Is Sustrans fit for purpose?

KnackeredBike

I do my own stunts
Disclaimer: although I've ridden on lots of Sustrans routes across the country it is still a tiny fraction of the total...

Sustrans has bothered me for quite a while. It has stewardship of, potentially, an amazing network of routes for cyclists, pedestrians and horses. Run properly it would enable safe and pleasant journeys of everything from school and work to long distance cycling holidays.

However, it's a bit bloody rubbish and rather than seemingly making serious efforts to improve it, or at least shout about how they need more money, they frig about moaning about taxis and planning new parts of the network when the existing ones are rubbish. I know they use volunteers but at some stage if you want to have a reliable and well maintained network you need paid professionals. You don't see appeals for people to cut back the bushes on the A1.

NCR5 runs right past my house and goes to both of our workplaces. I don't use it because it's circuitous and the surface is so bad that I would no longer need contraception at road bike speeds. I use the busy A-roads instead, but I am likely to be in a minority that wouldn't get in the car instead.

My wife likes slow and ponderous cycling so she should be well suited, except that it was so poorly maintained she was constantly getting stung and pushing the bike home because of a puncture. So she actually learnt to drive, and now drives instead.

I had plenty of time this weekend so I thought I would take a slow ponderous cycle along, and immediately regretted it when I remembered how poorly joined together it is, requiring you to swerve across roads or cross on blind corners. Then I got a puncture, which put me in an even worse mood, but unsurprising as it is on a part of the route which runs through a landfill site. And this is on NCR5, which should surely be a jewel in the crown.

The same has happened on many other routes I have tried, they are poor quality, dump you on roads randomly and are easy to lose the route and find yourself cycling in the middle of nowhere.

tl;dr if we want to get people cycling the Sustrans network surely needs to be well maintained, safe, and easy to follow. IMO it is none of these, it is worse than even the most minor roads for cars. With that, surely Sustrans need to get their act together and start acting like a highways authority, or give the network to someone that will.
 

r04DiE

300km a week through London on a road bike.
I have never used them and now I know why. I think its a great shame that you experienced what you did from a network that could be as good as you say.
 

PeteXXX

Cake or ice cream? The choice is endless ...
Location
Hamtun
Route 6, through Northants, could be a lot better. Occasionally, some community payback folks hack back the bushes and widen the narrowing route.
Last weekend, some volunteers were out planting bulbs alongside part of it near the A50.
I was discussing the joys of the ride with a passing dog walker as I was repairing a Blackthorn induced p*ncture.
 
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User6179

Guest
I like the NCRs that you cycle along for a few miles only to find path has disappeared :okay:, stopped using them then I got a CX bike and thought I would do a few, got a couple of miles down a route and the path turned to a forestry track which had been covered with what looked like a demolished building, nearly came off and lost a lens out of my sunglasses , couldn't even walk on the track never mind cycle.
 

Dave 123

Legendary Member
The only time I've followed them specifically is on the Devon coast to coast. The good bits are really good and it's a pleasure to use them.
The bits that were bad were through Barnstaple and Braunton. There were short length off road paved sections that had really narrow gates/car stoppers, so every 150 yds we had to dismount to negotiate the furniture. I can't see why we couldn't use the road.
Through villages like Peter Tavy and Lydford, instead of sticking to the perfectly usable road we were sent through a steep track down and up that required pushing the bike and through a bog on Dartmoor.
 
OP
KnackeredBike

KnackeredBike

I do my own stunts
I like the NCRs that you cycle along for a few miles only to find path has disappeared :okay:, stopped using them then I got a CX bike and thought I would do a few, got a couple of miles down a route and the path turned to a forestry track which had been covered with what looked like a demolished building, nearly came off and lost a lens out of my sunglasses , couldn't even walk on the track never mind cycle.
They resurfaced a few hundred metres near me in a fine gravel. I assume it had fallen off the back of a lorry somewhere but it was akin to cycling on a skid pan, enhanced by the fact the surface started around a tight corner.
 

Milkfloat

An Peanut
Location
Midlands
I don't use any of them because I have no idea if I will suddenly go offroading. I would much prefer a significant reduction in length if the quality was acceptable - at least mark on the maps the surface quality. That is before I start moaning about access barriers.
 

snorri

Legendary Member
tl;dr if we want to get people cycling the Sustrans network surely needs to be well maintained, safe, and easy to follow. IMO it is none of these, it is worse than even the most minor roads for cars. With that, surely Sustrans need to get their act together and start acting like a highways authority, or give the network to someone that will.
I agree that much of the network is not what it should be , but I don't believe it is fair to blame Sustrans.
Sustrans is a charity which gets grants from authorities to construct sections of NCN, but they receive no payment for ongoing maintenance, that would usually be the responsibility of the body providing the grant for construction. There are some sections of the NCN which Sustrans own, but I would think these make up a very small fraction of the NCN network. The blue signs with NCN numbers on cycle routes are not an indication of Sustrans ownership nor do they indicate the body responsible for maintenance. Some Sustrans volunteers inspect NCN routes and report defects like missing signs, overhanging branches, weed growth on path surfaces etc., to the responsible authority, but neither the volunteers or Sustrans has the power to ensure that defects are actually dealt with.
 
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User6179

Guest
I agree that much of the network is not what it should be , but I don't believe it is fair to blame Sustrans.
Sustrans is a charity which gets grants from authorities to construct sections of NCN, but they receive no payment for ongoing maintenance, that would usually be the responsibility of the body providing the grant for construction. There are some sections of the NCN which Sustrans own, but I would think these make up a very small fraction of the NCN network. The blue signs with NCN numbers on cycle routes are not an indication of Sustrans ownership nor do they indicate the body responsible for maintenance. Some Sustrans volunteers inspect NCN routes and report defects like missing signs, overhanging branches, weed growth on path surfaces etc., to the responsible authority, but neither the volunteers or Sustrans has the power to ensure that defects are actually dealt with.

If they would just use a simple way of explaining what routes are suitable for skinny tyres and what routes you need off road tyres it would be a lot better , saying cycle route when it is impossible to cycle that route on a road bike is not very helpful to the user.
 

byegad

Legendary Member
Location
NE England
No it's not. I was a Ranger for five years or so and appreciate some of their problems in not owning all of the infrastructure and being reliant on land-owners and Local Councils. But the standard is so variable that I no longer ride any of their routes.

There are lots of perfectly good cycle routes, I have one staring outside my drive. We usually call them roads!
 
There is a misconception about Sustrans.

They were set up as an enabling organisation, and are neither the builders, nor maintainers of the "National Cycle Network

Volunteers do some work, but that is not the same as maintaining

When a route is planned, it is the local County Council that is the organisation that plans builds and maintains. Sustrans merely puts everyone in the same room and as far as possible pushes them in the right direction. They are not always successful, but all they can do is try
 

S-Express

Guest
In my experience, pretty much everything Sustrans does could be devolved to local/county council level, or upwards to NGB level (ie BC or CTC) with no loss of function.
 

Hardrock93

Veteran
Location
Stirling
There is a misconception about Sustrans.

They were set up as an enabling organisation, and are neither the builders, nor maintainers of the "National Cycle Network

Volunteers do some work, but that is not the same as maintaining

When a route is planned, it is the local County Council that is the organisation that plans builds and maintains. Sustrans merely puts everyone in the same room and as far as possible pushes them in the right direction. They are not always successful, but all they can do is try
AFAIK, in Scotland, they do more than put everyone in the same room. Sustrans gets a pot of money from the Scottish Government. Local authorities apply to Sustrans for funding for new route construction - generally on a match funding basis. Perhaps they work to a different model elsewhere?
 
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