The National Cycle Network (NCN) is a network of cycling paths created by Sustrans, a charity promoting green transport in the UK.
The charity was founded in 1977 in Bristol and its vision was to provide a wide and practical infrastructure for green transport in order not only to protect the environment and but also to encourage healthy lifestyles in view of rising obesity and other alarming health issues in the country. The vision was to create sustainable transport that could be both adopted for daily commute and for recreation.
The network saw life with the opening of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path in 1984, a 17-mile cycleway following a railway no longer in use. With the support of a £42.5 million grant by the National Lottery, the charity set itself the goal to build 5000 miles of signed cycling routes by 2005. This target was achieved in 2000 and in light of this great success, the charity sought to put together another 5000 miles of cycleway by 2005, which it did. Today, the UK is mapped with 12,600 miles of signed cycleway throughout and Sustrans has become one of the country's leading charities.
Although more than half of the total routes are shared with motor vehicles, the rest are very much bicycle-friendly and include pedestrian routes, traffic-calmed roads, disused railways, country lanes and towpaths. The cycling trails can also be used by walkers, wheelchair users and horse-riders. According to Sustrans, 75% of people in the UK live within 2 miles of the NCN and there are today over one million people using parts of the network every single day, whether within or in between cities.
Besides the national lottery, financial help also came from charitable trusts, businesses, local authority programs and donations, all inspired by the charity's amazing work. Sustrans also helps other countries get healthier in similar ways and it is presently playing a major role in the development of EuroVelo. The latter project aims, as the name entails, at building a cycling network throughout Europe because it sees the bicycle as the best solution to many of world's current problems.
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