Off-Road Access

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

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-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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New partnership means free days out cycling in local forests

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.
New partnership means free days out cycling in local forests

The event is part of the Forestry Discovery Day which takes place at 28 forestry sites.

Contact Information: 

CTC Press Office
Email: publicity@ctc.org.uk
Telephone: 0844-736-8453

Notes to Editors: 

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.

New Vision for Cycling

New Vision for Cycling
A doubling of cycling use in 10 years, coupled with a halving the in risks of cycling, would generate economic benefits of £3.5 billion and save 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
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