These linked routes have been co-ordinated by the civil engineering charity Sustrans (Sustainable Transport) and aim to provide safe, high quality routes for walkers and cyclists, promoting a healthier and less polluted environment in the process.
"Initiatives like the national cycle network are very practical projects to make cycling and walking easier, safer and more enjoyable," says John Grimshaw, director and chief engineer of Sustrans. "It means that each of us can play a role in helping to improve our environment."
The network opened in June 2000 and currently offers 5,000 miles of continuous cycle routes, including traffic-free and traffic-calmed sections. Other routes will be added over the course of the next five years to bring the total length to over 9,000 miles.
The network is designed to be safe enough for unsupervised 12-year-olds, as part of Sustrans's Safe Routes to Schools initiative. This has government backing and most local authorities have adopted similar schemes.
By 2005, half of us will live within two miles of the network. So, no more excuses - on your bikes.
National Cycle Network inforation line, tel 0117 929 0888. Maps can be ordered on the Internet: www.sustrans.org.uk