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Headquarters of Sustrans in Bristol
Formation 1977
Headquarters Bristol, UK
Region served
United Kingdom
Website Sustrans
Sustrans' first ever route follows a disused railway though a green corridor in Bristol

Sustrans is a UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys they make every day. They work with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in. The charity is working on projects to encourage people to walk, cycle, and use public transport, to give people the choice of "travelling in ways that benefit their health and the environment".[1] Sustrans' flagship project is the National Cycle Network, which has created over 14,000 miles[2] of signed cycle routes throughout the UK, although about 70% of the network is on previously existing, mostly minor roads where motor traffic will be encountered.

Sustrans works with schools to encourage active travel (cycling, walking or scooting) among students. They also work with employers and local authorities. Sustrans administers several thousand volunteers who contribute their time to the charity in numerous ways: by cleaning and maintaining the National Cycle Network, enhancing biodiversity along the routes, leading walks and rides, supporting communities to improve their air quality and other activities.

Their vision is that by 2020 four out of five local journeys will be made by bike, foot or public transport.


  • History 1
  • Funding 2
  • Bike Life 3
  • National Cycle Network 4
  • Criticism 5
  • Patrons 6
  • Connect2 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10
    • Specific routes 10.1


Canal boat decked in Sustrans logo

Sustrans was formed in Bristol in July 1977 as Cyclebag by a group of cyclists and environmentalists, motivated by emerging doubts about the desirability of over-dependence on the private car, following the 1973 oil crisis, and the almost total lack of specific provision for cyclists in most British cities, in contrast to some other European countries.[3][4]

A decade earlier, the Beeching Axe closed many British railways that the government considered underused and too costly. One such railway was the former Midland Railway line between central Bristol and Bath, closed in favour of the more direct, former Great Western Railway between the cities. Sustrans leased part of this route with the help of Avon County Council (Bristol and Bath were then part of the County of Avon) and turned it into their first route, the Bristol & Bath Railway Path.[3]

In the early 1980s, when unemployment rose, the organisation took advantage of government schemes to provide temporary employment to build similar 'green routes'. British Waterways collaborated with Sustrans to improve towpaths along some canals and this resulted in greatly increased use of the towpaths, especially by cyclists.

In 1983, the charity Sustrans was founded. It had 11 directors who are the trustees, members, and board members of the charity and are chosen by the existing board. The executive board was composed of the chief executive, John Grimshaw, and one of the two company secretaries.[5]

By the early 1990s, Sustrans had a growing number of supporters and the network of national routes was emerging. In 1995, it was granted £43.5 million from the Millennium Lottery Fund[6] to extend the National Cycle Network to smaller towns and rural areas, as well as launch the "Safe Routes to Schools" project, based on earlier state projects in Denmark.

The organisation is working to introduce Safe Routes to Stations and Home Zones among other projects. In 2015 Sustrans ran their Campaign for Safer Streets, which encouraged people to write to David Cameron to encourage him to commit to funding safer walking and cycling routes to schools.


The National Cycle Network was the first project to receive Millennium Commission funding in 1995. Sustrans currently has many sources of funding, and in the 2004/05 financial year, their income was £23.6 million. Of this, £2.1 million came from supporters' donations. £8.5 million came from the Department for Transport, and a further £2.5 million from the National Opportunities Fund, specifically for the Safe Routes projects. Additional funding comes from charitable grants and trusts, local government and income from the sales of maps and books.[5]

Bike Life

In October 2015 Sustrans released their Bike Life report.[7] This was a survey of residents in seven UK cities, undertaken in conjunction with local councils and transport authorities, that attempted to assess the current state of cycling in the UK. It covered areas such as safety, provision of cycling infrastructure and people's attitudes towards cycling.

National Cycle Network

Sustrans Route 66 behind the Derwent Arms, Osbaldwick, York

The National Cycle Network was officially opened in June 2000,[8] when 5,000 miles had been completed, although some routes had been open for over a decade. In 2005 the network reached 10,000 miles.[6] In urban areas, almost 20% of the network is free from motor-traffic, though these sections can account for up to 80% of use. The more rural parts of the network see less motor traffic and are used primarily for leisure cycling.

Sustrans estimate that in 2005 the network carried 232,000,000 journeys by all classes of non-motorised users.[9] In 2010 this figure had risen to over 420,000,000 journeys.[10] The data collected by Sustrans to compile monitoring reports, from traffic counters and user surveys, shows that National Cycle Network usage is predominantly urban, and mainly on traffic-free sections. Furthermore, surveys show that only 35% of usage on urban sections of the NCN is for leisure purposes.


Sustrans has opponents within organisations that wish to reduce road haulage and motor travel by promoting the expansion of the modern railway network. Furthermore, they have also received criticism from members of the heritage railway movement. Sustrans have been accused of being uncompromising on route sharing, for example, allowing a single-track railway adjacent to a cycle path on a double-track railway formation. An example of this is the planned section of the Bodmin and Wenford Railway between Boscarne Junction & Wadebridge.

Sustrans have also been accused of going back on their own policies with regard to sustainable transport.[11] In 2000, several mainline railways were full to capacity, yet requests by EWS and English China Clays to reopen lost rail links for freight paths such as the former Weedon to Leamington Spa line were refused by the charity. Sustrans refused to support the application unless the rail promoter provided an alternative cycle track, to which EWS responded it was an uneconomic provision for both reopening and building replacement pathway expenses as well. Objections by cyclists mean that freight from these sources now has to continue to move by road through the local villages.[12]


Patrons of Sustrans include the following:

George Young MP.


Connect2 was a UK-wide project that aimed to improve local travel in 79 communities by creating new walking and cycling routes. Sustrans launched the 'Connect2' project in August 2006 in a successful bid to win £50 million from the Big Lottery's 'Living Landmarks; The People's Millions' competition. Connect2 was announced as the winning project on 12 December 2007.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Sustrans, 2005. "About Our Work." Accessed 20 December 2005.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Sustrans Ltd. & PriceWaterHouseCoopers LLP, 2005. "Annual Report for the year ending March 2005." Accessed 20 December 2005.
  6. ^ a b Sustrans, 2005. "Celebratory Events in 2005." Accessed 20 December 2005.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Cycle-Routes, 2005. "Sustrans." Accessed 3 January 2012.
  9. ^ Sustrans, 2006. "National Cycle Network Route User Monitoring Report to end of 2005." Accessed 3 May 2007.
  10. ^ Beds for Cyclists, 2012. "National Cycle Network Route Usage 2000 - 2010." Accessed 5 May 2012.
  11. ^ Hansard, the Official Report of debates in Parliament 1998. "Transport Policy and Railway Land." Created 16 March 1998.
  12. ^
  13. ^ The People's 50 Million

External links

  • Official website
  • Sustrans Limited, Registered Charity no. 326550 at the Charity Commission
  • Guardian article about Bike Life report 2015
  • Sustrans Connect2 Official Home Page

Specific routes

  • The Taff Trail (NCN 8)
  • Valley Rides By Tony Gibbs (NCN 8)
  • The Pennine Cycleway NCN 68 Derby to Berwick by Dik Stoddart
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