In Praise of Sustrans and Traffic-Free Cycle Paths (photos)

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  • In Praise of Sustrans and Traffic-Free Cycle Paths (photos)
  • Premier Icon MrOvershoot
    Subscriber

    Thanks for that I now really want to go for a nice spin out on the bike & I’m stuck at work ๐Ÿ™

    Looks like a very nice ride ๐Ÿ™‚

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    A few people questioned whether such magical things can exist in the UK

    I didn’t. I questioned whether we had the space to install a useful network of such things. We might do, we might have the means to purchase the land, I don’t know.

    And I said that separate highways such as the top one in your pics are great.

    FWIW I know a few places like the bottom pics up there, and they have pedestrians wandering all over them so you can’t get any kind of speed up.

    Also, in Cardiff there is a traffic free route from the city centre out to the nearest woodland for some decent trails. I don’t use it, I take the road cos it’s quicker, and better exercise.

    Why would I ride on the road here (even though it has cycle lanes)?

    The new A48 through Newport has wide cyclepaths like that one going all the way through it. I don’t use it apart from one stretch because it’s constantly interrupted with side roads and for roundabouts you have to turn off every exit and negotiate a little crossing. Again, fine for pootling, not if you want to get somewhere quickly.

    druidh
    Member

    I don’t have anything to add to molgrips’s response.

    Premier Icon Drac
    Subscriber

    The cycle/pedestrian toute along the quays is a brilliant setup. Now going take some pics of it at lunch time in the sun.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Actually, I’d qualify the comment about separate highways. They do perhaps need a bit of structure. We went on Bristol-Bath in the summer a while back, and it was pretty busy. Fair enough, but there were fast commuters ripping along on road bikes weaving in and out of the grannies and kids tootling along really quite recklessly.

    I must say that despite being traffic free, I didn’t feel particuarly safe. Ok so the roadies were going very fast, but no-one else had any kind of discipline; they were scattered all over the place, stopping to chat and drink wherever they were, even if that meant blocking the trail.

    Oh yeah, what time of day are those pics taken?

    jota180
    Member

    There’s still plenty of Dr Beeching’s wasted tracks kicking around that could be used

    but no-one else had any kind of discipline; they were scattered all over the place,

    are you German? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    I don’t use it apart from one stretch because it’s constantly interrupted with side roads and for roundabouts you have to turn off every exit and negotiate a little crossing. Again, fine for pootling, not if you want to get somewhere quickly.

    As I said (and got told off for) on one of the other threads – my average speed on my commute is ~15mph. I’m on a MTB-turned-commuter and not fast or fit, but I’m not just pootling either.

    On the road in that photo (Scotswood Road) you have the choice of on-road cycle lane or off-road shared-use pavement.

    Riding on the pavement means I cross the road 3 times (at Toucan crossings) and have to cross two quiet side roads.

    Riding on the road I’d face 3 major roundabouts and 12 sets of traffic lights.

    The road really isn’t any faster – I’ve passed roadies scowling away at the lights while I bimble past on the pavement.

    druidh
    Member

    I thought the argument was along the lines of “facilities are poor so no one cycles”. So where are all the other cyclists on this great infrastructure?

    Premier Icon ir_bandito
    Subscriber

    watch out for tacks at Wylam though…
    ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Scotswood road with a tailwind is a dragstrip :-).
    Wide shared-use path on both sides, and marked bike lanes on the road. Brill

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    Oh yeah, what time of day are those pics taken?

    This morning between 8:30 and 9:20am

    konaboy2275
    Member

    I use the sustrans route 6 from Ramsbottom to Salford and back for my commute which is great. Takes about 10 minutes longer than by road, follows a canal and through the woods with short road sections joining it.

    BUT – there is about 400yards which is unpaved and like a bog, I can do the whole 17 miles without getting muddy apart from this short section which is a bit annoying so I tend to use the road route in to work and the sustrans route home. How much would it cost to improve the surface on a short section like that..

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    I thought the argument was along the lines of “facilities are poor so no one cycles”. So where are all the other cyclists on this great infrastructure?

    Actually the argument is more like “build it and they will come”. ๐Ÿ˜€

    That route is well used by cycling commuters and families.

    There are a few cyclists in the shots, but I don’t typically like taking pictures of strangers, especially with their kids.

    Premier Icon ransos
    Subscriber

    High quality paths like the ones Graham uses are great, but it’s completely unrealistic to expect them to appear all over the UK. In Bristol, with the exception of the railway path, I find them to be fairly useless – poorly surfaced, littered with obstacles and junctions, and rarely going where you want.

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    I can do the whole 17 miles without getting muddy apart from this short section which is a bit annoying so I tend to use the road route in to work and the sustrans route home. How much would it cost to improve the surface on a short section like that..

    Have you spoken to local Sustrans or the council about it?

    After the recent heavy rain the council sent a mini-streetsweeper thing along that bit in the Sepia photo to clear all the flooding and clean the path!

    Local cycling groups FTW: http://www.gatesheadcycling.org.uk/

    Klunk
    Member

    one of biggest failings of the Beeching plan was not protecting the decommissioned routes from development. 5000 miles of line with next to no gradient lost (some has survived) under the plough or to development.

    How much would it cost to improve the surface on a short section like that..

    quite a bit, probably… and there may well also be issues over land ownership etc – there are a surprising number of different land owners along the NCN.

    Sustrans’ money is generally tied to specific projects – i.e. they’ll be given ยฃx million to build a new path. funding for a 400m stretch is going to be difficult to come by, tbh.

    if you use the NCN a lot, then why not think about supporting sustrans. costs less than 2 pints a month…

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    Ironically the start of that route is somewhat pre-Beeching, given they were lines used by Wylam’s most/only famous resident. ๐Ÿ˜€

    jonba
    Member

    I use bits of that network to get to work everyday.

    It is not normally that empty. Try coming over the bridge on a sunny friday afternoon and avoiding all the drinkers at the Pitcher and Piano.
    At about 8am and 5pm each day there will be plenty of cyclsits out. But bear in mind that there just aren’t as many people up here as down there.

    Still Newcastle has some fantastic offroad cycle paths (mostly the waggon ways and the c2c routes).

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    High quality paths like the ones Graham uses are great, but it’s completely unrealistic to expect them to appear all over the UK.

    It really isn’t. There is a lot of land out there.

    Plenty of old railway lines, old track road, wasteground, disused bridleways etc that could be turned into paths like those in the first photos. And plenty of roads that could accommodate decent sized paths next to them (shared-use or not) like those in the final few photos.

    It’s not impossible. What it needs is political will and money.

    As somebody called Paul once said: “Dream up the world you want to live in. Dream out loud.” ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    It is not normally that empty. Try coming over the bridge on a sunny friday afternoon and avoiding all the drinkers at the Pitcher and Piano.

    Yep. True. Same at the Quayside Inn.

    But that’s two short points where I need to slow right down.
    And only on sunny days. I didn’t see many of them out in January!

    If you hit the A1 at that same time you’d probably be stuck for longer.
    I’ve certainly beaten the missus home before now.

    druidh
    Member

    GrahamS wrote:

    I’ve certainly beaten the missus at home before now.

    ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    Well, you know how they get druidh. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    In yesterdays/ongoing threads about cycle safety, bike paths and the like I was advocating hard investment in pleasant, high-quality, wide, smooth, traffic-free, well-signed cycle paths both for existing cyclists and (mainly) to attract new cyclists.

    A few people questioned whether such magical things can exist in the UK. Suggesting that they’d be unusable, crowded with pedestrians, force you to go too slow etc etc. Other suggested they were Satan’s Testicles and any sensible cyclist would use the road.

    Well I’m lucky enough to have just such a route as my commute, namely the Sustrans NCN72 from Wylam to Newcastle. So this morning I took my time and stopped for a couple of (ropey cameraphone) photos.

    No high art, but hopefully it illustrates my point.

    Enjoy.


    Route start at Wylam
    ย 


    Busy isn’t it?
    ย  
     


    Sun-dappled, tree-lined, cycle-friendly route? Check
    ย 
     
     


    This runs parallel to a major A road – where would you rather ride?
    ย 
     
     


    Bit of shared pavement. Wide, smooth and no peds to be seen. Why would I ride on the road here (even though it has cycle lanes)?
    ย 
     
     


    “Us and them”. Pleasant ride along the quayside or mix it with the lorries on that bridge?
    ย 
     
     


    Too busy on the quayside?
     
     


    Looks okay to me!
    ย 
     
     


    The finally across the Tyne on the Millennium Bridge (shared use)
    ย 
     
     

    Remind me, why am I terrible human being for preferring this pleasant ride to 45 minutes of wondering whether I’m about to redecorate the wheelarch of an HGV? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    konaboy2275
    Member

    Monkey – I did volunteer for the local sustrans group and did a few days maintenance with them which was good. They were a bit surprised when I turned up with all my chainsaw gear! Unfortunately a lot of the maintenance days are either a fair distance from where I live and time is in short supply at weekends with my two young un’s!

    GrahamS, I think it would take more than a road sweeper! It’s 4″ deep mud and horse muck in places ๐Ÿ˜†

    I’m from Morecambe and the cycle routes there are fantastic now especially since the new coast to coast route was completed. Taking my wife and kids there in a few weeks to have a day riding along the prom and up to Halton for an ice cream without have to use any roads – more like this sustrans please!

    Premier Icon ransos
    Subscriber

    Plenty of old railway lines, old track road, wasteground, disused bridleways etc that could be turned into paths like those in the first photos. And plenty of roads that could accommodate decent sized paths next to them (shared-use or not) like those in the final few photos.

    Not within cities, there aren’t, which is where we really need them. And re-engineering the city streetscape to accommodate wide segregated cycle paths would be hideous.

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    if you use the NCN a lot, then why not think about supporting sustrans. costs less than 2 pints a month…

    Fair point. Just the push I’ve needed actually. Just signed up to donate via direct debit.
    http://www.sustrans.org.uk/support-sustrans/become-a-supporter

    So… now that I can take the moral high ground… how many folk on here saying things will never change and complaining about useless local routes have actually joined Sustrans, or CTC, or their local cycling advocacy groups to try to do something about it? Eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    GrahamS, I think it would take more than a road sweeper! It’s 4″ deep mud and horse muck in places

    Oooh lovely! Well you never know, the council here did pretty well (with suitable pressure) at clearing out some of our routes after the big storms the other month. Maybe you should suggest a Sustrans maintenance day on that stretch?

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    Not within cities, there aren’t, which is where we really need them. And re-engineering the city streetscape to accommodate wide segregated cycle paths would be hideous.

    I like this set of photos:
    http://www.hembrowcyclingholidays.com/comparisons.html

    It can be done. It wouldn’t be easy. Granted. But it can be done.

    Just needs political will and money.

    druidh
    Member

    GrahamS – you keep posting a link to that one site. If it was possible on a mass scale, there would be a lot more examples.

    Just needs political will and money.

    and moving folk out of their houses to widen streets, and give up other stuff (NHS anyone) in order to make it affordable, higher taxes to pay for it etc etc. It would be nice, but it’s not realistic in most/many urban environments.

    jota180
    Member

    It would be very difficult in a lot of cities, river banks are ideal, inner city arterial routes often aren’t

    a lot could be done closing ‘rat runs’ to allow a reasonable cycle route without going too far off route

    Premier Icon unklehomered
    Subscriber

    Sustrans are apparently eyeing up the old railway bed through Nidderdale, that would be a fantastic route, and also allow easy linking up of trail sections in the lower valley. Sadly their recent 4 mile section from Bilton to Ripley took something like 4 yrs to get approved. Progress on these things is far too slow…

    Premier Icon ransos
    Subscriber

    It can be done. It wouldn’t be easy. Granted. But it can be done.

    But should it be done?

    As a general point, I think people get rather pre-occupied with segregated facilities, as if they’re some sort of panacea. They forget that we already tried segregation in Milton Keynes, and no-one cycles there. By contrast, cycling rates in Oxford and Cambridge are very high, with everyone sharing the same narrow roads. The notion that “build it and they will come” is demonstrably false.

    It’s worth noting that the oft-quoted Dutch model is about so much more than segregation. More important are the ideas of cultural acceptance, policing, motorist liability and sensibly designed junctions.

    If you still need convincing, take a typical London street and try drawing a plan for a wide cycle path. What will you take the space away from?

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    GrahamS – you keep posting a link to that one site. If it was possible on a mass scale, there would be a lot more examples.

    Photos comparing British streets to near identical Dutch streets is kind of a niche market.

    The Hembrow / aviewfromthecyclepath.com sites are great because he is British (I believe) and lived here before moving out there – so he can speak with experience. Plus he runs study holidays so road planners and cycle advocates can come out and see how well the cycle paths work there – so he knows what he is talking about.

    and moving folk out of their houses to widen streets,

    The streets don’t need to be wider – we just need to dedicate less of them to cars.

    Dutch streets are not wider or newer. The main town in his photos is Assen, which is over 750 years old. It’s not some new build with mega wide streets.

    give up other stuff (NHS anyone) in order to make it affordable, higher taxes to pay for it etc etc

    Money needs to be spent invested, yes. Right now government spending on UK cycling provision is only around 70p per cyclist per year. The Dutch spend ยฃ10-20 per cyclist – and they have a lot more of them!

    LSE say that cycling generates around ยฃ3 billion a year for the UK economy. Increasing cycling would pay off.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    The road really isn’t any faster – I’ve passed roadies scowling away at the lights while I bimble past on the pavement.

    That’s nice, but it’s not like that everywhere!

    I take the roads and the roundabouts on the A48 becuse it’s not that busy, and most people are going straight on anyway so I can be through the roundabout in two or three seconds, instead of 20 or 30 to take the cyclepath. And there are a lot of roundabouts. It’s not the end of the world, and if I were with my family I’m sure I’d take them, but it’s why I don’t use them when I am on my own.

    I do think the facility is good though for less celeritous cyclists but I would hate to receive aggro for not being on it.

    we just need to dedicate less of them to cars.

    So where does the traffic go?

    hugor
    Member

    Some stunning Sustrans routes in South Wales. These are from the Millenium Coast path from Lochor to Kidwelly. This should be on your bucket list.



    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Hugor, that’ll come in handy on people’s commutes!

    Whilst these routes are nice, they don’t make much of an impact on UK cycling IMO. West Wales isn’t exactly bedlam on the roads is it?

    Premier Icon ransos
    Subscriber

    The streets don’t need to be wider – we just need to dedicate less of them to cars.

    Show us your drawing. I contend that it cannot be done in a typical city street unless you want to close the road to private cars, in which case there is no need for a cycle path!

    Dutch streets are not wider or newer.

    They very often are. And much, much uglier.

    MrsPoddy
    Member

    We were so impressed with the sustrans W2W, route that we actually set up a subscription to them. Then bought several more of their maps and routes for the next several years touring. We have used several of their cycle paths in Devon and Cornwall and what could have been a city battle with 2 bikes and a trailer turned into a nice ride up the estuary to Exeter. Not to mention the Bristol to Bath cycle route. If you are impressed with sustrans make a donation today so they can keep up the good work!

    hugor
    Member

    Whilst these routes are nice, they don’t make much of an impact on UK cycling IMO. West Wales isn’t exactly bedlam on the roads is it?

    OK here’s National Route 8 from Brecon to Cardiff 85 kms long.
    You can take the A470 which is a deathtrap for cyclists or you can take this route which runs parallel to it! You wouldn’t know it but.



    AndrewJ
    Member

    Also, in Cardiff there is a traffic free route from the city centre out to the nearest woodland for some decent trails. I don’t use it, I take the road cos it’s quicker, and better exercise.

    Do you mean the Taff Trail? If so I use it every day from Pontypridd into the centre of Cardiff. I really don’t understand your comments to be honest. The trail is tarmac’d throughout, is mainly a very good surface and almost entirely traffic free. Vast sections are fairly quiet around commute hours as far as walkers are concerned and when I do encounter them a quick ring of my bell has them moving to let me safely pass without slowing. It’s only when I get into the centre of the city that I tend to get slowed down a little due to walker/cyclist congestion.

    If I used the road during those hours I would be cycling with nose to nose traffic and probably have to encounter in the region of 15 to 20 sets of traffic lights. How can this be faster and better exercise when I’d be constantly slowing down for lights and edging down the side of cars and lorries?

    mdavids
    Member

    Yep, its a great route GrahamS, and others like it like the derwent walk, waskerley way and lanchester valley route have been instrumental in getting my partner, sister in law and niece out on their bikes.

    They have no interest in singletrack, hills or mixing it with the traffic but picturesque routes like these are just perfect.

    There’s a nice little bike cafe opened at the end of the quayside which is a really nice spot to sit and have a coffee and the route then continues all the way to tynemouth, about about 75% off-road and the rest on quiet roads.

    I didn’t realise you could donate to sustrans, thanks for the link.

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