There’s been much ecstatic shuffling of red socks over the recently passed “Right to roam” access bill. It’s the culmination of ceaseless bleating and worrying of rights of way folk by the Ramblers association, who see common land (mountain areas, heath and down etc., but unfortunately not golf courses) as land in the public domain and therefore open to unrestricted access.
The bill does indeed open up rights of access to areas of uncultivated land away from dwellings, livestock shelters, conservation areas, and assorted other reasons landowners can think of ranging from raising lambs to evaporating grouse with a big gun. However as it’s a ramblers only initiative (we were all too busy going out riding to write the thousands of letters or evenings spent chuntering on in village halls that such measures require) you’ll probably be unsuprised but more than a little peeved to find mountain bike access rights are unchanged. We’re still restricted to marked bridleways and RUPP’s (Roads Used as Public Paths) so any dreams of cruising the massive network of disused mining tracks in areas like the Dales and North Yorks Moors are out of the window.
Even as it stands the bill is useless until all the areas are surveyed and mapped to prove that land is open and uncultivated, which will take at least 4-5 years even in the most popular areas – and that’s if local authorities give it the neccessary funding.
The only aspects that affect mountain bikers are liability for your own injury when you’re on a bridlepath rather than the onus being on the landowner which sounds fair enough to us. On the flipside members of the public can now report obstruction of rights of way direct to magistrates who have the power to fine and / or demand removal of the obstruction by the landowner, with persistent offendors facing civil court action. This replaces the previously limp system where all obstructions had to be reported to the rights of way officer who pursued the case from there.
If you need the full implications of the bill check out OUTDOORSmagic or the Ramblers site has a complete run down. For the moment the only really positive aspect is if they’re allowed to wander where they want there’ll hopefully be less of them on the bridlepaths.