Bridleways and byways need to be kept clear of obstructions and in a good state of repair, so that cyclists can enjoy their off-road rides...
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 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.
Find out why it's important to open up more of the rights of way network for cycling, what the legal process is and how it needs improving...
Only 30% of the public rights of way in England and Wales is available to cyclists. The network is extremely fragmented and there is an urgent need to fill in the gaps to make it more attractive for healthy and enjoyable outdoor activities such as cycling.
‘Statutory Orders’ can be used to expand the network of paths legally available for cycling in the countryside. Different types of Order can: modify an authority’s definitive map and statement in the case of errors or omissions; create, extinguish or divert rights of way; or regulate or prohibit cycling or motor traffic on the highway.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy):
Map Modification Orders (MMOs)
Highway authorities should make resources available to ensure that the definitive map accurately represents the full bridleway and byway network before the ‘cut off date’ of 1 January 2026.
CTC will normally oppose moves to downgrade or delete bridleways and byways, and support upgrading or creating them.
As the current system is overly resource-intensive, the Government and its agencies should take steps to develop and implement more effective ways of making and confirming Orders.
Public Path Orders (PPOs)
The needs of residents, landowners and businesses should be sympathetically considered whenever they want to make reasonable diversions around residential properties or farm buildings, or alter the line of a path so that it goes round the edge of field (headland), rather than across it (cross field).
If, however, the diversion means that cyclists would suffer a loss of amenity, or usability (e.g. longer and/or steeper routes, poorer surfaces etc), CTC is unlikely to support the proposal.
CTC will, however, normally oppose any proposed downgrades (e.g. downgrading a bridleway to a footpath that cyclists can no longer use).
Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs)
Wherever possible, CTC will liaise with highway authorities to seek alternative solutions to TROs on byways, bridleways or unsurfaced roads.
CTC will normally oppose any regular renewal of a temporary TRO, because remedies to deal with the problem in question should be the priority.
CTC, the national cycling charity, is helping to support a forthcoming attempt by the Forestry Commission to beat the world record for the largest tree-hug due to take place at Delamere Forest on Sunday 11 September.
The event is part of the Forestry Discovery Day which takes place at 28 forestry sites.
CTC, the national cycling charity with 67,000 members, is the oldest and largest cycling body in the UK, established in 1878. CTC provides a comprehensive range of services, advice, events and protection for its members and works to promote cycling by raising public and political awareness of cycling's health, social and environmental benefits. Visit www.ctc.org.uk.
Forestry Commission England is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england.