If you are making the change from getting around by car and wish to avoid the worst of the traffic, you’ll want to read up on Cardiff’s cycle networks.
It is understandable that if you are new to cycling, dealing with Gabalfa roundabout; North Road or some of Cardiff’s least savoury stretches of tarmac is probably a step too far.
A few years ago, before the Active Travel Act came into being, Cardiff was awarded some one-off funding to establish a cycle network. It was called Enfys and can be identified by those circular rainbow logos and painted telecoms cabinets. Enfys is “rainbow” yn Gymraeg, so rainbow logos are what you need to look out for…
Cardiff’s cycle network includes all the roads and streets in the city. Some are busier than others and the Cycle Map will help you to plan a route that is best for you. We have a number of officially signed routes (blue) which lead you through the quieter side streets and off road routes that avoid traffic altogether.
Enfys is what they like to call a “hub & spoke” network. There’s a “hub” that runs south of Cardiff Castle, down Boulevard de Nantes & Stuttgarter Strasse; Dumfries Place; Station Terrace; Bridge Street; David Street; Bute Terrace; Customhouse Street and then back up St Marys Street.
Many of the routes intersect with this hub, or at least they would have. Each of these routes is numbered, but it’s quite easy to understand the numbering system if you think of the map as a slightly wonky clock. Route 1 heads directly north; route 2 heads slightly north-east to Cyncoed; route 3 heads down Newport Road all the way to Newport. Route 4 heads south-east to the Bay etc.
Some routes were to spur from other main routes, so the Cyncoed route 2 would spur to Llanedeyrn & Pontprennau and becomes route 20. Route 6, which heads to Ely forks to become 60 and 61 to Caerau and Fairwater. You get the idea…
Whilst they often favoured quiet roads, much of the infrastructure that was built at the time was of poor quality. You’ll still see the narrow, painted advisory lanes around the streets of Cardiff, but many have either been worn away or run under rows of parked cars.
Wellington Street for example, has both door-zone cycle lanes and narrow lanes that run under parked cars. Please use these with caution as you may well end up meeting a sticky end. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself and take the primary position on the road if you are in any doubt, particularly at night when it is harder to see if cars are occupied.
Since Enfys was created, the Active Travel Act 2013 came into force. The Act brought about an assessment of existing cycle routes, but much of the Enfys network fell below the required standards.
Frustratingly, there are very few dedicated cycle paths in Cardiff. The Council instead opted for a “shared path” approach prior to 2018, meaning that you will, at busy times, have to deal with pedestrians and dog walkers weaving about. In terms of pecking order, on a shared path we fall below pedestrians and dog walkers and must give way. Please try to keep your speed down and watch out for dogs who may run into your path. The Enfys network, particularly in Cardiff Bay is mainly shared with pedestrians, but in some places they have installed a kerb between the pedestrian and cyclist sides.
Another type of lane we have you’ll find on Colum Road in Cathays and James Street in Cardiff Bay. These are ultra-wide cycle lanes that are intended to make cars fight over a narrower central lane, with 1.8m cycle lanes at either side of the road. The reality is, the cars use it just as they did before, but it was a nice idea.
In most cases they’re often found on relatively safe roads, so it probably won’t be long before you start migrating from these cycle paths and into the traffic, simply because you can go faster and the roads often provide more direct routes than those marked on the route map.
The National Cycle Network
The first NCN route linked Bristol and Bath on an old railway line. The Bristol & Bath Railway Path opened in 1984 and since then, Sustrans, with a combination of grant funding and donations has opened routes all over the UK. The main ones of interest to us in Cardiff are route 8, which you’ll probably know as the Taff Trail or Lôn Las Cymru and route 4, linking St Davids with London. Route 8 starts in Cardiff Bay, which you can follow to Pontypridd to join route 4. If you are heading for England, you can take the Wentloog road to Duffryn and join it there.
Route 8 is a mixture of canal paths, disused railway lines and on-road sections. I’ve ridden it to Merthyr and whilst you will have to find a route around the Quakers Yard tram-road section if you are on a road bike, the surface is pretty good all the way and it’s a good few hours out with the family.
Currently in development is Route 88. This will eventually link Newport with Margam Park. It’s an ambitious route that requires the cooperation of four local authorities –Newport, Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend. Suffice to say, it’s a bit patchy right now with the Vale parts being the most developed, but you could spend a few hours riding either 88 or its spur 888 from Porthkerry to Eweny if you wished.
So, Enfys for local routes, NCN if you plan to cross county lines. We’ll look at individual routes in more detail in the months ahead.
This post was originally written in 2015, but has been tweaked since to bring it more up to date.
The council is now consulting on its new “Cycle Superhighway” project, which you can keep track of here.