Cycling in Yorkshire

Header image with bicycles

Sustrans Paths for Everyone 3 Years On

Off-road cycle path near Ravensthorpe
Off-road cycle path near Ravensthorpe

Sustrans today launches a new report, Paths for Everyone 3 Years On. An accompanying press release says it sets out a vision to connect every community of at least 10,000 people.

In the original Paths for Everyone review of the National Cycle Network, Sustrans accepted the need for more quality and consistency, and planned to:

  • widen paths
  • improve surfaces
  • remove barriers

The new 60-page report is a progress update.

Sustrans Paths for Everyone 3 Years On: Introduction from Xavier Brice and Executive Summary

In the Introduction, Chief Executive Xavier Brice says Sustrans has made huge progress in removing barriers, improving signage, and resurfacing paths.

Also, 3,733 miles of the NCN has been reclassified or removed – largely because they were on-road with high volumes of traffic, or speeds above 35/40mph. Removing sections of the NCN may be necessary, but it isn’t progress in terms of improving the Network.

Graphic showing growth of NCN & 3,733 miles recently removed
Graphic showing growth of NCN & 3,733 miles recently removed

Previously, 1% of the NCN was classified as very good, and 53% good; now the equivalent figures are 2% and 61%. Trips on the Network were 19% higher in 2020 compared with 2019. In 2020 there were:

  • 4.9 million users and
  • 765 million trips

Sustrans Paths for Everyone 3 Years On: Vision

Sustrans’ vision is a for network of traffic-free paths connecting towns and cities throughout the country, that can be used by a sensible 12-year-old travelling alone. Currently only a third of the NCN is traffic-free.

The paths should be without barriers preventing access by wheelchair or mobility scooter users, those using adapted cycles or tandems, and people with pushchairs.

Sustrans Paths for Everyone 3 Years On: Progress

Sustrans has a master plan outlining its ambitions for the NCN, and by the end of 2023 it will have completed detailed improvement plans for every mile of the Network.

So far it has delivered 27 projects to improve the NCN, and a further 28 are scheduled for completion by the end of 2023.


One completed project involved the removal or redesign of 51 barriers in Greater Manchester. In total, Sustrans has so far removed or redesigned 315 or 16,000 barriers, or 2% of the total.

Writing in the Guardian, Laura Laker says that at the current rate of progress it will take another 150 years to remove all the barriers.

As well as barrier removal, the master plan involves improving path surfaces, as on the Trans Pennine Trail in Barnsley, and increasing the number of miles of traffic-free routes.


Where the NCN uses quiet roads, the speed limit must be:

  • 20mph in built-up areas
  • 40mph in rural areas

The report gives one example of reduced speed limits that have already been implemented, on Route 7 in Scotland – but only one. It says implementation is difficult for local authorities. The report also gives a couple of examples of roads closed to through traffic.

Overall, Sustrans acknowledges that it is a long way off delivering the volume of on-road quietway routes needed to fulfil its vision of Paths for Everyone.


Of 457 crossings identified as sub-standard in 2014, 118 of them have so far been addressed.

Design Standards

On design standards, the report says that Sustrans regularly reviews them. The report refers to LTN 1/20 and says ‘this means that the underlying design guidance that all designers should be using is of a far higher standard than it was in November 2018.’

That sounds fine in principle, but if Sustrans was really following LTN 1/20 guidance it wouldn’t be planning new shared use paths. In fact every indication is that Sustrans is still committed shared use on its traffic-free paths.

Electric Bike Charging Points

Sustrans has a partnership with Bosch, who are installing free-to-use e-bike charging points on the NCN.

Sustrans Paths for Everyone 3 Years On: Opportunities and Next Steps

The report says that the next government Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy for England (CWIS2, 2022-25) is due in Spring 2022 – round about now. Sustrans hopes that the strategy will include 3 years of funding for them and the NCN.

The charity may also be able to obtain funding from Environmental Land Management (ELM) pilots.

Sustrans is optimistic about the situation in Scotland because the Scottish government has pledged to increase active travel spending to 10% of the transport budget, or £64 per person per year, by 2025/6.

Funding in Wales includes £350,000 for maintenance of the NCN. In Northern Ireland, local authorities can access a Blue/Green Infrastructure Fund.

Sustrans Paths for Everyone 3 Years On

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.