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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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  • Patron: Her Majesty The Queen
  • President: Jon Snow
  • Chief Executive: Carol McKinley (Acting)
  • 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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