it was a benign bike ride. Arriving in Edinburgh for the fireworks finale was a fantastic welcome. And meeting @kim_harding was a major highlight too. Thanks, Edinburgh.

All positive then?

Windy route
Bypass on windy back streets in the countryside
The urban section in and around Edinburgh was - of course - Land of Silly Cycling.

And what struck me also was the route map. It's along quiet back country roads, twisting and winding which does not get people to work or shops. It's thumbs-up for leisure not so for everyday living. Sustrans have build this fantastic national network between towns, villages and cities. It's nice. For enjoyment and tourism. It's all play, but has little live and work in it.

Sustrans has to get into our cities. Right in. Straight to the point of the matter. They have to get stuck in with More Haste Less Speed, forging their own words into action. It seems they have to get their campaigning hats on once more. They've been lying-in-waiting for too long.

Making links from cities to the National Cycle Network would be a start. From train stations especially would make good sense for mode integration.

A message for Sustrans
There is an opportunity in Newcastle.

Quite unbelievably there is now a stretch through Newcastle city centre - NCN725 - Great North Cycleway (Darlington to Blyth). A great cycle way currently in name but not in nature. Yet. I wonder what Sustrans will do. Will they get their campaign book and design standards out to 'march' on town hall and do what More Haste Less Speed advocates?

Or will they sit back and be associated with a rather rank route? We had Sustrans for the country. Can we now have Sustrans in the city, please?


  1. Completely agree. Only this afternoon, I cycled a "cycleway" in South shields, which is marked on the map, but apart from 1 solitary painted bicle symbol and one signpost, is completely secret! This is it

    Almost traffic free. With a bit of signing it would do. With some upgrades, it could be a vital traffic free artery between the Town centre and some of the largest residential areas. Councils are only interested in routes to schools and tourism rides - nothing else is on their radar

  2. Hi Kats,

    Another good article indeed. In Devon it is much the same; fantastic leisure routes on dismantled railway lines, but all heading out of town and hardly ever to any use for a commuting short-distance cyclist. For example, to cycle with my son to school is still far from easy and requires those advanced "Bikeability Level 3" skills, impossible for a 6-year old. Even well travelled bike-dad is not keen either, just because cycling in heavy traffic is not enjoyable and exposes you to hazards you shouldn't be exposed to!

    The focus should be on the creation of short-distance routes between important destinations where people are likely to cycle, so yes, Sustrans in towns! Routes should connect all major housing and work locations of a town, just as the town centre. Of course, these routes should all connect properly and not suddenly end on busy roads/multilane roundabouts etc. Social safety and signage are key for these routes to be succesful, just as being traffic-free or truly traffic-calmed.

    I strongly believe good local cycle networks in the UK can be achieved at a reasonably low-price, but a strategic approach is essential. Political will and public demand is also still needed to make it all happen!

    I recently produced an integrated Cycle Plan for the town of Totnes. Using the principles above, it is a detailed long-term vision plan with 5 stages of implementation and a time scale of 20 years to complete all 5 stages (which would take the town into a society with cycling take up as in The Netherlands).

    Unfortunately, the recommendations in my report are likely to be diluted by local authorities, so I am keen to share the plan with others. I think it is one of the few documents which actually brings the "Dutch dream" and UK conditions together in full detail. Drop me a line if you'd like a read: and I'll email you a copy.

    Keep up the good work!