Mountain biking in Wales and potentially England could become much more accessible if the government listen to recommendations made by cycling groups.
Wales is known for its epic mountain bike trail centres, but currently those who prefer to stick to public footpaths only have the right to use 21% of the available network.
The Rights of Way system is based upon historic use and campaigners say many of the paths for cyclists are ‘narrow’, ‘rocky’ and largely utilised by sheep (ok, we reworded that bit..).
Led by the Open MTB, in conjunction with CTC, Welsh Cycling and British Cycling, campaigners are asking for an arrangement similar to that enjoyed by Scottish Cyclists.
Scottish trails have been open for business since the Land Reform Act of 2003, which allows ‘presumed access’ to almost all public footpaths.
It has been suggested that if the recommendations are adopted, we could also see further change to trail use laws in England, too.
Tom Hutton, Snowdonia based mountain bike journalist and guide, speaking on behalf of Open MTB said: “I don’t think we can exaggerate what an amazing opportunity for mountain biking this is. A change in access laws in Wales could potentially open 1000s of kilometres of currently out of bounds trails.
It would put Wales back up there with Scotland as one of the best off road destinations in the world [and] potentially pave the way for future changes in England.
“It would put Wales back up there with Scotland as one of the best off road destinations in the world, and at the same time, would increase take up of the sport and local participation. It would also potentially pave the way for future changes in England.”
Campaigners have bolstered their case by pointing out that in Scotland off-road and leisure cycling brings in up to £358 million a year. Since outdoor activity already generates 10% of Welsh tourist economy, they say unlocking 1000s of kilometers of trail to mountain bikers could create a huge income.
The recommendations made by the cycling authorities come as a response to a consultation created by the Welsh government on “improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation”.
The consultation closes on October 2 and the CTC are looking for people to show their support for Trails for Wales by writing to the Welsh Government.
Gwenda Owen, CTC Cymru said:“Following on from the Active Travel Wales Act this green paper provides another opportunity to realise the ambition of the First Minister Carwyn Jones to make Wales a cycling nation.
“A refresh of our access laws could make Wales the cycling centre for the UK, and would provide a healthy boost to the economy. I recommend everyone with a passion for the outdoors to show their support for our joint campaign, Trails for Wales.”
The coalition of cycle groups are calling on everyone to write to the Welsh Government in support of their response, and can do so through a simple online tool here.
Ready to ride? Check out this selection of great MTB friendly kit that won’t break the bank…