National Cycle Network
Last night as I was coming off the beach from the sunset shootthis sign for the North Wales Coastal Cycle Route caught my eye. Silhouetted against the setting sun and with some clouds behind it I thought it would make a good photograph. The sign shows directions for part of National Cycle Route 5 which is a long distance route connecting Reading and Holyhead via Oxford, Banbury, Stratford-upon-Avon, Redditch, Bromsgrove, Birmingham, Walsall, Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Chester, Colwyn Bay and Bangor. The National Cycle Network is a network of cycle routes in the United Kingdom, created by the charity Sustrans (Sustainable Transport), and aided by a £42.5 million National Lottery grant. In 2005 it was used for over 230 million trips.
Many routes hope to minimise contact with motor traffic, though 70% of them are on roads. In some cases the NCN uses pedestrian routes, disused railways, minor roads, canal towpaths, or traffic-calmed routes in towns and cities. Some places have more off-road paths than others – Stoke-on-Trent, for instance, uses canal towpaths and its old mineral/passenger railway network to provide over 100 miles (160 km) of off-road paths through the city.
North Wales Coast
Along the North Wales coast between Talacre and Penmaenmawr there is 34 miles of cycle path which is part or NCR5 . It is mostly hard-surfaced and nearly continuously off-road, apart from a 2-3 mile gap at Llandudno, a 260 yard gap on a main road at Rhos on Sea and a handful of very short linking sections on quiet roads. (There is also an official, signed, on-road short-cut between Rhos-on-Sea and Conwy that avoids Llandudno.) The route passes through the resorts of Prestatyn, Rhyl, Kinmel Bay, Pensarn (Abergele), Llanddulas, Colwyn Bay, Rhos-on-Sea, Penrhyn Bay, Llandudno, Deganwy, Conwy and Penmaenmawr. It goes along the promenades or sea-fronts at all these places except Llandudno, where Conwy’s cabinet have contentiously refused to rescind an ancient bylaw, so old it almost predates the invention of the bicycle, and which is used in an attempt to ban cycling on the promenade. This stretch along the coast affords fine views of the coast and the sea, but also of the countryside, the Clwydian hills, the mountains of Snowdonia and the Great and Little Ormes.
Total National Mileage
The original goal was to create 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of signed cycle routes by 2005, with 50% of these not being on roads, and all of it being “suitable for an unsupervised twelve-year-old”. By mid 2000 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of route were sign-posted to an “interim” standard, and a new goal was then set to double that to 10,000 miles (16,000 km) by 2005. August 2005 saw the completion of that goal. As of mid-2011, the total stands at 13,000 miles (21,000 km) of signed cycle route at NCN standard.
National Cycle Network Routes beginning with numbers 1 to 6 are generally in England, while those beginning with 7 start in the far north of England and Scotland. Those beginning with 8 are generally in Wales, and 9 in Northern Ireland. The main routes have one digit (1 to 6 radiate clockwise from the south of England). Other NCN routes have two digits, starting with the number of the relevant main route.
There are also many regional routes, reaching smaller towns and cities within ten designated regions. Each region is divided into a maximum of 9 areas. Regional route numbers comprise the area number 1 to 9, followed by another digit. (An exception is in the Scottish Borders council area, where the regional routes are numbered 1 to 9.) This means that across the UK there could be 10 regional route 12s, for instance, as well as the national route12. To reduce confusion, identically numbered areas in adjacent regions do not abut, and so routes with the same number are widely separated.
As of 2009, regional routes are being renumbered with 3-digit national numbers. Routes are occasionally numbered to match the names of major roads and motorways which connect the same destinations; examples of this practice include the NCN Route 62, which by connecting the two sides of the Pennines mirrors the M62 motorway.
The network is sign-posted using a white bicycle symbol on a blue background, with a white route number in an inset box but no destination names or distances given. National Route numbers have a red background, Regional Route numbers have a blue background. The system of symbols is based on that used by the Danish Cycle Network.
1000 Millennium cast iron mile-posts funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland to mark the creation of the National Cycle Network, and found along the cycles routes through the UK. There are four different types of posts, “Fossil Tree” (designed by John Mills), “The Cockerel” (designed by Iain McColl), Rowe Type by Andrew Rowe, and “Tracks” (designed by David Dudgeon). The four artists are from each country of the UK, though all posts can be found in all four countries.