Regional Cycle Network Route 91: the Lancashire Cycleway southern loop
Amongst the signs and notices spoiling the green in the pretty Lancashire village of Rivington is one that points to the Lancashire Cycleway. I cycle past the route sign almost every day, and some similar ones further along the road to Adlington, another village close to where I live. I would be surprised if many of the cyclists on this road are consciously cycling the 'Way' or if anyone other than Jon Sparks, author of Cicerone Guide, has bothered cycling the whole route. The Lancashire Cycleway, apart from the route signs, is not a piece of infrastructure for cyclists. It's just normal roads so I don't really see the point of it.
If the Lancashire Cycleway brings more outsiders into the county or if Lancashire cycling people especially enjoy it as a cycle route, then I'm wrong, and though I agree with Jon Sparks that: "Lancashire is a great place to cycle and cycling is a great way to see Lancashire," it would be much better if Sustrans provided a searchable database where you can go online and download cycle routes tailored to your own preferences and which can be put on a GPS. At present they don't even offer GPS routes of the National and Regional cycle networks. They provide only a PDF map. The Lancashire Cycleway is marked in blue on the one below (routes 90 and 91). The 91 near Lancaster is, I think, incorrectly numbered as that is the northern loop: route 90.
The blue lines are Regional Routes, green are the National Cycle Network on-road, and purple are the National Cycle Network traffic-free. The green arrows "indicate all the places where Sustrans is working with children in schools, with families at home, with employers, or with whole communities to enable people to travel much more by foot, bike and public transport." Towns marked yellow in a black ring are 'Cycling England's Cycling Towns and City and Scottish Sustainable Travel Towns' (whatever that means). The coloured lines on the map are where Sustrans would like you to ride your bike – cycling by numbers.
According to Lancashire County Council, the Lancashire Cycleway (260 miles long) was set up by members of the Cyclists' Touring Club and Friends of the Earth. It links up with the Cumbria Cycleway. The Cicerone guide for the Cumbria Cycleway is now out of print, as the Lancashire version will be before too long, with mapping and routing going digital and the sharing of information between cyclists online.
Returning to Sustrans, there is a view amongst cyclists that the National Cycle Network is part of a government plot to progressively remove us from the roads and that the original 'grassroots' movement to convert abandoned railways for cyclists has developed into a large and unaccountable private institution whose sustainable transport mission conceals a mission to promote itself. The National Cycle Network is a white elephant say the cyclists, or worse: a Trojan Horse.
Its charitable status and reliance on public money leads to the suspicion that Sustrans is part of the 'establishment' instead of an action group representing non-motorists. It is not a campaigning body like the CTC (although the CTC now wants to be a charity as well). As I see it, the real issue is whether the cycle network makes any positive difference to cyclists in practical terms and whether it can ever deliver meaningful infrastructure of the kind you see in Holland and Denmark. I think the answer is no, because there isn't a national will for it to do so, and even if there was, we've left it too late.
Simplistic though it seems, the best way to support public cycling in the UK is to improve the behaviour of motorists towards people on bicycles. It's not too late for that but it won't be done with little blue signs.