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Backlash as Norfolk loses National Cycle Network routes

PUBLISHED: 06:30 29 July 2020 | UPDATED: 12:39 29 July 2020

A cycling path in Norfolk. The government is keen to encorage more people onto bicycles, as Sustrans declassifies a large part of the National Cycle Network. Picture: James Bass

A cycling path in Norfolk. The government is keen to encorage more people onto bicycles, as Sustrans declassifies a large part of the National Cycle Network. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic© 2008

Concerns have been raised following a move by Sustrans to slash Norfolk routes from the National Cycle Network.

A map showing the changes to Norfolk's National Cycle Route Network. Dark blue: on road routes which have been kept; Light blue: Routes downgraded; Red: Removed from the network; Yellow: Cycle and pedetrian pathways. Image: Supplied by SustransA map showing the changes to Norfolk's National Cycle Route Network. Dark blue: on road routes which have been kept; Light blue: Routes downgraded; Red: Removed from the network; Yellow: Cycle and pedetrian pathways. Image: Supplied by Sustrans

The declassification follows a review by the cycling and walking charity - the custodian of the network - as part of an ongoing project to improve safety standards.

But cycling advocates say the move, which took effect on Monday, July 27, risks stifling the growth of cycling at a time when it is more needed than ever.

Alexandra Kemp, Norfolk county councillor for Clenchwarton and King’s Lynn South, said: “Post-Covid, we’ve got to increase the health resilience of the population, and encouraging cycling is a simple way of helping to do that.

“We know that people with respiratory conditions are more likely to have worse outcomes from Covid, so declassifying parts of the National Cycle Network shouldn’t be happening. What sort of message does it send out to people? It’s the reverse of what should be going on, particularly at a time when bus travel is going to be limited and people won’t feel as safe if they want to travel on buses.

An Ordnance Survey map with with the current National Cycle Network routes overlayed. Traffic free routes are in orange, and on-road routes are the solid blue lines. Image: OSAn Ordnance Survey map with with the current National Cycle Network routes overlayed. Traffic free routes are in orange, and on-road routes are the solid blue lines. Image: OS

“I’m very disappointed Sustrans are doing this.”

Before the declassification Norfolk had about 379 miles (just over 600kms) of National Cycle Network routes.

Of that, 73 miles have been completely removed, including Denver-Ely, Wells-Cromer-Happisburgh and Cromer-Aylsham.

Several other routes - Dereham to Fakenham via Bawdeswell (17 miles) and Caister-on-Sea to Happisburgh (18 miles) - have been taken off the network, but remain on Sustrans’ mapping as ‘regionally important routes’ and there are plans to upgrade them in the future.

Councillor Alexandra Kemp has spoken out against the changes to the National Cycle Network. Picture: Ian BurtCouncillor Alexandra Kemp has spoken out against the changes to the National Cycle Network. Picture: Ian Burt

Nationally, almost of quarter of the network has been declassified. It follows a 2018 review which found 42pc of its routes were ‘poor’ and 4pc ‘very poor’, with issues such as bad signage, crossings and heavy traffic, making them unsuitable for the network.

A Sustrans spokesperson said: “For us to achieve our long-term vision we have removed some sections of on-road National Cycle Network, because the average speed and volume of motor vehicles is too high.

“It’s important to note that Norfolk County Council have been an active and positive member of our regional National Cycle Network steering group for the past couple of years.

“We are currently in the process of working together to create a network development plan, which will set out our long term plan for the National Cycle Network in Norfolk – this will include creating new routes, completing missing links and importantly ensuring all routes on the network are safe and accessible to all users.”

Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council's member chapion for cycling. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Andrew Jamieson, Norfolk County Council's member chapion for cycling. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

MJ Ray, planning consultant from the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Bike Users Group, said the declassifications made sense in some cases, but not others.

Mr Ray said he thought it seemed as if Sustrans had grown impatient with a lack of county council action to improve cycle rotes, particularly in north and mid Norfolk.

He said: “I don’t really understand why they they’ve taken off the Norfolk coast route east of Wells. Also the Fakenham to Dereham link, I’m not sure what the problem there was as it was as it’s all back roads.

“I was also quite concerned that this will hold back development of cycle tourism in the area, and for reaching our part of the Norfolk coast, because there’s not really a route there from anywhere else marked on the map anymore.”

Andrew Jamieson, the county council’s member champion for cycling and walking, said the council strongly supported improving Norfolk’s cycling provision.

Mr Jamieson said: “We’re keen to support a cycle network that suits both experienced cyclists and people increasingly choosing to cycle to school and work, and for leisure and shopping.

“We will work closely with Sustrans towards their goal for a gold standard National Cycle Network, as this will build on our work on improved active travel provision across the county, including our Greenways project to develop traffic free paths along former railways.”


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