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Coordinates: 51°27′07″N 2°35′56″W / 51.452°N 2.599°W / 51.452; -2.599
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FormationJuly 1977; 46 years ago (1977-07)
HeadquartersBristol, England
Coordinates51°27′07″N 2°35′56″W / 51.452°N 2.599°W / 51.452; -2.599
United Kingdom
Moray Macdonald
Chief Executive
Xavier Brice
Board of trustees (12 as of 2022)[1]
Budget (2018/2019)
Revenue (2018/2019)
Staff (2018/2019)
Volunteers (2018/2019)
Websitewww.sustrans.org.uk Edit this at Wikidata
Formerly called
Sustrans' first route follows a disused railway through a green corridor in Bristol

Sustrans is a United Kingdom-based walking, wheeling and cycling charity, and the custodian of the National Cycle Network.

Its flagship project is the National Cycle Network, which has created 12,763 miles (20,540 kilometres)[2] of signed cycle routes throughout the United Kingdom, including 5,273 mi (8,486 km) of traffic-free paths. The rest of the network is on previously existing and mostly minor roads, in which motor traffic will be encountered.

In Scotland, Sustrans has established partnership teams, embedding officers in local councils as well as NHS Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Transport for Edinburgh.[3]


Canal boat decked in Sustrans logo

Sustrans was formed in Bristol in July 1977 as Cyclebag by a group of cyclists and environmentalists, as a result of doubts about the desirability of dependence on the private car, following the 1973 oil crisis, and the almost total lack of specific provision for cyclists in most British cities, in contrast to some other European countries.[4][5]

A decade earlier, the Beeching Axe closed many British railways that the government considered underused and too costly. One such railway was the former Midland Railway line between central Bristol and Bath, closed in favour of the more direct, former Great Western Railway between the cities. Led by John Grimshaw, Cyclebag leased part of the old route and together with many volunteers and the help of Avon County Council (Bristol and Bath were then part of the County of Avon) turned it into its first route, the Bristol & Bath Railway Path.[4]

In the early 1980s, when unemployment rose, the organisation took advantage of government schemes to provide temporary employment to build similar "green routes". British Waterways and Cyclebag collaborated to improve towpaths along some canals, which resulted in increased use of the towpaths, especially by cyclists.

In 1983, the charity Sustrans was founded. It had 11 directors (trustees, members, and board members of the charity) chosen by the existing board. The executive board was composed of the chief executive, John Grimshaw, and one of the two company secretaries.[6]

By the early 1990s, Sustrans had a growing number of supporters, and the network of national routes was emerging. In 1995, it was granted £43.5 million from the Millennium Lottery Fund[7] to extend the National Cycle Network to smaller towns and rural areas, as well as launch the "Safe Routes to Schools" project, based on earlier state projects in Denmark.

The five-year project, Connect2 was launched in 2006, and it aimed at improving local travel in 79 communities by creating new walking and cycling routes. In 2007, it received £50 million from the Big Lottery's 'Living Landmarks; The People's Millions' competition, following a public vote.[8]

In 2015, Sustrans ran the Campaign for Safer Streets, which encouraged people to write to Prime Minister David Cameron to encourage him to commit to funding safer walking and cycling routes to schools.[citation needed]

In October 2015, Sustrans released its first Bike Life report.[9] It was a survey of residents in seven UK cities, undertaken in conjunction with local councils and transport authorities, attempting to assess the current state of cycling in the UK. It covered areas such as safety, provision of cycling infrastructure and people's attitudes towards cycling.

In 2020–2021, Sustrans' executive team had a combined payroll cost of £715,000, with its CEO receiving over £110,000.[10]: 47 


The National Cycle Network was the first project to receive Millennium Commission funding in 1995. Sustrans has many sources of funding, and in the 2004/05 financial year, its income was £23.6 million: £2.1 million from supporters' donations, £8.5 million from the Department for Transport and a further £2.5 million from the National Opportunities Fund specifically for the Safe Routes projects. Additional funding comes from charitable grants and trusts, local government, and the sales of maps and books.[6] In Scotland in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, £30 million of Spaces for People funding was granted to Sustrans by the Scottish Government to assist local authorities and statutory bodies in Scotland to provide safe walking and cycling infrastructure.[11]

National Cycle Network[edit]

Sustrans volunteers in Wetherby, West Yorkshire
Sustrans Route 66 behind the Derwent Arms, Osbaldwick, York

The National Cycle Network was officially opened in June 2000,[12] when 5,000 mi (8,000 km) had been completed, although some routes had been open for over a decade. In 2005 the network reached 10,000 mi (16,000 km).[7] In urban areas, almost 20% of the network is free from motor traffic, though these sections can account for up to 80% of use. The more rural parts of the network see less motor traffic and are used primarily for leisure cycling.

Sustrans estimated that in 2005, the network carried 232,000,000 journeys by all classes of non-motorized users.[13] In 2010, the figure had risen to over 420,000,000 journeys.[14] The data collected by Sustrans to compile monitoring reports, from traffic counters and user surveys, showed that National Cycle Network usage is predominantly urban and on traffic-free sections. Furthermore, surveys show that only 35% of usage on urban sections of the NCN is for leisure purposes.

Sustrans plaque near Wetherby, West Yorkshire

In 2018, Sustrans published the "National Cycle Network Review: Paths for Everyone" report which reviewed the quality and usage of the Network and set out a vision for its future. It estimated that in 2017–2018, 4.4 million users carried out 786 million cycling and walking trips on the Network.[15]


Sustrans has opponents within organisations that wish to reduce road haulage and motor travel by promoting the expansion of the modern railway network. It has also received criticism from members of the heritage railway movement. It has been accused of being uncompromising on route sharing; an example is the planned section of the Bodmin & Wenford Railway between Boscarne Junction and Wadebridge.[citation needed]

In 2000, requests by EWS and English China Clays to reopen former rail links for freight paths such as the former Weedon to Leamington Spa line were objected to by the charity. Sustrans refused to support the application unless the rail promoter provided an alternative cycle track; EWS responded it was an uneconomic provision for both reopening and building replacement pathway expenses.

Sustrans have occasionally been criticised by other cycling organisations and activists over allegedly giving approval to cycle facilities regarded by critics as inadequate or dangerous, allowing local councils and similar bodies to reject criticism by pointing out that Sustrans have approved of the design being questioned.[16] In 2013, for example, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain criticised Sustrans for the extensive use of "shared use" provision—in which cycle routes are placed on pavements and footpaths without separation from pedestrians—in designs that Sustrans prepared for London.[17] In 2016, the University of the West of England's Centre for Transport and Society identified shared use designs, and in particular Sustrans Design Guidance which encouraged such designs, because shared-use paths can offer a source of conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. This is a cause for frustration among some campaigning for better cycling infrastructure provision.[18]


  1. ^ "Our board of trustees".
  2. ^ "About the National Cycle Network". Sustrans. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  3. ^ "Partnership working in Scotland". Sustrans. 14 December 2019. Archived from the original on 20 January 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ a b The Official Guide to the National Cycle Network (2nd ed.). Italy: Canile & Turin. 2002. ISBN 1-901389-35-9.
  5. ^ "Cycling in Milton Keynes | Redways & Cycle Routes | Sustrans Cycling". Mkweb.co.uk. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
  6. ^ a b Sustrans Ltd. & PriceWaterHouseCoopers LLP, 2005. "Annual Report for the year ending March 2005." Accessed 20 December 2005.
  7. ^ a b Sustrans, 2005. "Celebratory Events in 2005 Archived 12 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine." Accessed 20 December 2005.
  8. ^ The People's 50 Million Archived 14 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Bike Life". Sustrans. Archived from the original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  10. ^ Carruthers, Ben (23 July 2021). "Annual Report and Financial Statements 2020/21" (PDF).
  11. ^ "Spaces for People: Making essential travel and exercise safer during Coronavirus". Sustrans. 28 April 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2024.
  12. ^ Cycle-Routes, 2005. "Sustrans Archived 18 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine." Accessed 3 January 2012.
  13. ^ Sustrans, 2006. "National Cycle Network Route User Monitoring Report to end of 2005[permanent dead link]." Accessed 3 May 2007.
  14. ^ Beds for Cyclists, 2012. "National Cycle Network Route Usage 2000 - 2010." Accessed 5 May 2012.
  15. ^ "Paths for Everyone". Sustrans. Retrieved 28 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Sustrans new direction or the same old? - Cycling UK Forum". forum.cyclinguk.org.
  17. ^ "Shared use footways, and two-tier provision | Cycling Embassy of Great Britain".
  18. ^ Hannah Delaney, Graham Parkhurst, & Steve Melia. (2016). Walking and cycling on shared-use paths: The user perspective. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Municipal Engineer. 170. 1-10. 10.1680/jmuen.16.00033.

External links[edit]

Specific routes[edit]