Sustrans Blog


  • Sustrans helps Syrian refugee women gain independence by learning to cycle

    15 January 2019

    Sustrans helps Syrian refugee women gain independence by learning to cycle.

    Sustrans Officers in Taunton collected a certificate for their outstanding contributions in supporting and teaching a group of Syrian refugee women how to cycle.

    The Certificate of Excellence was awarded by Tauntons’ MP Rebecca Pow at ‘Taunton Welcomes Refugees’ third birthday held at Taunton’s Methodist Church at the end of 2018.

    Volunteers from the organisation ‘Taunton Welcomes Refugees’ worked closely with Sustrans throughout the summer to help the women to cycle, increasing their independence and integration into the local community.

    Getting Around Taunton

    The initiative is part of the ‘Getting Around Taunton’ project which is works with workplaces, schools, community groups and residents across the South of Taunton to reduce traffic congestion and encourage more sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling, car share and public transport.

    Liz Bidmead, a ‘Taunton Welcomes Refugees’ volunteer said:

    'Take a group of Syrian Refugee Women, some who have never ridden a bike before but would like to learn.  Add to the mix their determination to learn new skills, integrate and be independent. Finally, introduce them to a volunteer who is a strong Sustrans advocate and magic happens.

    'The patience, enthusiasm, encouragement to learn and improve, and the insightful teaching of the Sustrans team - who even hired a bike for one woman to use - has been outstanding.

    'The whole group were immensely grateful to Sustrans and the volunteers who facilitated the joining of the two. One Syrian woman proudly said "the bruises were worth it!"'

    Over 100 people attend the ceremony, including the Syrian refugee families and the partner organisations who have been involved in their community integration over the last three years.

    The families spoke of their moving stories and a huge spread of Syrian cakes and pastries with plenty of tea kicked off the evening’s celebrations.

    Ruby Tobin, Sustrans Taunton Project Officer said:

    'We’re really happy to have been invited to such a special evening and to have been able to support these wonderful women. We now look forward to doing some more bike safety awareness as part of their English classes.'

    Find out more information about the Getting Around Taunton initiative You can follow the Getting Around Taunton Sustrans team on Twitter or Facebook 
  • Our work in London 2019: Streets ahead

    14 January 2019
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    We are proud to have published our latest London review. 'Our work in London 2019: Streets ahead' shows just some of the progress we've made to help transform the capital, working with London boroughs, Transport for London (TFL), the Mayor of London as well as inspirational community groups, schools and businesses to build a healthier, happier city.

    “ We have worked with Sustrans for many years to support the delivery of walking and cycling infrastructure projects, and our experience has been very positive. ”

    - Joel De Mowbray, Royal Borough of Greenwich Principal Transport Planner

    Both locally in London and nationally, freeing up our roads and making them safer for everyone makes environmental and economic sense. Fewer vehicles on our streets mean a more efficient road network with less congestion. The average traffic speeds for the 12 hours between 7am and 7pm across central London are around 8mph. The knock-on health benefits are huge too. Air pollution and obesity continue to hit the headlines, with record levels of both, putting the lives of the next generation at significant risk.

    TfL estimated that over eight million daily journeys could be cycled in London. Walking and cycling offer the greatest potential to keep our city moving. To make this happen, we must create an environment where people feel safe and able to cycle or walk going about their daily business. Think how much less congested our roads would be, how much fitter we would be and how much cleaner our air would be to breathe.

    We work with boroughs to identify solutions that will unlock huge potential across London. Our study tours for councillors and officers take in some of London’s best cycling and walking infrastructure, allowing us to demonstrate how bold design decisions can benefit a community. 

    Transport for London continues to make strides in tackling congestion and air pollution with their Ultra Low Emission Zone and cycling infrastructure. We are proud to have been their delivery agent for the first four years of Quietways, creating quieter and safer routes to cycle in London. In addition to our project management role, we’ve designed schemes, built bridges, engaged communities in transformation and helped deliver behaviour change programmes on the ground.

    It is inspiring to work with hundreds of committed residents and businesses who are part of community groups around London. They are passionate about where they live and work and want the best for their area. Our collaborative design team has been working with the community group, Bermondsey.Street London, researching how streets in the area are used, generating ideas about how people would like to see their streets look in the future, making them more pedestrian and cycle friendly. 

    “ We have been pushing the political and social agenda for over 40 years, working to create a healthier and happier city where people choose to leave their car at home and walk or cycle instead. ”

    - Matt Winfield, Sustrans London Director

    Our Behaviour Change team’s work with schools is very rewarding, as we help change the way parents and children get to school. This year we worked with 94,176 pupils through our Bike It Plus programme. We also saw an increase a 107% increase in primary and secondary school pupils cycling at least twice a week as a result of our Bike It Plus programme.

    Take a look at Our Work in London, and find out about just some of the boroughs and communities we’ve been working with to build healthy streets and make that vision of a healthier, happier London a reality. Highlights include:

    Helping deliver 110km of Quietways as TfL’s delivery agent Unlocking huge potential in Bromley for a liveable neighbourhood Working on ambitious designs with Greenwich Successfully bidding for £400,000 match funding from the Mayor of London’s Green Capital Grants and Barking Riverside Ltd. for the new Ripple Greenway project in Barking and Dagenham Launching a London-wide action plan to overhaul the National Cycle Network. Transforming local business deliveries at Drings Butchers in Greenwich from diesel to e-cargo bike, resulting in a 75% fall in the business’ CO2 emissions Working with partners in every London borough Award winners 

    We were also very proud to win two London Transport awards in 2018: Transport Consultant of the Year and Excellence in Cycling and Walking.

    And it was fantastic to be appointed to TfL’s second Architecture Design Urbanism Panel (ADUP2) framework. We are now in prime position to help the public sector deliver the best quality streets and places.

    Joel De Mowbray, Royal Borough of Greenwich Principal Transport Planner said: 

    “We have worked with Sustrans for many years to support the delivery of walking and cycling infrastructure projects, and our experience has been very positive.

    “The engineering services provided from feasibility to snagging have always focused on the user experience to push for high-quality provision, whilst understanding financial constraints and the local context.”

    Matt Winfield, Sustrans London Director said: 

    “We have been pushing the political and social agenda for over 40 years, working to create a healthier and happier city where people choose to leave their car at home and walk or cycle instead."

    None of our work would be possible without the support of everyone whose enthusiasm and drive spurs us on and so a big thank you to all of you. We look forward to continuing our work together - creating a society where how we travel creates healthier places and happier lives for everyone.

    Download Sustrans' 'Our work in London - 2019: Streets ahead' (pdf)
  • Sustrans comments on Clean Air Strategy

    14 January 2019

    Responding to the publication of the UK Government’s Clean Air Strategy, Xavier Brice, CEO for Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity said:

    “Whilst it is important that the Government has a strategy for tackling all forms of air pollution, we are disappointed by the Government’s failure to tackle solutions to reduce emissions from motor vehicles. The Strategy is overly reliant on reactive measures and technological solutions to address poor quality air, leaving other, currently ineffective, pre-existing plans to tackle roadside emissions.

    It is clear we need fewer, not just cleaner, vehicles on our roads to truly tackle poor air quality, and while the Strategy acknowledges this it does not provide any new funding or measures aimed at achieving a meaningful shift towards walking and cycling.

    We call again on the UK Government to take meaningful action on road transport emissions by investing more into high-quality cycling and walking infrastructure which allows families to cycle and walk to school and amenities with confidence so that it is the most obvious choice for shorter journeys.”

    For more information, including the report of the trial, images and interviews please contact:
    Anna Galandzij, Senior Press Officer, 07557 915648
    Liv Denne, Press and Media Officer, 07768 035318
  • ArtRoots funding period now open for community groups in Scotland

    8 January 2019
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    Community groups across Scotland are being given the opportunity to apply for up to £5000 in funding towards artistic and aesthetic improvements to their local National Cycle Network routes.

    The ArtRoots fund, funded by Transport Scotland and delivered by Sustrans Scotland, seeks to empower local communities in making improvements on local routes to increase user confidence and make journeys on the National Cycle Network more enjoyable for all users.

    The fund supports local enterprise and culture, and encourages communities to participate in shaping their local environment and increase their levels of physical activity.

    “  The chainsaw sculpture has attracted enormous interest and an increase in visitor numbers. People now travel just to have their photograph taken with the artwork. ”

    - Wendy Murray, East Haven Together

    Throughout 2018, ArtRoots funding enabled East Haven Together to celebrate the maritime heritage of their village through installation of a stunning, chainsaw carved bench on National Cycle Network Route 1, empowered the Scott Avenue Community Garden Group to create a new community focal point for Bowling, and encouraged young people from Craigmillar to explore the possibilities of the National Cycle Network in their area through circus workshops and a glow parade.     

    Interested community groups are encouraged to submit an expression of interest through the ArtRoots page

    Find out more about the fund, and submit an expression of interest​
  • Local school comes out on top in Peterborough cycling challenge

    7 January 2019

    A primary school in Peterborough is celebrating after coming out on top of a bike and scooter challenge that was held in the city between October and December 2018.

    A total of 364 bikes and 583 scooters were logged at Middleton Primary School which beat four other schools who also took part in the challenge. 

    During the competition, our Bike It+ crew and School Champions were encouraged to log their bike and scooter counts as regularly as possible and their reward was a picnic hamper full of goodies for the staff. The Bike It crew also received mini bicycle pumps and reflective wrist or ankle bands for coming in top place.

    Five schools across the city took part in the challenge this time around. The early indications are that it’ll be even bigger in 2019 with other schools in Peterborough expressing an interest in taking part.

    Commenting on the project our Bike It+ officer, Gemma Hughes said:

    ‘Staff and Bike It crew at Middleton Primary school have worked very hard over the last couple of months to regularly input their school's bike and scooter counts. This information allows the school and Bike It+ officers to monitor how many children are regularly travelling into school on their bikes and scooters. It also allows us to promote other exciting teaching opportunities and competitions which will further increase active travel and to help ease congestion during the school run.'

    Sustrans Bike It+ teams are working with a number of schools in Peterborough and across the country to transform the school run. They’re helping and encouraging more parents, teachers and pupils to travel sustainably.

    Find out more about our work with schools​
  • Sustrans response to NICE proposed guidelines on physical activity

    4 January 2019

    In response to proposals by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which recommends new and upgraded roads prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport over motorised vehicles, Xavier Brice, Chief Executive at Sustrans, the walking and cycling charity said:

    “We welcome the proposal from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which puts the needs of our most vulnerable road users first. For too long roads in our towns and cities have been dominated by cars. A shift to people-prioritised streets will not only encourage more of the public to travel actively but also help to create safer environments for everyone to move around in.  

    “Involving local authorities and residents in the redesign of their neighbourhoods and streets is essential; it ensures a good design that targets the issues people experience locally every day, and we have seen positive uptake in active travel through this approach. However, more needs to be done across the UK to enable more people to choose walking and cycling as their primary mode of transport for local journeys.

    “Cycling and walking for more journeys is part of the solution to many of the challenges we face, including road congestion, air pollution and high levels of inactivity. This proposal demonstrates how – with some practical design solutions – we can address these challenges, while also protecting people who cycle and walk.”

    For more information, images and interviews please contact:
    Anna Galandzij, Senior Press Officer at Sustrans, anna.galandzij@sustrans.org.uk, 07557 915648
    Liv Denne, Press and Media Officer at Sustrans, liv.denne@sustrans.org.uk, 07768 035318

  • Lee Craigie appointed as Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland

    20 December 2018

    Sustrans Scotland welcomes the appointment of Lee Craigie as the new Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland. This is a significant step in recognising the importance of active travel for the future of the country.

    Craigie is an inspirational figure in the world of cycling. Not only as an impressive competitor and endurance rider but also as an advocate for the therapeutic and social aspects of cycling and being outdoors.

    This new position will see Craigie as an official representative for walking, cycling and physical activity. Working to keep active travel on the agenda, helping to implement and promote the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and the National Walking Strategy.

    It shows that the Scottish Government is committed to the goal of active travel in Scotland, recognising the mental and physical health benefits and the associated improvements to quality of life and environment. 

    We also think it’s a positive development to see Scotland take a lead in addressing gender imbalance in transport planning by appointing the first female in a comparable role. We highlighted the issue in our research earlier this year, and look forward to continuing the conversation. 

    In similar positions in London and Manchester, Andrew Gilligan (followed by Will Norman) and Chris Boardman, respectively, have seen real progress. Gilligan helped oversee building 38 miles of cycle superhighways in London while Boardman has taken the lead on a £1.5 billion proposal for a new 75 mile network across Manchester.

    Scotland is a more complex challenge, covering a significantly larger area, including cities, towns, villages, countryside, glens and rugged Highland mountains. So it will be interesting to see how Craigie tackles the diverse terrain and infrastructure demands.

    We have had the pleasure of working with Lee Craigie over the last few years, and her video promoting National Route 78, The Caledonia Way, and highlighting the mental health benefits of cycling has been one of the most viewed on our website in recent years.

    Sustrans Scotland looks forward to working with Ms Craigie in the coming months and years, and playing our part to helping make Scotland become a truly Active Nation. 

    Craigie has also tackled some of the world’s most demanding endurance races including the Highland Trail 550, Cairngorm Loop and The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (covering over 3000 miles from Canada to Mexico).

    As well as being an impressive athlete Craigie is a fully trained Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and understands the role bikes and cycling can play in mental wellbeing. Her work with Cycletherapy engages with young people in the Highlands who are at risk of exclusion, she also co-founded the Adventure Syndicate to promote self-belief and female empowerment.

    Speaking about her ride along the Caledonia Way, Route 78 of the National Cycle Network, Craigie said:

    "It's so easy to forget that the simple action of riding a bike in the fresh air can make you feel better about almost anything - at least temporarily - and that's something I want for everyone. I've faced many challenges over the years, both emotional and physical, and cycling has provided me with a continuity - an escape from the everyday pressures of life."

    Sustrans Scotland Deputy Director GraceMartin said:

    "We welcome the appointment of Lee Craigie as the Active Nation Commissioner for Scotland. This is an exciting opportunity to raise the profile of active travel in Scotland and help drive the changes forward needed to happen to help more people travel sustainably. In addition to the increased investment in active travel, we are delighted to see this level of commitment from Scottish Government. It’s great to see such an inspirational person like Lee in this role who brings a wealth of experience and has a sound understanding of the many benefits active travel brings. We look forward to continuing to work with Lee and have no doubt she will be hugely successful in her role."

  • Photography competition launched to mark the 40th anniversary of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path

    20 December 2018

    Sustrans England South is launching a Photography Competition on Thursday 20 December 2018 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Bristol and Bath Railway Path.

    The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is where the Sustrans journey began and to celebrate this iconic route's 40th birthday in 2019 we are asking you to send us photographs of the Path with the winning entries turned into a calendar.

    Shortlisted photographs will be uploaded to our Facebook gallery and the images with the most 'likes' will be chosen.

    If you are interested in entering the Bristol and Bath Railway Path Competition and would like to know more you can find the Competition Guidelines below as well as a link to the Competition Terms and Conditions.

    Bristol and Bath Railway Path Photography Competition Guidelines

    All images entered must be taken on the Bristol and Bath Railway Path and celebrate your experiences on the path and what it means to you.

    Photograph criteria: Images must be landscape orientation (i.e. wider than they are tall). Minimum file size is 1MB and maximum file size should be 10MB. Photos can be from a camera or a smartphone. You may submit multiple images for each phase.  The photos need to be your own work, and you must have full copyright and permission for any images you submit. See the Competition Terms and Conditions for more information.

    To enter the competition e-mail your photos to south.photos@sustrans.org.uk along with:

    Your name Email address Where the image was taken Short caption or indication of what the Bristol and Bath Railway Path means to you

    Closing dates for the respective phases —there are four phases in total. The four closing dates for sending in your photographs are:

    Winter - Phase 1: Entries close at 5.00pm Thursday 28 February 2019 Spring - Phase 2: Entries close at 5.00pm Friday 31 May 2019 Summer - Phase 3: Entries close at 5.00pm Friday 30 August 2019 Autumn - Phase 4: Entries close at 5.00pm Thursday 31 October 2019

    Shortlisted photos will be chosen by representatives from Sustrans South, and we will then upload them onto our Facebook Gallery for the voting stages. The winning photos are the ones which receive the most ‘likes’ on our Facebook Gallery.  We’ll contact winners after each voting stage has completed.

    The winning photo in each Phase will receive a prize of a calendar comprised of the winning entries.

    Voting on the Sustrans South Facebook Page will open on:

    Phase 1: 9.00am Tuesday 5 March 2019 Phase 2: 9.00am Wednesday 5 June 2019 Phase 3: 9.00am Wednesday 4 September 2019 Phase 4: 9.00am Tuesday 5 November 2019

    Voting for the shortlisted entries on our Facebook Gallery will close on:

    Phase 1: 5.00pm Monday 11 March 2019 Phase 2: 5.00pm Monday 10 June 2019 Phase 3: 5.00pm Monday 9 September 2019 Phase 4: 5.00pm Monday 11 November 2019

    We’ll produce the Bristol and Bath Railway Path calendar shortly after the final vote on Monday 11 November 2019.

    We think the Bristol and Bath Railway Path is one of the most photogenic routes in the whole of the National Cycle Network and we look forward to seeing your photographs.

    Read the terms and conditions for this competition For more information please email
  • Special delivery – Santa comes early to Queen Mary Hostel

    20 December 2018
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    “You wouldn’t believe the difference that being able to cycle has made to the women here” says Kelvin O’Mard, area manager at Queen Mary homeless women’s hostel in Westminster where Sustrans run a cycling club.

    It’s a chilly Wednesday afternoon just before Christmas, and 20 cycling Santas from the Sustrans London office have ridden across the capital with a cargo bike laden with food and festive jumpers for the hostel’s residents.

    Sustrans involvement with the hostel 

    In autumn 2017 the hostel, owned by social housing group Riverside, approached us to provide support in setting up and running the cycling club. The staff at the hostel focus on person-centred care and support for the women, building life skills and creating a positive psychological environment. The bike club was their innovative idea to enable women to recover physical and mental health.

    “ We know that cycling is a gateway to better mental health and wellbeing, and more and more health organisations are starting to look at the benefits of social prescribing. ”

    - Matt Winfield, Sustrans London Director  

    Many of the women at the hostel have low levels of fitness and all have survived challenging situations ranging from social isolation to abusive relationships.

    Helping regain independence through cycling

    The project works with up to 10 women in 10-week blocks. The goal is that women will regain independence and head out cycling on their own, perhaps to training or job interviews.

    At the club, women work to achieve the cycling accreditation Bikeability Level 1, learning to cycle safely on quiet roads, make turns and negotiate traffic. They also learn about map-reading, how to plan journeys and basic maintenance.

    Making a real difference

    “ I just wanted to say a big thank you, and how joyful it was to see the garden full of smiling Santas. The bounty of edible goodies will go down a treat over the holidays too. ”

    - Kelvin O'Mard, Area Manager

    Brandy, a resident at the hostel says:

    “I love being part of the cycling club. It’s given me the chance to ride a bike, which I hadn’t done since I was a child. Cycling helps me relax and stimulates my mind. It also makes me a bit tired in the evening, which means I can get a good night’s sleep.”

    The hostel’s area manager, Kelvin has been impressed by how good the cycling scheme has been for the women. “I have just seen their confidence grow,” he says.

    Sustrans London Director Matt Winfield feels more of this work is needed:

    “Being here today and hearing the women’s stories is inspiring. We know that cycling is a gateway to better mental health and wellbeing, and more and more health organisations are starting to look at the benefits of social prescribing. But transport related funding streams rarely recognise these physical and mental health benefits.

    "We need to change that. Women do less cycling than men. We need to support women from different backgrounds. We need to make better health and wellbeing accessible for everyone.”

    “It’s been a joy for Sustrans to have been able to help support the staff and women at Queen Mary’s Hostel throughout the year, and especially at Christmas.”

    Transport for London has funded more work at the Hostel, with a cycling grant of £10,000, and as the Sustrans Santas rode through the streets of London, they were greeted by Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor of Transport, and Will Norman, the Mayor of London's walking and cycling commissioner on Q1, the cycleway running from Greenwich to Waterloo.

    Back at the Hostel there’s a wintery chill in the air, and Kelvin’s mind is on the year ahead.

    “It’s amazing to see the change this cycling club makes. Being able to enjoy a bike ride can make a real psychological difference. I feel proud of everyone who has helped and can’t wait to see what’s next.”

    Read more about how walking and cycling can help mental health Find out more about our work in London
  • Supporting refugees to cycle in Belfast

    19 December 2018

    Christmas came early for some members of Belfast Friendship Club (BFC) who received second-hand bikes after completing cycle training with Sustrans.

    The group of 13 asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers took part in the Well on Wheels project in which they had to complete National Standard Levels 1 and 2 on-road cycle training before getting a bike package to get them safely on the road.

    Each trainee received a reconditioned bike donated to BFC and Sustrans provided them with bike lights, locks, helmets and hi-viz clothing.

    Sustrans’ Well on Wheels project is funded through Active Belfast as part of Belfast Strategic Partnership. It aims to enable people to get around safely by bike, by teaching them the skills to cycle on-road and raise awareness of the health benefits of cycling.

    “ It was one of the most fun and interesting learning adventures I've had in a long time ”

    The group were all volunteers from Belfast Friendship Club, a welcoming space for newcomers to the city as well as locals.

    One of the recipients of the recent course, who wished to remain anonymous, said she hadn’t cycled in more than 25 years:

    “To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement,” she said:

    “It was one of the most fun and interesting learning adventures I’ve had in a long time. People always used to tell me ‘once you learn cycling, you will never forget’ and while I used to nod my head in agreement, deep down inside I always doubted that idea… At the start of the training I remember shaking with nerves but, by the end of the day, not only have I passed both Levels 1 and 2, but I left for home cycling! What an achievement.”

    Cycling boosts health and well-being

    Steven Patterson from Sustrans said: “We are pleased to help people who need access to a fully equipped bicycle and on-road cycle training to improve their safety on the road. Cycling is one of the cheapest and easiest means of getting around Belfast and will also keep you fit.

    “For people who are new to Belfast this project helps people to navigate around the city and what better way than travelling by bike. Working with the Belfast Friendship Club we look forward to enabling more people, especially those who are marginalised, to get on two wheels and to increase their knowledge of cycle maintenance and route planning.”

    Stephanie Mitchell, from the Belfast Friendship Club said:

    “Working with Sustrans is a brilliant opportunity for our members, opening up affordable travel, fitness and adventure all rolled into one. Next year we look forward to exploring some of the great cycle routes that can take us outside the city.”

    David Tumilty, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement Manager at the Public Health Agency, said:

    “Cycling is a great way to get active and a fantastic social activity for people to get together and explore their surroundings. Importantly, there are also huge health benefits to getting more active, with research showing that being physically active can help prevent a number of serious health conditions and can cut your risk of heart disease and some cancers, as well as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and joint pain.  It also helps to boost mood and reduce depression and anxiety.”

    The Well on Wheels project has worked with more than 400 people in south Belfast over the past two years, of which 224 people have taken part in on-road cycle training. It began with a number of health fairs at community centres including in Sandy Row, Shaftesbury Centre, the Markets area and Lisburn Road to promote cycling and nutrition.

    The events provided information on cycling safely, repairing minor faults and getting about Belfast through route planning.

    Find out more about the Belfast Community Active Travel Programme Read more about Sustrans cycle training in Northern Ireland