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Almost Half of the UK’s National Cycle Network Rated as ‘Poor’

By Monica Buck

The 16,575-mile-long system of cycle paths carries half as many people each year as the UK’s railways. Despite its importance, however, the charity in charge is in desperate need of funding. 42% of the network has been rated as ‘poor’, a further 4% as ‘very poor’. As a result, most sections fail to fulfil one of the key aims of the project. To offer a path that can be used ‘by a sensible 12-year-old travelling alone’.

“We’ve had enough of the crap bits and want to make it fit for everyone,” Xavier Brice, Sustrans chief executive, told the Sunday Times.

According to the review, there are 15,680 incorrect, missing, obstructed or confusing signs. And 16,435 barriers, including steps, bollards and gates on the network.

Sustrans claims it would cost £2.8bn to improve and expand the network. However, it only receives £9m a year from the Scottish government and no guaranteed funding from the UK government at all. The seemingly huge amount of money needed for the repairs is in fact quite small in comparison to recent government announcements. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, pledged £30bn for road improvements. But that is, unfortunately, targeted primarily at motorists.

“Politicians across the UK are grappling with problems like congested roads, air pollution and increasing levels of obesity. In pure transport terms, the National Cycle Network presents a huge opportunity to transform the way people travel. But the benefits of investing in the network can be seen right across government like relieving pressure on the NHS budget,” said Brice.

Millions of people use the National Cycle Network every day.

Sustrans says the network saves the UK economy nearly £90m through reduced road congestion each year. Its health benefits save the NHS the equivalent of 2,206 nurses’ salaries, the charity claims. Plus the leisure and tourist trips supposedly bring £2.5bn to local economies.

Should the authorities focus more on projects like the National Cycle Network? And does something similar exist in your country? Let us know.