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State of the nation survey is a starting point for more routes to ride, say campaigners

Cycling UK and OpenMTB have launched the first national survey of off-road cycling activity in England and Wales.

In stark contrast to road and commuter cycling, there is little known about where, how and why people are riding off-road.

Without this information, it’s almost impossible for campaigners to fight for more access and facilities, so cyclists are encouraged to participate.

Organisers add that: “It will also provide an opportunity to look at the health, economic and social benefits of off-road cycling in all its forms.”

In particular, through this survey, Cycling UK wants to understand whether the current system of Rights of Way causes unnecessary confusion or alienates new riders.  

Under current laws cyclists have a right to use a mere 22% of England’s rights of way network, and just 21% in Wales. Whether a route is a footpath, a bridleway or a byway is generally determined by its history of past usage, and not at all by its suitability.

This can mean cycling may be permitted on an unrideable muddy bridleway but not on a tarmac-surfaced footpath, even where it is used privately by motor vehicles.

In 1968 Cycling UK secured access for cycles to use bridleways. The organisation later fought successfully for a presumed access policy in the Scottish Land Reform Act (2003), and ensured that the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) included provision for restricted byways rights to be claimed on the basis of past cycle use.  

Cycling UK most recently campaigned for increased access in Wales with its Trails for Wales campaign. The Green Paper received 5,796 total responses, with over 4,000 responses backing Cycling UK’s calls for adoption of Scottish style access laws.

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.”  

The survey can be found here.

All complete responses will be entered into a prize draw for an iPad Mini.  

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.