sustrans cuts routes

Cyril Haearn
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby Cyril Haearn » 20 Jul 2020, 3:27pm

This seems a story that could be described in various different ways, any suggestions for alternative headlines?
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mjr
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby mjr » 20 Jul 2020, 3:33pm

qwerty360 wrote:Equally, the same groups have been quite happy to claim that they don't need to do anything for cycling because there is a NCN route which clearly must be usable for all cyclists because it is NCN...

Have they? Anything in writing anywhere? I know cases where the opposite is true and developers have contributed to improving the NCN because it was the NCN.
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby Ellieb » 20 Jul 2020, 4:33pm

Frankly it gets worse when you look at the specifics of what they have done. There are bits locally that should definitley have been taken out if you are talking about good quality cycle path, but they have been left in, and certain road sections which seem to have been arbitrarily removed no matter what they are like to ride in reality. I really think they have shot themselves in the foot over this.

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby PaulaT » 20 Jul 2020, 5:21pm

mjr wrote:
PaulaT wrote:
mjr wrote:It will no longer be possible to cross Norfolk by following NCN signs - and it was already rather a roundabout route before!


And I'm sure cyclists will will manage just fine as we did for generations before the arrival of the self-appointed messiahs of cycling :)

And I'm sure there will be far fewer of them doing it as a result, hurting us all through the "safety in numbers" effect. Simply seeing a cycle route sign and thinking "I could ride there" won't even be possible. It'll be something that only sat nav and map geeks can do.


I' far from convinced that the NCN generates enough cycle traffic for safety in numbers to kick in. That's more of an urban commuting phenonemon.

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby Richard Fairhurst » 20 Jul 2020, 6:10pm

Ellieb wrote:Frankly it gets worse when you look at the specifics of what they have done. There are bits locally that should definitley have been taken out if you are talking about good quality cycle path, but they have been left in, and certain road sections which seem to have been arbitrarily removed no matter what they are like to ride in reality. I really think they have shot themselves in the foot over this.


This week's change isn't about "good quality cycle paths" though. It's, almost entirely, about safety. The routes that have been removed are generally those where either (a) the average traffic speed is too high (over 40mph), or (b) the traffic volume is too high. That might not be a problem for confident cyclists like you and me, but it is a problem for lots of the sort of people that Sustrans wants to attract to the NCN.

There are lots of bits of the NCN that are sub-par, and Sustrans recognises that. But some of those sub-par bits are "just" inconvenient, while some of them are inconvenient and potentially dangerous. What this change is designed to do is remove the potentially dangerous bits from the NCN where there's no immediate hope of remedial works.

The mudbaths and inaccessible gates and all that sort of malarkey do desperately need fixing. In quite a few places Sustrans is working to fix this - nearish me, for example, the notorious gates in Reading are on the way out, there's a plan to fix a ratrun on a rural road in south Oxfordshire, and a poor surface near Oxford has just been upgraded. On a smaller scale, my volunteer group is working to sort out a couple of troublesome barriers locally, and I'm sure that's the case across the country.

Short of a £2bn grant from the Government (would be nice...), the whole NCN isn't going to be fixed imminently. So you can either say "let's keep the dangerous bits in until they can be fixed", or "let's take them out now because they're dangerous". Sustrans has chosen the latter, which is probably a pragmatic view given that some of them have been unfixed for 20 years now.

Personally I believe there should still be a place for waymarked cycle touring routes other than those that meet the more exacting NCN safety standards. It will probably take a while to evolve what that place might be - it might involve the National Byway, or the EuroVelo designation, or county cycleways, or there are some other interesting possibilities. Maybe our hosts on this board might even be interested?
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby Ellieb » 20 Jul 2020, 6:44pm

The routes that have been removed are generally those where either (a) the average traffic speed is too high (over 40mph), or (b) the traffic volume is too high. That might not be a problem for confident cyclists like you and me, but it is a problem for lots of the sort of people that Sustrans wants to attract to the NCN.

The issue is that the sort of people who ride from, say, Edinburgh to Newcastle aren’t likely to consider a quiet road with traffic over 40mph as being dangerous per se. You don’t have to be a rabid vehicularist to use these sort of roads. Are Sustrans just abandoning these sort of people?

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby mjr » 20 Jul 2020, 7:07pm

PaulaT wrote:
mjr wrote:
PaulaT wrote:
And I'm sure cyclists will will manage just fine as we did for generations before the arrival of the self-appointed messiahs of cycling :)

And I'm sure there will be far fewer of them doing it as a result, hurting us all through the "safety in numbers" effect. Simply seeing a cycle route sign and thinking "I could ride there" won't even be possible. It'll be something that only sat nav and map geeks can do.


I' far from convinced that the NCN generates enough cycle traffic for safety in numbers to kick in. That's more of an urban commuting phenonemon.

As a rural cyclist, I disagree. There are far more cyclists on NCN1 around the coast than on the mostly-unsigned loops and links off of it, which means that drivers on that route at weekends now spend their whole time either just having passed a cyclist or being about to pass a cyclist. They literally cannot forget about cyclists when they can see us for almost the whole time on those roads. It helps. It's much rarer to suffer a close pass or left hook on there than other roads.
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby mjr » 20 Jul 2020, 7:18pm

Richard Fairhurst wrote:[...] That might not be a problem for confident cyclists like you and me, but it is a problem for lots of the sort of people that Sustrans wants to attract to the NCN.

It feels like "the sort of people that Sustrans wants to attract" are those who are happy to put the bikes in/on the back of the 4x4 and drive to the nearest trailhead, who aren't going to be troubled by the poor connectivity and it being islands of route stubs rather than a network. I guess it's those drive-cyclists who have more money and are more likely to donate to Sustrans than sceptical transport and touring cyclists!

What this change is designed to do is remove the potentially dangerous bits from the NCN where there's no immediate hope of remedial works.

Then it hasn't worked as designed. A bit of NCN with published plans for imminent remedial works using the covid19 funding has been deleted, while real legbreaker rough stuff stumbling onto an uncontrolled 8000vpd A road crossing remains. These changes look like they've been done from HQ with traffic data and maps and no actual riding. Is it even possible to see the reason why things have been denumbered or deleted?

So you can either say "let's keep the dangerous bits in until they can be fixed", or "let's take them out now because they're dangerous". Sustrans has chosen the latter, which is probably a pragmatic view given that some of them have been unfixed for 20 years now.

That's a false dilemma. There were many other choices, including labelling the substandard bits in a different colour and keeping them in the network for the sake of continuity and not having routes just dump cyclists in the middle of fields with no indication of the least-worst way ahead. By taking this hardline abandonment approach, almost halving the NCN in some counties, I feel Sustrans have shot themselves in the foot and cyclists in the tyres.
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ratherbeintobago
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby ratherbeintobago » 20 Jul 2020, 8:04pm

mjr wrote:A bit of NCN with published plans for imminent remedial works using the covid19 funding has been deleted


Presumably there can be reinstatement if it meets the required standards?

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby geocycle » 20 Jul 2020, 8:05pm

Seems to me Sustrans have always had tried to embrace two different objectives which can be at odds with one another. They get most of their funding for urban routes serving schools etc with off-road paths. The quality of these varies enormously often according to the level of commitment from the local councils. Sustrans also tried to link these via things like rail trials and sections on relatively quiet roads into a national network. This attracts the touring cyclist but then creates problems through the connection to urban commuting paths. The big national routes are IME fantastic ways of getting into touring, for example the C2C and variants, LLC etc. However, these can also be problematic unless they are carefully researched in advance which differs from say the Dutch or German networks. Personally, I owe Sustrans a huge debt for reintroducing me to cycle touring. Now I can use cycle.travel Or similar to create my own Routes but it all started for me in 2004 with the classic C2C.

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby mjr » 20 Jul 2020, 8:10pm

ratherbeintobago wrote:
mjr wrote:A bit of NCN with published plans for imminent remedial works using the covid19 funding has been deleted


Presumably there can be reinstatement if it meets the required standards?

I don't know. I can't see anything about an appeals process or a reinstatement process, or any process for deleting the truly dangerous stuff that remains.
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qwerty360
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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby qwerty360 » 20 Jul 2020, 9:43pm

mjr wrote:
qwerty360 wrote:Equally, the same groups have been quite happy to claim that they don't need to do anything for cycling because there is a NCN route which clearly must be usable for all cyclists because it is NCN...

Have they? Anything in writing anywhere? I know cases where the opposite is true and developers have contributed to improving the NCN because it was the NCN.


Certainly when I was a student in bristol, the BB cycle path was used as a justification not to do anything to provide a more direct route for commuting cyclists on the A4 (note; the BB path adds ~1/3 to the distance and got regular complaints because the cyclists were "going too fast"...)

Marking up the NCN maps with different qualities to indicate where there are problems is potentially a good thing for getting developers to contribute; Improving an existing cycle path is potentially a very cheap way for them to put a community/active travel benefit into a planning application. As far as I am aware, most of the cost of cycle paths is the land/right of way and getting the equipment in place. If the ROW already exists, and you are already building roads nearby so have all the gear in place it shouldn't add much for the developer.

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby PaulaT » 20 Jul 2020, 10:09pm

mjr wrote:As a rural cyclist, I disagree. There are far more cyclists on NCN1 around the coast than on the mostly-unsigned loops and links off of it, which means that drivers on that route at weekends now spend their whole time either just having passed a cyclist or being about to pass a cyclist. They literally cannot forget about cyclists when they can see us for almost the whole time on those roads. It helps. It's much rarer to suffer a close pass or left hook on there than other roads.


Well around here no-one uses the NCN routes as such expect for a couple of stretches of road which cyclists have been using for generations and the NCN uses too. Whilst we're nowhere near as rural a Norfolk here, I have the choice of 8 country lanes which I can use to enter or exit the town. Some are more highly favoured than other by cyclists (the less hilly routes) and couple are rat-runs (including one which is part of the NCN) but in all honesty I've never detected any overall difference in driver attitudes on any of them. OTOH these roads, unlike yours, don't get any tourist traffic. Maybe that's the difference?

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Re: National Cycle Network Being Slashed

Postby FOSS62 » 20 Jul 2020, 10:44pm

gloomyandy wrote:Some of this seems a little strange though. I've cycled on the roads that make up the Hebridean Cycle Way many times and to be honest they are probably much safer in many respects than the Sustrans owned and maintained Spen Valley Greenway which is local to me. The mixture of walkers, dogs, skiers(!) and other users makes negotiating the 10 mile length interesting at best and dangerous at times.

But I (like most on here) am probably not the type of user that Sustrans seems to be targeting. I'm sure they view the mixed use on my local Greenway as a success, even though I know that many "experienced" cyclists actually avoid using it. Perhaps they have decided that the dog walking community will be a better source of income than cyclists! :-)


Yes - I also find myself feeling less safe on local ‘cycle routes’ than on the road. They also regularly seem to have features that suggest no cyclists were involved in their planning. A local one next to a main road has give way lines at every side road. Another one expects cyclists to cross a busy NSL road about 30 yards away from a roundabout. In both cases the safest place for bikes is clearly on the road (at least traffic actually at the roundabout is travelling a bit slower and has some expectations that it might have to give way).

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Re: sustrans cuts routes

Postby PaulaT » 20 Jul 2020, 11:19pm

Richard Fairhurst wrote:Personally I believe there should still be a place for waymarked cycle touring routes other than those that meet the more exacting NCN safety standards. It will probably take a while to evolve what that place might be - it might involve the National Byway, or the EuroVelo designation, or county cycleways, or there are some other interesting possibilities. Maybe our hosts on this board might even be interested?


Yep. Then one sign goes missing somewhere along the route and your little non-map-reading snowflakes find themselves completely lost. Signage costs money, both in erecting and on-going maintenance. The CTC has published route guides since before WWII. Anyone who can read has access to that information. The later ones even tell you which maps (either OS 1:50,000 or Barts 1:100,000) you'll need.