A map of the UK showing cycling routes at a scale that would work for route-planning and tour selection
Excellent Books 978 1 901464214 Fold out map £8.95
Given how much energy and money has been poured into cycle routes in the UK, it is surprising how difficult it is to find useable maps of them. Yes, Sustrans produce very helpful guides to many of their routes, and National Cycle Routes appear on OS 1:50,000 maps, but both they presuppose that you know which route you fancy.
This map is one to survey when you are considering where in the entire UK you might wish to cycle. For this, it has much to commend it. So far as I am aware, this is the first time that Sustrans routes, the National Byway and routes stitched together by local authorities have appeared on a single map. You might even think that such a map would be sufficient to create an approved list, rather like the one that Munro compiled of Scottish mountains.
Of course, the scale – three-and-a-half centimetres to ten kilometres – means that this is not a map by which to navigate. But then it was never its purpose.
More problematic is precisely what it does tell you. Sustrans route 110, the ‘Cheshire Lines and Sefton Costal Path’ is one example. The northern part of this route is actually a pavement shared by cyclists and pedestrians. It runs beside the mudflats that serve as the seafront in Southport and is a jolly wide pavement. In the winter cyclists have pretty much to themselves, but I am willing to bet in high summer, wheeled progress must be pretty frustrating.
Route 238, Bristol to Bath and, the apparently unnumbered path from Bathgate to Airdrie, are tarmac cycle paths laid on the beds of disused railways. These merit a special trip to try them out, in a way that a shared-use pavement does not.
The non-Sustrans routes are more problematic still. Many have been defined and signed by willing local authorities. The signing, however, is rarely good enough to dependably follow them without a decent map. So, it is interesting to know that they are there, but I suspect that a stamped-addressed envelope to the local tourist office would be necessary to see if some kind of guide is available.
None of these issues are the doing of the compliers of this map. Indeed, Excellent Books are to be congratulated for compiling what they have. It falls a long way short, however, of a product that you could send to a foreign friend in the hope that it alone would provide a sufficient guide for planning a UK cycling holiday.
PS Nov 09