Cycling UK – the 138 year old organisation formerly named the CTC – has announced that it will be working with OpenMTB to carry out a national survey of off-road cycling activity in England and Wales – covering mountain biking on trails as well as the use of cycle lanes.
They say cyclists in England only have access to 22 per cent of the ‘Rights of Way’ network, and that many of the sections we can use are not suitable, whilst paths that could be very useful for cyclists are often off limits. The survey seeks to establish how the network is being used and what improvements could be made.
“Lots of people already feel that current access legislation doesn’t reflect what’s happening on the ground – so we want to get some solid data on the subject." - Stace King, OpenMTB
The organisation is responsible for a great deal of campaigning for cyclists – this year they managed to successfully petition Eurostar to revoke a policy that would mean all bikes had to travel in bags or boxes. They’re also still busy working on the ‘Trails for Wales’ campaign that could see many off-road sections liberated for cyclists to use.
The survey will allow the two organisations to draw up an accurate picture of riding behaviour across the country, before working on solutions to ensure that cyclists have the right to use the most appropriate trails and paths.
Currently, paths and trails are managed by the ‘Rights of Way’ network that dictates which facilities can be used by horse riders, cyclists, and walkers. Cycling UK states that only 22 per cent of the network is actually open to cyclists in England, and just 21 per cent is available in Wales.
The activities permitted on the paths and trails – be they footpaths, birdleways or cycle paths – are currently determined by historical use. Cycling UK and OpenMTB say that in many cases the classification is no longer relevant – and that cyclists often find themselves trying to get through un-rideable mud, whilst tarmac surfaced footpaths are not permitted for use.
As well as assessing the usefulness of the Rights of Way network, the survey will also look at the health, economic and social benefits of off-road cycling in all its forms.
Roger Geffen MBE, Cycling UK’s Director of Policy said: “Cycling UK has a long history of enabling people to enjoy cycling in appropriate off road settings, and in ways that respect walkers, wildlife and the natural environment.
“Our Trails for Wales campaign showed us the huge interest in promoting outdoor access through cycling, but it also highlighted a lot of the confusion about what is allowed, as well as concerns about managing potential conflict with other users.
“We’ve seen in Scotland how off-road cycling can thrive in harmony with all other outdoor users, and Cycling UK now wants to understand how we can bring the same benefits to England and Wales."
OpenMTB representative Stace King, who led on development of the survey, said: “We're calling on all off-road cyclists, from family riders to mountain bikers, to complete the survey and help us make the case for better access rights. And please don't stop there, please share the survey on social media and encourage others to do the same. We want as broad a response to this as possible.
“Lots of people already feel that current access legislation doesn’t reflect what’s happening on the ground – so we want to get some solid data on the subject."