Campaigns: Public Awareness - Cycle route shows the right path

Client: Sustrans

Client: Sustrans

Campaign: Ride The Net - The Launch of the National Cycle Network

PR Team: In-house

Timescale: October 1999 - ongoing

Budget: undisclosed

Britain is known as one of Europe’s least bicycle-friendly nations.

Figures from the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions

show that only two per cent of journeys made in the UK are by bike,

compared with 18 per cent in Denmark and 11 per cent in Germany.

In addition, the number of miles cycled per person per year fell from 41

in 1990 to 38 in 1998. In 1995, sustainable transport charity Sustrans

was granted a pounds 43.5 million lottery grant to help establish the

UK’s first cycle network, linking old railway lines, canal towpaths,

forest tracks and roads with cycle lanes. The remainder of the pounds

200 million needed to complete the network was raised from sources

including local authorities, the EU and charitable trusts.


To raise public awareness of the national cycle network at local,

regional and national levels. To increase the use of the network and

encourage cycling in general.

Strategy and Plan

In the eight months leading up to the launch, interest in the national

cycle network was primed through the controlled flow of press releases

to local and national media. A month before the launch, e-mail updates

were distributed. Video footage of the network was recorded and

distributed to national and regional broadcasters.

It was decided that the network should be launched on 21 June. Dubbed

the ’Longest Ride on the Longest Day’, reception events were planned in

seven cities across the country. Cyclists from the four capitals of the

UK converged in Birmingham for the main launch.

Following the launch events, ride leaders from among Sustrans’ 40,000

supporters were briefed to lead teams across sections of the


Along the route, civic receptions were organised to welcome the


The size of the operation meant that 70 media schedules were prepared to

inform local press, radio and TV about events in their area.

On 21 June, Culture Secretary Chris Smith officially launched the

national cycle network in Centenary Square, Birmingham. Similar events

took place in cities including London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and


In addition, a cyclethon was held from 22 to 25 June. The public was

invited to try the route while raising money for charity. Visitors to

Sustrans’ two web sites( and were

able to locate their nearest cycle routes. The charity linked up with

cycle retailer Halfords to publicise the launch of the network and


Measurement and Evaluation

Prior to the national cycle network launch, Sustrans commissioned a Mori

poll which showed 87 per cent of respondents wanted more and safer cycle

routes, while two-thirds admitted that safety concerns put them off


A post-launch poll will be carried out to gauge what difference, if any,

the network has made to public opinion.

Media coverage was solid and included BBC Breakfast News, GMTV, local

radio stations plus blanket press coverage. Cyclethon coverage has not

yet been measured.


Detailed planning ensured the seven launch events and subsequent civic

receptions were covered. The media concentrated as much on cycling as

part of the wider transport debate as the leisure aspects of the


Sustrans intends to lobby local and national government to ensure

cycling stays high on the transport agenda. It also hopes to raise a

further pounds 200 million by 2005 to add another 5,000 miles to the

national cycle network.

Over the coming months, a series of maps, including the coast and

castles route from Newcastle to Edinburgh, will be launched providing

more media opportunities

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