It’s official – cyclists will soon be able to claim a new type of right of way that could see as many as 100,000 miles of trails across England and Wales become legally ridable. It’s all thanks to nation cyclists’ organisation CTC, which has been campaigning for the first major development in Rights of Way legislation for cyclists since 1968.
We reported on the CTC campaign last year, but at that stage the proposed amendment to the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill was still waiting in the wings. The amendment gives cyclists the right to claim a trail as a Restricted Byway (with access for bicycles but not for motorised vehicles) if evidence of bikes have used the trail for twenty years can be produced. This is similar to the long-standing mechanism that allows equestrians to claim trails as bridleways, but in that case it has to be twenty years of horse riding – bikes don’t count. The new law will open the door for many of the strange inconsistencies in Britain’s rights of way – bridleways linked by footpaths or changing into footpaths at County borders – to be sorted out. Thousands of cyclists supported the campaign, and the amendment was helmed through the Commons by Emily Thornberry MP and defended in the Lords by Lord Berkeley.
CTC Off-Road Campaigner Richard George welcomed the news, saying: “It has taken a while, but finally off-road cyclists are getting the rights they deserve. We have no idea how many routes like this are out there, and the only way we’ll find out is by cyclists submitting claims – there could be up to 100,000 miles of trail across England and Wales just waiting to be claimed!”
That seems like rather an unrealistic estimate, given that there’s only 140,000 miles of rights of way in total and about a third are already fine to ride bikes on – to get 100,000 miles of trail claimed would require evidence of bike use of every last mile of footpath in England and Wales which seems to us to be a tad unlikely to happen. But the mechanism is there and we’re sure that there are plenty of trails that can benefit from it.
CTC is asking cyclists to think of examples like this near them, and to submit a claim to their local highway authority. There’s a guide to submitting a claim on the CTC website.