(As yet unanswered) Questions for Sustrans

June 18, 2008

Dear Sustrans,

I just had a few questions about your organisation and how you administer the National Cycle Network.   If you could answer these questions, or pass this on to someone who can, I’d be very grateful.

1.   What legal or administrative mechanisms are in place to preserve disused railway lines and canals in the UK for future transport use?  How is this responsibility split between Sustrans, local authorities, DfT, and National Rail/ Network Rail?  Who keeps track of the corridors and ensures they aren’t disintegrating?  Who is planning for a future expanded cycling network in an oil-constrained world?

2.  How are decisions made within Sustrans about where to route the national cycle network, and what to include? Are there formal policies about the value of a hilly vs. a trafficked route for example?   Are there specific vehicle counts above which the cycle network is not allowed to share space?  Are pathways alongside busy roads considered ‘traffic free’?  How are projects prioritised, i.e. urban vs. rural, on road vs. off road?

3.  The NCN is notorious for being badly signposted.   As I understand it, the responsibility for maintaining the NCN routes falls to volunteer rangers.   Have there been attempts to bring this responsibility under the administration of local authorities or the highways agency?  Why have these not been successful?  What is being done to improve wayfinding along major routes?  If Sustrans’ priority is on encouraging bicycle trips within urbanised areas, why do cycling routes always seem to ‘disappear’ when they enter a city or town?

4.  Do supporters have any formal way to influence the policies of Sustrans?  I understand the trustees are not elected, but appointed and re-appointed by the same board themselves.   On the surface, this doesn’t seem very democratic, especially considering that Sustrans receives millions of pounds from the government.  What can you tell me to reassure me that Sustrans is responsive to its supporters and to the general public, especially the cycling population?  Why don’t supporters/ members get a chance to vote for the people who run Sustrans?

5.   One of your board members, Chris Curling, is a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers, a secretive Bristol- based organisation that, as of 2004, had nearly a million pounds invested in Shell Oil.   Does Sustrans see no conflict of interest there?

6.  For an organisation that promotes good design in cycle facilities, why is the cycling storage at the company’s hq in Bristol so inadequate, resulting in a good number of cycles being stolen or damaged over the years?  Is this leading by example?

7.  I’m curious as to why Sustrans has so far had limited success developing the national cycle network along the existing towpath and railway networks.  Where these corridors have been used, they are generally for short stretches, and of a poor standard.  What are the existing arrangements/ policy understandings regarding cycle/ ped paths being developed along the property of British Waterways and National Rail?

Again, thanks for looking into these issues and getting back to me.  I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Josh Hart

2 responses to “(As yet unanswered) Questions for Sustrans

  1. Pingback: The Problem with Sustrans: How a Grassroots Phenomenon Has Turned Into a Private Unaccountable Corporation « On the Level: Car Free Blog

  2. Great research and very much needed. I agree with some of the points but decided to ‘get on the inside’ rather than be just another moaner. I am a volunteer ranger and am looking forward to making my route properly signed. But no it shouldn’t be left to volunteers, I agree.

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