Obstructions and 'out of repair' rights of way (England & Wales)

Cherry Allan's picture
Obstructions-out-of-repair-RoW
Obstructions-out-of-repair-RoW
Headline Messages: 

Obstructions, poor surfaces, bad drainage and rank vegetation often make the bridleway and byway network in lowland England and Wales difficult for cyclists to use. It also puts people off the healthy and enjoyable activity of riding in the countryside. 

  • ‘Out of repair’ paths
    • Paths become ‘out of repair’ if they are badly drained or rutted, have a slippery surface, where bridges are unusable or hazardous or where surface vegetation impedes progress. 
    • Highway authorities have a duty to ensure that their public highways, including rights of way, are maintained in a state appropriate for the sort of traffic reasonably expected to use it. If an authority fails to maintain a path properly, there is a legal process (Section 56 of the Highways Act 1980) that any member of the public can use to force them into action.
  • Obstructions
    • Obstructions on rights of way may be illegal, hazardous and disrupt journeys made by cycle. 
    • It is the landowner’s responsibility to remove unlawful obstructions; highway authorities have to ensure that rights of way are not obstructed; and any member of the public has the power to compel an authority to act if they fail to do so (Sections 130A to D of the Highways Act 1980).
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Highway authorities should prioritise bridleways, byways, restricted byways and unsurfaced unclassified roads in their rights of way management and maintenance regimes. This is because these are multi-user routes, available to cyclists, horse riders and walkers. 
  • Hedgerow legislation should be strengthened to prevent the removal of field boundaries alongside bridleways, as the bridleway then becomes ‘cross field’ and may be ploughed. 
  • Where cross field paths are regularly ploughed, an uncultivated headland alternative should be made available.
  • Highway authorities should make sure that rights of way that go through fields are clearly signed to stop users encountering any obstructions that are not on the path.
Publication Date: 
June 2011
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  • Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC): A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no.25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1147607 and in Scotland No SC042541
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