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The United Kingdom, long a magnet for walkers and hikers drawn by its sprawling web of charming footpaths, is gearing up to become a mecca for bicyclists as well.

Organizers of the National Cycling Network of England, Scotland and Wales hope to have more than 8,000 miles of biking routes in place by 2005, funded in part by $68 million from the national lottery, administered by a charity called Sustrans -- "sustainable transport." The goal: to provide new methods for tourists to explore Britain in leisurely, healthy and eco-friendly ways.

About 3,500 miles of "Millennium Routes" are expected to be open by mid-2000.

Half of the routes are being constructed on old railway lines, canal towpaths and along riversides. Others are on back roads and traffic-controlled town roads, extending from Dover in southeast England to Inverness in Scotland.

Many of the routes also can be used by trekkers and wheelchair users. In fact, those near towns are used by pedestrian commuters as well as local leisure walkers.

For details on routes, companies renting bicycles, or other information, get a copy of "Britain for Cyclists," free from the British Tourist Authority, phone (800) 462-2748, Web site,

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