Bring it on.
The latest report from the Welsh Government sounds positive about opening up footpaths to bicycles albeit with a code of conduct required too.
On Wednesday 21st June, the Welsh Government issued a consultation document entitled ‘Taking forward Wales’ sustainable management of natural resources’.
Within this consultation are positive noises about the Government proposing to allow cycling (and horse riding) on footpaths, with the same conditions as the current 1968 has for bikes and horses on bridleways.
Currently bikes are only allowed on 21% of the rights of way in Wales so opening up footpaths would be a massive change and expansion of where we can ride. Cycling UK (formerly the CTC) and OpenMTB are also asking for people to be allowed to cycle on access and common land, such as windfarm and utility tracks.
This latest consultation follows on from a 2015 consultation called ‘Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation’. Cycling UK and OpenMTB responded to this 2015 consultation and asked for “increased cycle access in Wales and an outdoor access code to ensure responsible behaviour from all users.”
It’s clear that any opening up of the rights of way network will come with an attendant code of conduct. There are plans already underway to draw up a “statutory code for access to the outdoors for recreation similar to that in place in Scotland under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003”.
It’s worth pointing out that Scotland doesn’t actually have Open Access, it has a Responsible Access Code. See this Scottish guide: po.st/ScotAccess.
A big argument for increased off-road bike access in Wales is the evidence gained from what’s happened in Scotland economically. A Transform Scotland report estimated off road cycling contribute between £236.2m and £358m per year. The Welsh Government will no doubt want Wales to benefit similarly.
Cycling UK’s Paul Tuohy said: “This is a landmark step towards increasing the opportunities for cycling, health and tourism, and shows a commendable and forward thinking approach that we have come to expect from the Welsh Government.
“Thanks to the incredible support for our Trails for Wales campaign, the Welsh Government has clearly listened and seen the massive benefit cycling can have. We’re not just talking here about the rural economy, but also the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing.
“Cycling UK will now be looking to put together its response and speaking with other groups such as the British Horse Society and the Ramblers to ensure that the Welsh countryside can be enjoyed by as many people as possible without fear of conflict.”