Skip to content

Britain's Forgotten Bike Highways

In the 1930s, the U.K. built a massive network of state-of-the-art bike trails. Now the challenge is to revive them.
One of the 1930s bike lanes in Surrey, Southeast England.
One of the 1930s bike lanes in Surrey, Southeast England.Courtesy of Carlton Reid

Imagine having a 300-mile network of segregated, long-distance bike lanes that provided an alternative to a highway system. In the U.K., it’s not just an urbanist’s daydream—it already exists, but everyone forgot about it.

The nation is currently rediscovering its large-scale grid of bike lanes, built across the country in the 1930s and still substantially in place, if largely neglected over the years. The old lanes are now at the heart of a crowdfunding campaign, one designed to promote these lanes’ rehabilitation as part of Britain’s contemporary cycling infrastructure. What makes the find all the more remarkable is that the network was essentially rediscovered by accident.