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Sustrans enables artists to work along the National Cycle Network in the Great Britain

Trail art and improvements include ileposts, seats, drinking fountains, earthworks, bridges, ramps, steps, signposts, lights, and entry points.

By Isobel Stoddart

Sustrans' Aims

"Sustrans has always set out to make its routes as attractive as possible in order to encourage more people to use them and to foster in the public a sense of responsibility and care."

Sustrans works through practical projects to change national and local transport policies, and to lessen dependence on the car. The huge popularity of traffic-free routes already built demonstrates that millions will choose to cycle and walk for many of their journeys if only the conditions are safe and attractive.

Art & the Travelling Landscape is a program of Sustrans across the UK to provide opportunities for artists to work along the National Cycle Network to create sequences of artwork installations

Features to improve attractiveness of trails

Mileposts, seats, drinking fountains, earthworks, bridges, ramps, steps, signposts, lights, entry points... all provide the opportunity for creative design and public involvement. They follow in the tradition already established by Sustrans:

  • Pieces appropriate to the local setting
  • Making use of recycled materials, especially from local historic industries
  • Seats, drinking fountains, access points, lighting, gateways into towns, silhouettes on hillsides
  • Sound and kinetic works
  • Highlighting of vistas and views out from the routes
  • Signposts and sundials commissioned from both local and renowned artists
  • Working in conjunction with community and school groups

The creation of a popular traffic free route depends not only on its useful location, its continuity and freedom from traffic, and the interest of its travelling landscape, but also on creating a special sense of personal space which the public can relate to and claim as their own. For us, milepost and gateway sculpture, including crafted seats, fountains and lighting, play a crucial role in engaging the support of the traveller.

Sustrans has always set out to make its routes as attractive as possible in order to encourage more people to use them and to foster in the public a sense of responsibility and care.

Milepost sculpture has been one way of humanising the public space, by providing focal points for meeting and resting, and for commenting on local history and context of the area.

Over the last five years we have commissioned more than 100 separate sculptors to work with us and their perception of the environment has enriched our own work.

The past year has been an especially fruitful one in Scotland where Stefanie Bourne, our Sculpture Co-ordinator, has put in place a whole series of works along the Airdrie & Bathgate Path on the Glasgow to Edinburgh route. In the North West, working with Groundwork West Cumbria, we have commissioned work from leading traditional blacksmiths: hand-forged gates by Brian Russell and access controls by P Johnson & Co. At Calva Junction, a major earthwork sculpture has been formed to designs by Mark Merrer.

Designs have also been produced for bridge parapets on the Workington to Broughton Moor route by Allan Dawson and Mark Merrer.

We are encouraging all our partners to pay close attention to creating a travelling landscape with a view to ensuring as attractive and as interesting a journey as possible.

Sculpture

Sculpture can provide a focus for a journey, and a reference in a newly built place which has yet to acquire its own character.

Sculpture offers a genuine opportunity for public participation and support. Group activities such as mosaics, murals and carving seats all lend themselves to this. Some of the most successful Sustrans commissions have involved schools, community groups, day-care centres, Scout Groups, etc. in the production of works of art.

Seats

Seats are also a priority for Sustrans as not everyone is young and fit. Sustrans has built a large number of seats, including a standard design made from railway sleepers.

Millennium Milepost

The first Millennium Mileposts, a symbolic and important component of the National Cycle Network, have appeared alongside significant sections of the Network in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, South Wales, Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. Jon Mills, an artist blacksmith based in Brighton, won a limited competition with his bold, distinctive image, combining a strong profile and a detailed surface design. The Milepost takes the form of an abstract tree, its branches pointing the way to towns and villages on the route, and marking the number of miles still to travel. The imagery of the surface design is based on the passage of time and ultimate demise of petroleum-based transport, represented by a series of fossilised images, including those of car components.

We have now commissioned a further one in Scotland by Ian McColl, of Glasgow. A third one from Wales will complete the family of up to 1,000 cast iron posts, one to be placed to mark each section of the Network, or each distinctive feature, such as county boundaries. Their manufacture will be funded by the sculpture budget included in the National Cycle Network Millennium submission, while partners will finance the installation. The first Mileposts were unveiled during the 1996 Trailblazing Ride.

About Sustrans - website at www.sustrans.org.uk

Sustrans stands for Sustainable transport. It works through practical projects - such as the National Cycle Network and Safe Routes to Schools - to design and build routes for cyclists and walkers.

These routes provide for journeys to work, to school, and for leisure. Sustrans believes our environment and quality of life can be immensely improved by a shift to more sustainable transport policies, and less dependence on the motor car.

Sustrans is a practical charity. It has completed several hundred miles of traffic free routes working in partnership with Local Authorities, landowners and others.

Sustrans believes that more use should be made of non-polluting means of transport, such as cycling and walking. Sustrans and its Local Authority and other partners have put forward the vision of the 8,000-mile National Cycle Network, which will pass within two miles of over 20 million people in the UK. The Network is now to become a reality, having been chosen by the Millennium Commission as a major project for the nation to celebrate the new Millennium. The Network is backed by a range of bodies from the Department of Transport to the Countryside Commission, the National Trust and the Automobile Association.

Some Facts about Bicycling in Europe

There are more bicycles than cars in Britain, but they are little used because traffic conditions deter people. Where a safe and attractive route is provided, people will use it. Sustrans wants to break the vicious cycle of ever increasing pollution, noise, congestion and accidents. Encouraging more and more journeys by car is clearly not sustainable.

A British cyclist is now 12 times more likely to be killed or injured - per mile cycled - than a cyclist in Denmark where there is already a system of safe routes, including extensive traffic calming.

"Art & the Travelling Landscape" is a program of Sustrans across the UK to provide opportunities for artists to work along the National Cycle Network to create sequences of artwork installations

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