Campaign: Ride The Net - The Launch of the National Cycle Network
PR Team: In-house
Timescale: October 1999 - ongoing
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(sustrans.org.uk and sustransshop.co.uk) 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