maintenance

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Bridleways, byways and cycle tracks (England & Wales)

Closing the gaps for cycling in public rights of way and improving maintenance and signing, would encourage more people to cycle off-road...
Cyclist riding off-road
Headline Messages: 
  • Cycling is legal on 22% of the Rights of Way (RoW) network in England and Wales. However, the right to cycle on some paths and not others does not necessarily relate to how suitable or unsuitable they are for cycling. While cyclists have the right to (bi)cycle on bridleways and byways, many of them are unsuitable; on the other hand, cyclists are not automatically allowed to ride along footpaths, many of which are perfectly fine for cycling.
  • The suppressed demand for good traffic-free cycling routes for both recreational and utility use is considerable, but much of the RoW network is best suited to mountainbiking. More people could enjoy offroad cycling if the network were expanded, more coherent, and better maintained and signed. This needs concerted action from local and national government, plus reform to RoW law.

KEY FACT:

17% of the Rights of Way network in England is bridleway (32,000 km), 2% is byway (3,700 km) and 3% restricted byway (6,000 km). The rest is footpath (78%, or 146,000 km) on which cyclists have no right to ride. 

 

CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Improvements and additions to the bridleways and byways network would enhance the opportunities for motor traffic-free cycling, particularly for families and casual cyclists.
  • National government should review RoW law to enhance cycling opportunities by, for example:
    • following the lead of Scotland’s Land Reform Act 2003, which gave cyclists lawful access to most countryside in Scotland;
    • simplifying the legal process for converting footpaths to cycle tracks.
  • Highway authorities should fulfil their duties under existing legislation to make sure that the potential of the RoW network is fully realised for both recreational and utility cyclists.
  • Cycle racing on bridleways should be permitted by law, subject to appropriate consultation and regulation.
  • While signing from roads onto the RoW network is now reasonably acceptable, waymarking of the network itself needs improving.
  • Highway authorities should not only fulfil their legal duties to maintain byways and bridleways,but should also carry out maintenance programmes to ensure that they are rideable.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
April 2014
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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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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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  • Patron: Her Majesty The Queen
  • President: Jon Snow
  • Chief Executive: Gordon Seabright
  • 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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