off-road

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Public Footpaths (England & Wales)

Cycling on footpaths is illegal, but many are entirely suitable and form good links. Opening them up to cyclists would enhance the network of motor-traffic free routes...
Footpath and Bridleway
Headline Messages: 
  • There should be a presumption that cyclists should be able to use all rights of way in England and Wales, with exceptions only when there are overriding reasons not to allow this.
  • Cycling is legal on 22% of the Rights of Way (RoW) network in England and Wales . However, the legality of cycling on a RoW is not related to its suitability. There is no right to cycle on footpaths, even though many of them are perfectly suitable; whereas bridleways, which cyclists are allowed to use, may be unusable (see photo below). Creating a coherent, logical, off-road network for cyclists therefore requires a fundamental reform of RoW law and political will.
  • England has 146,000 km of public footpaths, and Wales over 26,000 km, most of them rural.  If opened up to cyclists following Scotland’s example, cyclists would benefit from more choice for both leisure and utility travel.
  • Even within the current laws, there are many ways in which local authorities could open up more paths for both recreational and day-to-day cycling.

 

CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • The public footpath network offers the only realistic option for providing significantly more off-road routes to meet current and future demands. The Scottish Land Reform Act (2003) gave cyclists lawful access to most countryside in Scotland. Its success suggests that public footpaths in England and Wales could be similarly opened to cyclists as a simple remedy to overcome the lack of off-road routes for cyclists and the fragmented nature of the available route network.
  • Rights of Way laws should be amended to permit cycling on footpaths with few limited exceptions only where there are clear location-specific reasons not to do so (e.g. where the increased use of the path would create significant environmental or safety hazards).
  • Conflict on rights of way between cyclists and pedestrians is often more perceived than real. It can be mitigated by good design.
  • CTC believes that it is acceptable for cyclists to use footpaths, provided they do so in a manner which respects the safety of other road users and their peaceful enjoyment of the outdoors, and with regard for the environment and its ecology. These are the circumstances in which CTC believes it is acceptable for cyclists to ride on footpaths:
    • Where the surface and width of the path make it eminently suitable for safe cycling without causing disturbance or risk to pedestrians; or
    • Where the path is lightly used, such that the likelihood of disturbance or risk to pedestrians is minimal; or
    • Where a path is unlikely to attract such high levels of cycling that it will cause environmental damage (notably erosion); or
    • Where there is a reasonable belief that the footpath in question might already carry higher rights – for example:
  • where there is historic evidence (e.g. through enclosure award maps) demonstrating past use either by horses or by vehicles
  • where the path is shown on OS maps as an ‘Other Road with Public Access’ (ORPA), indicating an assumption that higher rights may exist;
  • where there is regular use by equestrians, motor vehicles and/or by other cyclists. 
  • Where the relevant landowner is a public body or a charity and/or accepts or appears to accept use of the path by cyclists.
  • Except where the landowner has expressly permitted cycle use, CTC does not generally support the use of footpaths by larger groups of cyclists – particularly as part of an organised event – as this is more likely to generate complaints.
  • In suitable urban situations and where footpaths would form convenient links for cyclists, councils should seek to revoke cycling restrictions and prohibitions.
  • Councils should stringently assess the impact of ‘gating orders’ on cycling and prioritise alternatives where a public footpath forms a convenient through route.
  • There is good evidence, although no direct case law, to support the view that pushing a cycle on a footpath is not illegal. The presence of obstacles such as stiles should not be considered a deterrent to a footpath’s use by cyclists.
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
February 2014

CTC Trainer Mentor: Dan Cook

Trainer Mentor: Dan Cook
Dan Cook manages the CTC Training Department, with a particular emphasis on off-road and mountain bike courses. With a wealth of experience across a wide range of working environments, Dan helps set the tone and ethos for the trainers - but makes terrible tea!

Key attributes

  • Manages the Training Department, focusing on mountain biking;
  • Has an overwhelming desire to see everyone given opportunities to ride, and to love their experiences of the outdoors;
  • Combines his extensive background in outdoor education, engineering and product/process design to produce courses and learning environments that push boundaries to improve learning.

Working experiences

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Cherry Allan's picture

Local Access Forums (England & Wales)

Local Access Forums (set up by local authorities to bring together people and groups interested in public rights of way) should work towards developing the network for cycling...
Off-road cycling
Headline Messages: 
  • Local Access Forums (LAFs) should aim to maximise the benefits of the Rights of Way (RoW) network for both recreational and day-to-day travel.
  • LAFs should include representation of cyclists’ interests to ensure that the network is developed, maintained and promoted accordingly.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • Cycling interests should be represented on all LAFs. 
  • Local authorities should be receptive and responsive to LAF recommendations on:
    •  amendments to the definitive map and on processing them in a timely fashion, to the benefit of off-road cyclists 
    •  the promotion and signing of the RoW network and other opportunities for off-road cycling 
    •  the proper maintenance of byways, bridleways and un-surfaced unclassified roads o the removal of obstructions. 
  • LAFs should promote off-road cycling as a healthy and enjoyable activity, particularly to families and young people. 
  •  LAFs should adopt, implement and promote CTC’s key Rights of Way Improvement Plan (RoWIP) priorities
Download full campaigns briefing: 
Publication Date: 
January 2013
Cherry Allan's picture

Respond to the Government's consultation English rights-of-way legislation

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' consultation on the processes for recording, diverting and extinguishing public rights of way (England) is a chance to suggest ways to make it easier for cyclists to engage with the system and help open more of the countryside for cycling.
This footpath is a metalled road, but the bridleway is a muddy trail!

Why do cyclists need to respond to this consultation?

At the moment, the system for recording, diverting and extinguishing public rights of way in England is extremely bureaucratic, but the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) consultation on the processes involved is a good opportunity to press for the changes that will help enhance the experience of cycling in the countryside.

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

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Off-Road Group Riding

Group riding off-road is great – unless someone gets lost… CTC Off-road’s Dan Cook suggests ways to stay together and, at worst, regroup.
off road group riding

You’re out in the hills with half a dozen friends, pausing for breath at the top of a climb while taking in the view. As you get ready to set off, someone says: ‘Hang on a minute. Where’s Jon?’ Maybe he’s walking up the hill with a flat he can’t mend? Maybe he got fed up and went home? Perhaps he thought everyone turned left halfway up? Or maybe he’s fallen off and is lying in a ditch…

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

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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  • 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
  • CTC Charitable Trust: A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no.5125969. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1104324 and Scotland No SC038626