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A safe route home: Planning for post-pandemic cycling in British cities

A safe route home: Planning for post-pandemic cycling in British cities

With more and more demand for active travel infrastructure across the UK, local authorities have a responsibility to keep users safe. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt considers the…

Thursday, Jun 02

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With more and more demand for active travel infrastructure across the UK, local authorities have a responsibility to keep users safe. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt considers the risks to the UK’s pedal-powered commuters from other road users, and their emissions.

In 1984 UK attitudes towards active travel looked very different from today. Back then, British cycling successes at major events like the Commonwealth and Olympic Games had yet to inspired the public to ride more, and the Covid-19 pandemic was almost four decades away. As was the ‘bike boom’ it triggered over concerns about crowded public transport and the struggle to stay fit while stuck inside for months on end with sports facilities closed.

Nevertheless, the roots of the National Cycle Network were planted in 1984, with the 14-mile Bristol and Bath Railway Path opening. 11 years on, the network officially launched under the stewardship of the charity Sustrans, with £42.5m of National Lottery money and 500miles of routes. Today, that has grown to 12,739miles from southern England to the Scottish islands, passing within one mile of half the UK population along the way. Pre-pandemic, 765m annual trips were made on the system, boosting the national economy in 2019 by £2.1bn through tourism and leisure alone.

The NCN shows people embrace alternatives to motorised transport when convenient provision exists, and local businesses benefit. Not to mention the environment. A 2021 Imperial College London study of 2,000 people in seven European cities concluded that ditching car for bike just once a week reduced our […]

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