TRAFFIC-FREE CYCLE RIDES
Reviewed by Steve Dyster
Author: Wendy Johnson
"150 Great Days Out" is the claim. That will be a personal opinion, but for the cyclist who wants to cycle traffic-free, there is little doubt that this is the pick of the pops. On the face of it, the main appeal will be to families, newbies and those who are just fed-up with the impedimenta of the road. However, there's more to traffic-free cycling than that and its use extends beyond those groups.
Stylishly written, the book picks the best of the National Cycle Network. Celebrating its twentieth anniversary, the network has come a long way. Traffic-free sections now make up one third of the entire network, as Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans' Chief-Executive points out in the Introduction. Many of the routes are totally free of motorised traffic, but a large number have short on-road sections, too.
Needless to say, these are selected routes, covering the entire UK and, as such, you'd expect them to be the cream. Handy regional sections contain double-page spreads on each route. There is a general description of the route, a map which would be suitable for en route use if the signposting has not been the subject of interference by the local humourists, useful information on refreshments, surface and so on.
Guidance on access is given when there are steps or gates that need opening and closing. "Narrowed entrances are not mentioned as you can expect to find them on any traffic-free path ..." Enumerating long lists of different types of barrier and their locations would be tedious, however, were I travelling with a family ride with a two-seater child-trailer or with a friend with mobility issues on an adapted bike, an indication of how many narrow barriers would hinder progress - or even make it impossible - would be useful.
That little gripe done, the photography is excellent, the lay-out clean and succinct, and the stylish writing fills one with anticipation. The information on surfaces is a description of the surface material; a helpful way of dealing with the a surprisingly difficult topic. Whilst the maps may be adequate in the right conditions, the book is too hefty for most to cart about comfortably, so it is suggested that the relevant Sustrans' maps are taken along; map details are given for each route and I can heartily recommend them.
So, for the more hardened tourist who is unlikely to take a day ion these routes, is there use? So far I have used the routes to find a way into a busy city, avoid a length of nasty-looking rural main road without going up-hill-and-down-dale for double the distance, and to gain a bit of inspiration to ride in different places by incorporating a bit of traffic-free riding in a longer day-ride.
By the way, Joanna Rowsell, MBE, wrote the Preface. A regular user of the NCN for a bit of rest and relaxation, this endorsement really does show that traffic-free riding can be for everyone and that this book is the up-to-date guide to the best of it.
REVIEW FIRST PUBLISHED 2015