New project aims to rescue Britain's forgotten cycleways

Updated: Campaign smashes its £7,000 funding goal

Britain is home to a forgotten network of at least 280 miles of cycleways, which a new project now aims to resurrect. These paths were commissioned by the British government and built between 1934 and 1940 alongside some of the new arterial roads and bypasses that were being built at the time.

UPDATE 22 MAY 2017: The Kickstarter campaign has smashed its £7,000 goal, reaching over £20,000 in pledges, with US firm Showers Pass becoming the first corporate backer of the project. BikeBiz executive editor Carlton Reid said: "It's fantastic that an American company has seen the worth – and the  PR potential – in backing this campaign. Cycleways get more people riding bicycles, and this project could revive hundreds of miles of these largely forgotten kerb-protected bits of infrastructure." The Kickstarter still has three days left to run for any other companies that wish be involved.

Original article continues below...

The Dutch-inspired scheme led to more than 80 separate protected cycleway schemes around the UK, many of which were protected by kerbs and surfaced with concrete. Yet in a few years the paths fell out of use and were forgotten as cycling dwindled in popularity.

Now Carlton Reid, executive editor of trade magazine BikeBiz, and transport planner John Dales, director of Urban Movement of London and ex-chair of the Transport Planning Society want to resurrect these routes with the help of a new crowdfunding project. The plan has the support of Chris Boardman and Cycling UK.

It's important to map, record and then rescue these cycleways

“That Britain once had a great number of protected cycleways is now almost totally unknown,” writes Reid. “I started researching these Dutch-inspired cycleways for my forthcoming book Bike Boom and when I started to dig deeper (sometimes literally) I came to realise there were far more of these 1930s cycleways than I, or anybody else, knew about.

"To date, I have found more than 80 separate protected cycleway schemes around Britain, some of which can be found on this map. I believe I'm only scratching the surface of what was actually built.”

Reid continues: “It's important to map, record and then rescue these cycleways. Many have lasted this long only out of sheer luck, and need to be listed so that they can't be destroyed in the future to, say, widen roads for cars.”

A semi-buried cycle track on the A1114 Essex Yeomanry Way
A semi-buried cycle track on the A1114 Essex Yeomanry Way

Chris Boardman is a fan: “This is a marvellous proposal,” he says. “It could recover some of our lost past and give normal people the opportunity to change the way they travel, in safety. As a bonus, in these austere times, it would have a meaningful impact for a very modest price."

If the target is reached, Reid and Dales say they will start researching and evaluating some of the 80-plus identified schemes. They will then use their research to push for grants to fund the rescue work.

For more info, check out the project's Kickstarter page.

Paul Douglas

Global Editor-in-Chief
Happy on both pedal-powered and petrol-powered bikes, Paul joins BikeRadar having just returned to the UK after an 18-month stint working in Berlin. Now back in the West Country, it's a welcome return to country lanes and gravel paths instead of hacking through the urban traffic.
  • Current Bikes: Felt Verza 10, Suzuki DR-Z400SM
  • Beer of Choice: Berliner Kindl
  • Location: Bath, UK

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