New traffic-free cycling route guides?

Isn’t  WillCycle  all  about  cycle  touring?

WillCycle has a strong focus on cycle camping and cycle touring, but the site isn’t limited to just those two subjects. Many posts deal with related topics, such as navigation, while others deal with climate change.

Traffic-free  cycling  is  blissful  cycling

I’ve cycled on roads in London, and several other UK cities. I’ve cycled many thousands of miles on rural roads, and I’ve cycled significant distances along traffic-free trails. Traffic-free cycling normally is the best, by a considerable margin, and for obvious reasons. In the UK, a charity called Sustrans is behind something called, perhaps optimistically, the National Cycle Network (NCN for short). Some NCN routes are spectacular, some are questionable, and some are downright awful. To be fair to Sustrans, they recently(ish) realised that quality is important, and stripped many routes of NCN status, but it remains a gamble. Besides, not all traffic-free routes are Sustrans routes.

If you go cycling with kids, you’ll definitely want traffic-free routes! I’m a dad, and while I took my kids cycling in lots of places (they’ve left home now) we always preferred traffic-free cycling routes.

Forewarned  is  fore-armed

Cycle tourers tend to be a hardy bunch. However, WillCycle intentionally tries to help people new to cycle touring, and such people are more likely to want to use traffic-free routes. With NCN routes already being such a gamble, and the Sustrans website being poor at accurately conveying the quality of traffic-free routes, something needed to be done. These traffic-free routes being published is that something being done.

See also  Lincoln to Fledborough cycle route

I built a landing page that allows you to easily select the part of the UK you’re interested in going cycling in, and see what traffic-free routes are available in that part. Many experienced cycle tourers will also prefer traffic-free routes, and when planning a longer tour, this collection of routes would help prospective tourers pick routes that their bikes can cope with.

What  do  you  mean  by  “traffic-free  routes”?

I’m specifically talking about leisure routes, and don’t want to include single-track mountain bike routes, or dedicated MTB trails. I also don’t want to include shared pavements, unless it’s just a segment of a far longer whole.

Hundreds  of  routes

There are hundreds of traffic-free routes all over the UK. Some parts have more than others, and the quality does vary. I am slowly building up a growing list of routes, but it will take at least another four months before I have all of those covered. You can help, if you’d like, and I’ll be grateful for any help I can get. After all, this is an enormous task!

How  to  help

For starters, look at the map, then find your local area, and see what routes are already listed. If one or more routes that you know aren’t yet listed, please email me? My email is will @ willcycle.com – obviously you’ll need to remove the spaces. I just added that so Internet bots won’t scrape the address and I end up with a deluge of spam.

If you do offer to help, I need specific information:

  • What is the path surface like? Simply saying “tarred” or “good” isn’t sufficient. Is it smooth tar? Is it potholed or bumpy? Also, if unsealed, is it muddy? Self-compacting gravel?
  • Are there any barriers? You know the type – kissing gates, A-frames, or similar. Just because you on your normal bike can get through with only minimal difficulty tells us little. Can someone in a wheelchair get through? What about a trike, a cargo bike, a bike with a trailer, or a tandem?
  • Are there toilets available, and if so, where? If you’re a man, going for a wee in the middle of nowhere is easy. It’s far more challenging for women, and parents with kids often need access to toilets, too.
  • What bikes can use the trail comfortably? If you have astounding bike skills, and can manage to ride it on your road bike, that tells me nothing. Can someone aged 75 ride it just as easily? What about someone on a trike? Are skinny wheels OK, or are chunkier tyres preferred?
  • What nice or interesting things are there to see or do along the way?
See also  Grand Union Canal - Paddington Branch

Finally, please also send me photos of the route. Ideally, the photos won’t show people’s faces, and I’d prefer to have at least four photos per route. Obviously I’ll give you credit – please tell me if you want that, and if so, what name I should use?

Together  we  can

With your help, we can add most, if not all traffic-free cycling routes in the UK in a very short period of time. When done, we will all benefit from a useful, accurate resource. A genuine win-win.

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