Sea to Sea Inspiration

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable day yesterday cycling along a segment of the ‘Sea to Sea’ route with my friend David Chadwick.

We started out near Durham, taking the old railway path up to Langley Park. Then we rode over a hill to Waldridge, before taking a forest track to Pelton where we caught up with the ‘C2C’.

Part of the brilliant National Cycle Network, the C2C runs from Whitehaven on the Cumbrian coast all the way to Sunderland’s Roker Beach. Much of the route is on segregated cycle tracks, often converted from disused railway lines.

The section from Pelton to Sunderland that we rode yesterday was almost entirely on old railway lines. Highlights included passing Sunderland’s new Northern Spire Bridge (pictured below) and the Stadium of Light, and riding along the River Wear. Magically, the C2C takes you right into the heart of the city along the riverbank – all the way to Sunderland Marina and Roker Beach without losing sight of the water. Wonderful!

But perhaps the most pleasing thing about the C2C is how well signed it is. There are clear, prominent blue signs at every junction, making it easy to avoid getting lost. The volunteers who maintain the C2C's signage – not to mention whoever thought of the route in the first place – deserve huge credit.

All of which got me thinking – why can’t we create something similar in London? People are always talking about the so-called ‘cycling revolution’ in the capital. Many hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on improving London’s cycling infrastructure over the last few decades, but the truth is cycling remains a minority activity in the capital. On the C2C I saw people of all ages and abilities. And there’s a reason for that. The route and the signage are of such high quality everyone has the confidence that they can get safely and simply from A to B – on a 140 mile stretch of route.

There are thousands of miles of quiet cycle routes in London. The London Cycle Map Campaign is calling for a system of signage and a corresponding map to enable people to navigate those routes safely and simply. With a bit of imagination from the authorities, London could be criss-crossed with routes of similar quality to the C2C. Cyclists of all ages and abilities could consult a Tube-style London Cycle Map and then follow coloured signs to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital on dedicated cycle routes. It would be a cycle network that truly revolutionises transport in London.

For me, the C2C was an inspirational route in more ways than one.


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