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Sustrans launches 'Paths for Everyone'

Sustrans launches 'Paths for Everyone'

February 7, 2019

  • A UK-Wide network of traffic-free paths for everyone, connecting cities, towns and countryside and loved by the communities they serve
  • £7.6 billion in economic and local benefits across the UK can be added every year as a result of reduced road congestion and health benefits from increased walking and cycling

Walking and cycling charity Sustrans is calling for authorities across Northern Ireland to help reinvigorate the 23-year-old National Cycle Network (NCN).

The NCN is a network of 16,575 miles of signed routes spanning the UK, with over 1,000 miles in Northern Ireland. It is used by walkers, runners and wheelchair users, as well as people on bikes.

The charity launched their report (Wed 6 February) which sets out plans to improve the Network, at an event at Lagan Valley Island hosted by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council who manage sections of the Comber Greenway (NCN Route 99) on a voluntary basis and the Lagan corridor (NCN Route 9).

For the past two years, Sustrans has been working across the UK with partners, stakeholders, staff and volunteers to conduct a comprehensive review of the entire Network in order to plan for its development into a top-quality facility for all. The ‘Paths for Everyone’ report is a new shared vision for a revitalised National Cycle Network, summed up as ‘A UK-wide network of traffic-free paths for everyone, connecting cities, towns and countryside and loved by the communities they serve’.

Sustrans has been engaging with the key owners of the NCN in Northern Ireland - the eleven Councils and the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) as part of the development of a Physical Review and Action Plan.

Many of these Councils and the DfI, along with Sustrans staff and volunteers, are attending the event today.

Chairman of Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council’s Leisure & Community Development Committee, Alderman Paul Porter, commented: “This review of the National Cycle Network by Sustrans demonstrates the benefits of regularly using the signed routes and outlines an exciting vision for the future of our cycle network. 

“We are fortunate to have the popular routes of the Lagan Towpath and the Comber Greenway within our Council area and we will continue to work in partnership with Sustrans, Lagan Valley Regional Park, Lagan Navigation Trust and the Department for Infrastructure to drive further developments and initiatives forward, which will fit in with our strategic vision for Greenways in our area. Working in partnership delivers tangible results and highlights how true community planning can benefit everyone.”

Gordon Clarke, Sustrans Northern Ireland Director said: “The time is right to address shortfalls in the condition of the National Cycle Network to truly make it easier for people to walk and cycle. We know that investment in the Network reaps economic benefits to the local community and opens up tourist potential. The Report also perfectly times with the delivery of the government’s Greenways Strategy. We look forward to working with partners to expand and improve the traffic-free network of paths for all.”

The NCN review coincides with the DfI’s Strategic Plan for Greenways which has earmarked £150 million to create new traffic-free routes connecting communities across Northern Ireland. This will provide a vital springboard to reinvigorating and expanding the traffic-free Network.

In addition to the DfI strategy, local councils are drawing up Community Development plans which will provide an opportunity to further explore, plan and zone the development of the Network.

Dr Claire McLernon, from Sustrans said: “The regional context of these waymarked routes often goes unnoticed as they can simply be a convenient way to cycle from A to B or a pleasant place to take a dander.  Take a Sunday stroll on the Lagan Towpath and you’re actually using part of Route 9 that stretches from Belfast the whole way to Newry. If you’re an avid cyclist ‘lapping Lough Neagh’, there’s every chance you’re following waymarked Route 94.”

The Network began with a National Lottery Grant (via the Millennium Commission) in 1995 and a pioneering vision to create high-quality, convenient routes for walking and cycling. Since then, Sustrans has worked with hundreds of partners to grow the Network into every corner of the UK, and has been the catalyst for the development and improvement of many high quality routes such as the extremely popular Comber Greenway in East Belfast.

With over twenty years of increasing traffic and development of the rural road network that much of the NCN follows, the time is now right to re-invigorate the much-loved NCN and see that much of it is improved to a standard deserving of the National Cycle Network stamp.

Chris Boardman MBE who sits on the UK National Cycle Network advisory panel said: “The little blue and red sign indicating a segment of the National Cycle Network is a long-recognised and trusted mark, used by cyclists and walkers alike, to navigate their way around the UK without cars. That alone should tell us just how valuable an asset it is.

“In times of high obesity and poor air quality, travelling actively has never been more important and the National Cycle Network is a key tool in helping address these problems.”

You can view the UK ‘Paths for Everyone’ document on the Sustrans website at www.sustrans.org.uk/pathsforeveryone