National Cycle Network

Possibly the largest environmental intervention promoting public health in the UK over the past 20 years is the National Cycle Network.

The Network is used for journeys of every kind (despite the name, more walking than cycling trips) - to work, school, shops, social visits, for leisure, jogging, anything you can think of.

Sustrans initiated, designed, led and coordinated development of the Network, and continues to expand and improve it, working in partnership with local authorities, landowners, businesses and community groups all across the UK.

The impact of the Network – health, environmental, economic, social – is quite immense.  Over its 20-year life, it has saved the UK more than £7 billion – a million pounds a day! – in healthcare, congestion and other costs (see here for more information).

And each year the Network is expanded and improved, and usage levels go up.


Insall & Coe director Philip Insall played a major part in this success:

  • designing and editing the National Cycle Network Guidelines and Practical Details, which sold to more than 30 countries and was translated and adapted into many European languages
  • editing more than 30 titles in the National Cycle Network map series
  • importing practical expertise from many countries, to contribute to UK technical practice
  • most importantly, recognising and communicating the public health role of the Network, when this was not widely understood
  • beginning the engagement of public health academics in researching and evaluating the impact of the Network project on public health
  • and securing the WHO 'counteracting obesity' award for the network.

Philip’s role in the network has been marked in the nicest possible way: a section of National Cycle Route 33 near Bristol is now named in his honour.