Sustrans’ National Cycle Network received our biggest ever grant – £50 million – in 2007. Since then the Network has grown to 14,500 miles with millions of cyclists and walkers taking the opportunity to use a safe and environmentally sustainable way to travel. Melissa Henry, communications director at Sustrans, tracks the Network’s progress.
December 12th 2007 is etched in my memory – the nerve-wracking wait to hear whether Sustrans, or another of the three other extraordinary projects in the running, had won the public vote to secure £50 million of Lottery funding.
A big amount of money, fitting for our big vision, of people, reconnected to places, creating a sense of pride in their community. Seven years on and our vision is a reality, and nearly four million people now live within a mile of a new walking and cycling network.
Our focus was on addressing barriers to people getting about by foot and bike. Each network has at its heart a new crossing of a busy road, a railway line or a river, that had previously acted as a barrier to people accessing work, schools, shops, family and friends by foot or bike.
Like here in Bradford, where the busy Manchester Road divided communities, separating children from their school, and people from their friends, preventing access to everyday places.
The project has delivered a variety of iconic, landmark bridges and crossings like this that overcome these barriers whilst promoting a sense of civic pride and community ownership.
And the reach achieved is impressive – within a short distance of the average scheme there are 20 schools, 23,000 households and 53,000 people.
Creating safe, convenient routes has led to a major increase in the number of people choosing to walk and cycle, delivering enormous benefits to people’s health and well-being, the local economy and environment.
Our intention was two-fold: to support community cohesion, and to ensure that what was built really did improve accessibility, like the bridge over the A10 that now gives children a safe route to school.
This approach has reaped benefits – more than three quarters of the people who got involved in community events said that they would get involved in similar projects in the future, and half of those who attended events associated with the networks met someone new in their community
Creating direct, safe crossings for those walking and cycling improves access for everyone. A quarter of all households in the UK don’t have access to a car, and for people who do a huge number of short car journeys could be replaced if they felt they had a choice.
And what we’ve seen is staggering – 33 million more trips by foot and bike, and our experience shows that this will increase.