Over the past 25 years Sustrans has established more than 16,000 miles of the National Cycle Network – though it actually owns only 500 miles of this.
Two years ago Sustrans set about a thorough review of the network and its findings were summarised in the ‘Paths for Everyone’ report released in 2018.
The findings were not great – Sustrans assessed nearly half of the network was of either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ quality with respect to safety and accessibility.
Peter Challis, Sustrans’ Network Development Manager, attended our November committee meeting to outline Sustrans’ plans to fix the network and explain how this affects Reading.
Bringing over 7000 miles of ‘poor’ cycle network up to scratch is a big challenge for a charity and will require Sustrans to source considerable funding. This has been kick-started with £20 million for fifty ‘activation’ projects, one of which is for NCN 4 in Reading.
For the NCN 4 project Sustrans is looking to remove or replace the barriers that are located at the Katesgrove Underpass (under the IDR), at Waterloo Meadows (alongside the Kennet and Avon) and at Fobney Lock. Anyone who has cycled this route will know how difficult it is to get a bike through these barriers, and if you have a tandem or trailer … well forget it.
However, it is recognised that these barriers are there for a purpose, namely to stop anti-social motorbike use of the route. Unfortunately there are simply no physical means of stopping motorbikes, but allowing pedal bikes and enforcement will be needed to discourage motorbike use.
Whilst the police are part of the partnership working to upgrade the cycle network Peter told us that Thames Valley Police had stopped short of committing to enforcement once the barriers are removed.