Off-Road Access

Chris Peck's picture

Welsh plan for connected communities - why detail is important

The Welsh Government is about to legislate to force local authorities to map out and plan improvements to the cycle networks. Although a great step, I think it's vital that the routes are of a proper standard to make cycling attractive and feasible.
NCN 8 in the Wye Valley

I greatly enjoyed a tour cycling the length Wales using National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 8 - Lôn Las Cymru - a couple of years ago. The route follows minor roads and, if starting from the south, begins on the Taff Trail, a traffic-free route that heads north from Cardiff. It's routes like these that local authorities in Wales will have to map out and plan improvements to under the proposed legislation.

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Andy Hawes's picture

Where can I cycle off-road?

Here in the UK we have a comprehensive network of routes and trails available to cyclists to get you out into the countryside. Here we clarrify where you can legally ride off-road.
Public Bridleway Sign

Where can I ride...?

Off road cyclists' can legally cycle on the network of byways and bridleways across England and Wales. For families and beginners there are also a number of old railway tracks and canal tow paths across the UK that often form part of the national cycle network and make for excellent training ground.

CTC's picture

Bike Club Comes to The Trax

5 April 2012
The Trax Off Road Racing Club in Tottenham has been successful in a bid for a Bike Club grant.
Illustration of The Loop (Back On Track, by kind permission of the Trax)

The Trax Off Road Racing Club in Tottenham has been awarded a Bike Club grant to encourage young people in the area to take up cycling.

The superb new Lordship Loop BMX and MTB pump track, will be looked after by Haringey Council through The Trax who are holding a Launch Event.

Daniel Mintz of The Trax says:

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Cherry Allan's picture

Developing new paths for cycling in the countryside

Do you ride - or want to ride - on a particular path, but can't tell whether you're allowed to do so? Does your favourite bridleway suddenly turn into a footpath and you wish it didn't? Do you want to do something about it? Read on...
Riding off-road

Background

How to tell where cycling's legal

  • Footpaths are open to walkers only (yellow waymarkings)
  • Bridleways are open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists (blue waymarkings)
  • Restricted byways are open to walkers, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles (plum waymarkings)
  • Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) are open to walkers, cyclists, horse riders, horse-drawn vehicles and motor vehicles (red waymarkings).

A list of all recorded public rights of way i

Cherry Allan's picture

Reporting obstructions (England and Wales)

What's the best thing to do if you find your favourite bridleway or byway impassable because of a fallen tree, or a gate that wasn't there before? This guide explains the process.
Obstruction on bridleway

What is an obstruction?

  • Not all obstructions are obstructions in law. Legally, an obstruction is anything that “prevents the convenient use of the way by passengers”, and “substantially prevents the public from having free access over the whole of the highway which is not purely temporary in nature”.
  • An obstruction need not block the whole way, but just partially restrict access to it, e.g.
Cherry Allan's picture

Forest access - updates on the Independent Panel on Forestry

Woodland is an excellent setting for cycling, so CTC has welcomed some positive statements in an official progress report on the future of England's publicly owned forests.
Cyclists benefit from current access rights to Forestry Commission trails

The report from the Independent Panel on Forestry, set up by the Government after it abandoned plans to sell off  much of England’s forests in 2011 (see 'campaign background' below), reflects the overwhelming support for continuing public ownership and backs up the importance of access for different users. It says:

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Cherry Allan's picture

Unsurfaced highways shared with motor vehicles

Not all unsurfaced highways are robust enough for use by motor vehicles. Ruts and mud, for example, can make them difficult or impossible for cycling...
Unsurfacd highway
Headline Messages: 
  • Use of recreational motor vehicles and tractors on unsurfaced highways can cause considerable damage, particularly on badly drained earth surfaces. This can lead to deep ruts and mud, making the route unusable by cyclists and other non-motorised users. 
  • Noisy vehicles are a public nuisance, so strategies should be developed to prevent their use in the countryside.  
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC accepts that licenced recreational motor vehicles (2 & 4 wheel) have a legal right to use BOATs and UUCRs. 
  • Not all of these highways, however, are robust enough for use by motor vehicles, so they should be managed to avoid stirring up mud and creating ruts.
  • Cyclists and other non-motorised users go to the countryside for quiet recreation. Unmanaged motorised use of unsurfaced highways is incompatible with this, particularly where these vehicles, especially motorcycles, are inadequately silenced. 
  • If, after a reasonable time, voluntary management fails to remedy a damaged highway, or is not implemented, then a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) should be sought to prevent motorised vehicular use.
  • The police should implement robust policies to discourage illegal use by unlicenced and/or unsilenced vehicles.
  • Use by tractors as part of agricultural or forestry practice can also be extremely damaging, and where this occurs the Highway Authority (HA) and landowner/tenant should agree on measures to allow unimpeded use by cycles.
  • Where, following extensive discussions, an HA fails to maintain a highway that is ‘out of repair’, then, if the route is an important link, consideration should be given to serving the authority with a Highways Act section 561 notice requiring them to repair it suitably.   

What is a Boat? A byway open to all traffic is a highway open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles. It may not be maintained to the same standard as an ordinary road. 

What is an UUCR? An unsurfaced, unclassified road is repairable by the local authority, but access rights may not be clear and subject to dispute. It is ‘unclassified’ because it has not been categorised as an A, B or C road.

Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
May 2011
Cherry Allan's picture

Towpaths, canals and rivers

Paths alongside canals and rivers can provide attractive and useful motor-traffic free routes for utility and recreational cycling...
Towpath
Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is welcomed alongside the canals and rivers managed by the Canal and River Trust (England and Wales) and by Scottish Canals.  This widens the choice of motor traffic-free routes open to cyclists for commuting, recreational and other purposes.
  • CTC encourages responsible use of towpaths and river paths. However, concerns about possible conflict with other users are often based on negative perceptions, rather than on reality. Genuine safety problems can often be managed through codes of conduct and suitable design solutions.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC welcomes the decision by the Canal and River Trust to allow considerate cyclists to ride along most of the length of its towpaths. These routes are a valuable motor traffic-free facility both for utility and recreational cycling, and national and local government should view them as an important part of the strategic transport network.
  • Codes of conduct help promote courtesy and understanding between users.
  • There is little evidence to support the view that cycling on towpaths creates excessive hazards to walkers or to cyclists themselves.
  • All towpaths should remain open to cyclists along their entire length, unless there are insuperable safety issues that can only be avoided with restrictions.
  • There should be no need to apply for a permit or be charged for cycling along a towpath. CTC therefore strongly welcomes the Trust’s decision to allow cyclists to use its towpaths without permits.
  • To help facilitate cycling, towpaths and river paths should have good surfacing and drainage.
  • There is little evidence to support the view that cycling is any more damaging to towpaths or river paths than walking.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
July 2012
Cherry Allan's picture

Scotland's Land Reform Act (2003) and Outdoor Access Code

Scotland's Land Reform Act has opened up the countryside for walking and cycling. The rest of the UK should follow its example...
Scotland
Headline Messages: 
  • The Land Reform Act gives Scotland the most progressive access arrangements in the UK. The public has lawful access to most land and inland water, provided they act responsibly in accord with the guidance in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (also for land managers).
  • The Act’s clear and consensual approach to improving public access and resolving disputes should be a model for other parts of the UK to follow.
  • Improving cycle access to the countryside is highly beneficial to public health and the economy: the 7Stanes mountain bike trails helped create 205 full time equivalent jobs in southern Scotland and brought in over £9 million in visitor spend in 2007.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC strongly supports this legislation and its outcomes.
  • The new networks of ‘Core Paths’ are important not only for leisure cycling but also for cycle travel for utility purposes. Investment in healthy outdoor activities and in more sustainable ways of making journeys is vital, both locally, and in delivering on national aims for a healthier and more sustainable society. 
  • If monitoring shows that local authorities are not implementing their Core Path Plans voluntarily, the Scottish Government should consider revising the law to make it a legal duty.
  • There should be better integration of cycle routes created under the legal framework for access and those created under roads legislation. 
  • Increased recreational cycling and its promotion through off-road access, plus the provision of Core and Longer Distance Paths, is potentially highly beneficial for the economy.
  • Measures should be taken to remove locked gates and other barriers that are still preventing access for cycling through some landownerships. 
  • Problems that arise from sharing paths should be resolved by Local Access Officers and Local Access Forums, many of which have CTC members on them.
  • Similar legislation should be adopted in the rest of the UK.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
June 2012
Cherry Allan's picture

Rights of Way Improvement Plans (England & Wales)

By law, local authorities must develop Rights of Way Improvement Plans (RoWIPs). The plans are a good way of improving opportunities for cycling off-road...
RoWIPs
Headline Messages: 
  • Rights of Way Improvement Plans (RoWIPs) should seek to boost the quantity and quality of routes and open spaces for recreational and off-road cycling, and ensure that these opportunities are well signed, maintained and promoted.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • There is currently a considerable, suppressed demand for traffic-free off-road cycling routes, especially close to where people live. Provision for family cycling is particularly poor. RoWIPs offer opportunities to improve off-road cycling provision. To maximise the benefits of cycling, the delivery of RoWIPs should:
    • Be informed by a survey of the off-road cycling network to identify gaps and implement improvements 
    • Promote, sign and maintain routes for cyclists 
  • As resources are likely to be limited, RoWIPs benefit from the input of volunteers working through the Local Access Forum (LAF) and in conjunction with local authority staff.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
May 2010
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