In England and Wales we have over 140,000 miles of public rights of way, such as footpaths and bridleways.
They form one of our most valuable rural resources, developed in some cases over thousands of years, and are open to everyone, so long as you’re walking.
However, head off-road by bike or on a horse and you’ll soon find yourself limited in where you can ride by a confusing array of archaic laws which block off close to 80 per cent of the network.
There is a legal right to cycle on bridleways and byways, but these make up only 22% of the rights of way network in England and Wales and are often fragmented, making it difficult to put together a route avoiding busy roads.
It’s time our rights of way were based on suitability, not historic designation as footpath or bridleway.
Just imagine what cycling in the countryside would be like if cyclists...
- could ride on some of the 80% of the network they can't use now in England and Wales;
- were able to access more of the National Trails;
- could enjoy recreational rides which linked cycle-friendly quiet roads to rights of way;
- were welcomed to National Parks which appreciated the benefits of promoting cycling.
Our history of campaigning for off-road access
1968 - Countryside Act
Cycling UK (then CTC) campaigning won the right to cycle on bridleways and create long distance cross country routes
2003 - Land Reform (Scotland) Act
We made sure cycling was included in the changes to public access
2015 - Trails for Wales
The Welsh Government began a consultation on outdoor access, and Cycling UK launched a joint campaign with OpenMTB
2017 - Trails for Wales part 2
A second consultation, and this time we joined forces with other outdoor organisations leading to thousands of responses in support of wider access
2017 - Rides of Way report
We conducted the first national survey of all types of off-road cyclists to inform our campaigning
2018 - Agriculture Bill
Cycling UK lobbying ensured that public access was included as a 'public good' in the criteria for post-Brexit agricultural payments
2018 - North Downs Way
We launched and rode an alternative fully rideable route for the North Downs Way National Trail
2019 - Trails for Wales
The Welsh Government announces plans to improve outdoor access for everyone following four years of campaigning
2019 - Great North Trail
Cycling UK launched an 800-mile off-road trail extending the Pennine Bridleway up to Cape Wrath and John o' Groats on the north coast of Scotland