Open Access for bikes in Wales, proposed two years ago. Did anything happen ?

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  • Open Access for bikes in Wales, proposed two years ago. Did anything happen ?
  • Just looking back at this, http://singletrackworld.com/2012/05/open-access-for-wales/ and I wondered, did anything come of it?
    I haven’t heard anything since, so have I missed it, or did it all just get forgotten about?

    Premier Icon schnor
    Subscriber

    I found an old post of mine from 8 months ago: –

    I had a meeting with NRW last week and asked one of the two main Access guys about this (sorry, forgot to update the thread). Apparently the new Head of Department ‘misspoke’, the first he heard about it was via google email alert when he was on holiday, which caused him some surprise.

    The statement was quietly withdrawn because NRW are in the middle of the 10 year access land review. As appeals are currently being held, it was decided not to change the objectives part way through the process due to “reputational risk”, I think the term was.

    I asked when the review is concluded if CROW would be amended to include access on bike and horse (as per my above post), but they didn’t know 🙁

    The last thing I heard was a meeting 2/3 months ago when nobody had any updates on it. To be clear; the proposals were about access onto and on Access Land being updated to include bikes and horses, not the scottish stile access model.

    Maybe the Assembly / Parliament (when they pull their fingers out re. the Rights of Way simplification proposals) will look into it (which BTW I can’t remember when I heard anything about that either) *shrug*

    Is this something that the welsh Assembly, or whoever it is that makes the decision, is doing as part of some vague overall access plan, or is there anyone like CTC, or IMBA, actually pushing for it ?

    Premier Icon schnor
    Subscriber

    The decision came from up high in Natural Resources Wales (formerly CCW), which is a Welsh Government body. As to how / when / if the announcement came about from any outside influence or even as part of a greater overall public access initiative, I really don’t know sorry.

    If I had to guess I’d say more the former than the latter as part of a “look, we’re listening, and this is what we’re going to do” exercise because generally things happen (or don’t) because people ask for it behind the scenes, rather than government spontaneously deciding / doing things.

    Premier Icon schnor
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    p.s. I forgot to add, unless you’re directly involved you never really find out who did the initial lobbying. Only after the consultation goes public can you find out who is named in the ‘summary of respondents’ or whatever its called (e.g. Mr A. Jones CTC, Mr B. Evans BC, Mrs C. Smith BHS, etc), and only then its an educated guess who was involved from the beginning.

    I’m surprised this thread has fallen so flat.
    This was pretty big news when it came out, or it should have been, but now it’s all but forgotten about.
    I know that for most people, and normal recreational riding, it doesn’t make much difference. I think most of us ride on the odd footpath now and then. 😉
    It would make a big difference to organised events though.
    Not just MTB orienteering and marathons like HONC, Dorset Gravel Dash and Brecon Beast, but informal club or shop rides too.
    My LBS, like many others, is talking about starting social rides, but they have to be seen to be doing the right thing, which means missing out a lot of the best local trails, as they are footpaths.

    There was thread on here recently about the CTC and their support for allowing cyclists to use footpaths.
    Did anything come of that ?

    All we really need, in my opinion, is a change in the written law to allow cyclist to ride on footpaths.
    There’s no need for any physical changes to make the paths suitable for cycling, which is what I would guess would put most local authorities off if they thought they had to spend money upgrading surfaces and gates.

    Premier Icon welshfarmer
    Subscriber

    The trouble with a blanket law to allow riding on footpaths is that not all footpaths are created equaly. I would agree that the UK ROWs network is a complete mess. There are ancient roads out there, which have even been tarmaced at council expense in the past, which due to poor classification and post NERC shenanigans are now footpaths. There are many tracks on open access land used by estates for moor management, or within the national forest networks, many of which are classified as footpaths, many with no classification. These could also be suitable for open access on bicycles. However, a blanket law saying it is fine to use footpaths with bikes is likely to result in conflict on many very popular walkers paths in National parks and urban fringe areas. A conflict the MTB comunity could well do without. No mattter how popular MTB is we are in a minority next to the walking fraternity. They will always get their way.

    And who is going to pay to upgrade stiles and to repair damage on farmland? It is bad enough having gates left open by walkers under the current access system where all the footpaths on my land are only on stiles (many walkers still prefer to use a gate and then proceed to leave it open costing time and money to put right). If stiles were swapped out for gates everywhere the problem would be amplified 100 fold.

    I would prefer to see a system whereby certain routes were upgraded or classified as cycle routes, and other key linking tracks/footpaths where conflict with other users could be mitigated were added to the network through permissive access agreements with landowners.

    Premier Icon eddie11
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    Not saying you’re wrong welsh farmer but the scots considered all that and it’s worked for them. I can see that it all seems a long way off in the manicured Home Counties but are Wales and northern England that different in farming practices, soil, weather, population to Scotland?

    The current system of ignoring the silly bits of access rules works for now but it feels a bit like the Greek approach to paying tax. It’ll get us in the end.

    Premier Icon scotroutes
    Subscriber

    As eddie11 says, heard all that before, read the submissions to the Scottish Government, sat through the debates in Holyrood. Guess what? The sky didn’t fall in.

    Premier Icon welshfarmer
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    Yes but most of Scottish farmers don’t live within 2 hours of 30 million people. Citing the Scottish or Scandavian model does not work for me. We do not have open access rules in place but you would not believe that to be the case as there is not a single week goes by when there are not people wandering willy nilly wherever they please over farmland around here, creating problems wherever they go, damaging fences, breaking gates, leaving gates open, dogs chasing sheep etc. The idea behind open access for all is commendable and is tied up with such wonderful phrases as “responsible use of the countryside”. Great, but a large minority of the public are not responsible, even when there are rules in place governing where they may or may not walk/ride/drive. Do you think these people will suddenly become more responsible if those rules were taken away?

    And I think if you were ask any of the farmers on the urban fringes of Glasgow and Edinburgh, then I think you might just find that for them, the sky has fallen in (judging by comments on this topic on the British Farming Forum).

    Premier Icon Northwind
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    welshfarmer – Member

    And I think if you were ask any of the farmers on the urban fringes of Glasgow and Edinburgh, then I think you might just find that for them, the sky has fallen in (judging by comments on this topic on the British Farming Forum).

    I know a bunch around Edinburgh, none of them find it a significant problem. There’s still irresponsible behaviour of course but that’s outwith the access code- it’s just the same crap they had to deal with before the right to responsible access was introduced.

    Oh, you said “who will pay to upgrade stiles”? Nobody, there’s no need.

    Defender
    Member

    Land access and rights of way are knotty and controversial issues and the legal position is a nightmare, and neither CROW or NERC did much to help.
    When you realise that in 1968 (IIRC) County Councils/Highway Authorities etc were given money by Westminster to sort out the haphazard classification of their rights of way and by the time CROW came along in 2000, only one in England had got sorted it out!
    I would hope that the regional assemblies or whatever they turn into can do something useful in this area.
    Although this issue isn’t high on their priority list it won’t get any better or go away.

    shedbrewed
    Member

    I read a lot on here with regards to cheeky riding on footpaths and very little with regards to bridleways.
    So many of those ancient roads would have been better kept as BOATs but not enough was done at the time by the various bodies who were in a position to do so.
    The point about responsible use is just as relevant to road use as well as off road.

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
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    The Welsh Government could make a decision about this,yes. And the proposal outlined further up for increased and simplified access for was pushed through for consultation by John Griffiths AM who is Minister to Culture and Sport and a thoroughly sound fella. I was involved in the consultation because of the BMC Cymru. Sadly there was representation for mtbing because there was nobody to represent mtbers. There was representation from the Ramblers, who had full-time staff working on it, the BMC https://www.thebmc.co.uk/show-your-support-for-our-open-wales-campaign , BCU, BHS etc…

    The whole thing was eventually defeated -temporarily at least – by the Anglers and Land Owners who mounted a massive campaign,backed up by legal teams.

    There was talk of taking the water part out of it and continuing with just land access but time had pretty much ran out. And we have an election soon so it’s unlikely the same ministers will hold the same roles. I believe, however, that the proposal has been given a status whereby it must be revisited in the next term, whoever is in government. Can’t see it getting the same attention from Plaid or the Tories though 🙁

    Am always keen to discuss representation for recreational mtbers in Wales. if anyone else wants to share thoughts/ideas, please get in touch.

    Premier Icon cloudnine
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    Would love to see the Wales coast path opened up for mtbs

    Defender
    Member

    “So many of those ancient roads would have been better kept as BOATs but not enough was done at the time by the various bodies who were in a position to do so.” (Shedbrewed)

    I agree with the first part about BOATs, but I was part of a group invovled in trying to presevre the status of BOATs etc, but the council/HA did evrything it could to block/stop this.
    From what I understand from others involved, LARA, GLASS, TRF etc., this was repeated in many parts of the country.

    ninfan
    Member

    I would prefer to see a system whereby certain routes were upgraded or classified as cycle routes, and other key linking tracks/footpaths where conflict with other users could be mitigated were added to the network through permissive access agreements with landowners.

    Welsh farmer, as a fairly committed campaigner on rights of way issues I agree with you here, the correct course of action would be exactly this, however experience tells me otherwise, essentially it would never happen, just look how few paths have been created through either the cycle tracks act or through bridle way creation orders, or even crow designations (which I would note the landowner can extend to cycle or horse access, and would be in their own favour as a very effective way of reducing their liability for accidents)

    Then we get to how few paths have been created using statutory powers of the council where it would be to the benefit of a substantial portion of the population, last one I was directly involved in took years to resolve and included public inquiry and PINS decision, ridiculously complex and longwinded process because of a stubborn landowner who had been in dispute with the council for years on planning issues so dug his heels in, the council undoubtebly had the powers to create the route but collapsed repeatedly in paralysis at their own unwillingness to use the powers they already had.

    The biggest problem IMO is that the whole system and mindset is stuck on historic rights, with no commitment by anyone in the system to look at what is needed now and into the future (and I would stress again here that the existing legislation is more than adequate to do this, and can achieve it quickly if utilised properly with a proper goal in mind, this is supposed to be what ROWIP were for) and in this I totally blame local authorities for not putting their own discussed goals into practice.

    If the only way to boot the process up the arse and get progress, stop the treacle feet and gravy boat running on is to allow bike access on all footpaths, even though in fact this would IMO have major drawbacks, then I think it should be done.

    Premier Icon Northwind
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    ninfan – Member

    The biggest problem IMO is that the whole system and mindset is stuck on historic rights, with no commitment by anyone in the system to look at what is needed now and into the future

    Absolutely… In most fields, if your answer is “because it’s always been like that” you get laughed at but in (non-scottish) land access it seems to be the only acceptable answer.

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
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    I think the problem is that mindset is stuck in historic rights. The actual system has served us reasonably well until recently. Just look at Ireland,where there are almost no rights of way, to see some positives. But yes, mindsets need to change and action needs to be taken. I just can’t see it happening until there is massive pressure. Think that nationally this is Achievable but tough. Think within Wales it is emminently doable… I’ve tried jigging up IMBA and WC/BC but so far have been met with complete lack of real interest. Where now?

    spockrider
    Member

    The way I see the situation in both Wales Ireland and England is that not enough Mountain Bikers or Cyclists are joining together to put pressure on the decisions makers. Is the IMBA even active in sourcing new members in the UK? Seems strong in the US and Canada for pushing the access issue but not in the UK or Ireland
    I also think that despite what the history of PROWs, Bridleways and Footpaths I see no recognition that there are now far less horses using Bridleways than riders on two wheels. I saw 2 horse riders last weekend and passed about 20 bikers. Was similar during the summer but even more bikers than horses. If we don’t get together and form a stronger representative body of mountain bikers and off road cyclists then there will never be changes to current access priorities, support for new access rights or ability to protect current access rights. Anything is possible if a strong group is willing to pursue these goals. It seems the IMBA has done much to support a few new bike parks in the UK. I don’t see much else to clarify whether they actually help UK and Ireland riders at all.

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
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    Agree Spockrider, and have even made efforts to try and do something. But can’t do it alone. And I frequently make calls for others to discuss things and perhaps take them forward but haven’t been inundated with contacts yet.

    Recreational mountain biking needs real representation but seems few mtbers really want it or are prepared to do anything about it.

    ninfan
    Member

    Well, part of that is the mentality revealed that IMBA or CTC should be doing it ‘on our behalf’ but nobody actually joining any of the organisations they expect to do it. Even where you find enough volunteers willing to do it and give their time (and We could probably get a decent network together) they need support and guidance, training in ROW law etc. and you can’t rely on their own generosity completely, you at least need to cover local reps expenses. IMO you would need a at least a couple of full time paid people to cover admin and coordination, meeting with councils, training, support etc.

    That lack of resources was the problem that scuppered IMBA, and I strongly suspect it’s why CTC have wound down their off-road operation again. I can say with absolute surety that a membership based organisation is not going to achieve this, so another funding stream needs to be found. Industry? Possibly, Government? Difficult as its all pumped into commuting and town cycling (see CTC again)

    The real short sightedness IMO here is that the balance is likely to start to tip back toward MTB expansion again after the wiggins/Olympic boom very soon, concerns over road safety if nothing else will see many of the MAMILS tip towards either leaving cycling behind or becoming MAMBAS after one too many close shaves on the road, likely under family/wife concern too (of course, I could be wrong here, there could be a sudden huge leap forward in road safety and the attitude of car drivers, you can but hope I suppose)

    Premier Icon molgrips
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    Hmm. Feel like I should get involved in this.

    What if the RTR was simply extended to bikes? Would this not create a large number of new trails in areas that would not cause the problems Farmer is talking about?

    MAMBAS

    Surely the opposite of a MAMIL is a MAMIB?

    ninfan
    Member

    Sorry – as seen at most trail centres of a weekend, Middle aged men in body armour 😀

    I should have thrown in above the importance of recent legislation changes like the deregulation bill, it’s all a bit up in the air at the moment and a lot of uncertainty, but could provide opportunities for ‘rights of way for the future’ also of note would be community infrastructure levies coming in to replace s106 planning offset, again opportunities for riders to badger their local councillors on opportunities for resources to go into bike facilities.

    Premier Icon molgrips
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    Oh yeah that’s better than mine 🙂

    Problem with MAMIBAs is that they tend to stick to trail centres, which is where the ramblers and the council would rather they stayed. Which isn’t great for the rest of us.

    ninfan
    Member

    True, the breakout of trail centre educated riders without the legacy of PROW experience is all the more reason we need to be educating downwards and representing upwards.

    Premier Icon molgrips
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    Ok so I do want to get involved. Where do I go?

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
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    I wholeheartedly agree with you ninfan. Although I do think a membership organisation could do this. I think one obvious example is the BMC, which I am an area Chair for, but am sure there are others.

    The real problem is getting it off the ground and moving. This would require a few dedicated souls doing quite a lot off their own backs and out of their own pockets…

    Sponsorship of any form scares me a bit – all sponsors will have competition and this could lead to one company supporting things and two others boycotting with their noses out of joint. Unless of course it was entirely charitable and therefore anonymous.

    Would have thought some kind of crowd funding might prove more fruitful?

    I’m willing, and know of a few others that are – especially in Wales.

    Can be emailed tom at mtbguiding dot co dot uk if you want to discuss in more detail.

    ninfan
    Member

    I know of something that may bear fruit organisation wise in the nearish future, but these wheels grind slowly.

    My best advice at the moment is to find out if there is a proper mountain biker on your local access forum (rather than a well meaning CTC member representing cyclists, and I mean that in the nicest way) and if not, try and join it.

    ninfan
    Member

    crowdfunding is an interesting idea. particularly if that and volunteer time was tied in towards match funding on a lottery grant?

    I think one of the difficulties with funding though is that as a disparate pastime we get lumped in with ‘sport’ like BC or ‘transport & saving the planet’ like CTC when neither is really the correct approach for what we do (any more than rambling would be well represented by either track and field organisations or recreational marathon runners)

    can we realistically push a ‘wheeled ramblers’ approach while also representing XC racers and downhillers?

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
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    Thanks. Have done so and no, and did, and wasn’t voted in! But it’s not such an issue here in Snowdonia (Snowdon excepted and I have been recently invited to join the Snowdon Agreement Group).

    As for something that may bear fruit in the nearish future, you may or may not be surprised at how many times I have heard this kind of thing so far. And that’s sort of why I’m getting so frustrated.

    If you know something/someone that’s doing something then please put them in touch. Can’t believe they couldn’t use some more energy and experience, as well as someone well-versed in the workings of the BMC and with the ear of the Welsh Government and the MTB press.

    Premier Icon molgrips
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    Wheeled ramblers – not a bad idea. It would differentiate those wishing to use the RoW network to explore, as Ramblers do, from those ‘hooligans tearing up the trails’ types (in the eyes of ramblers) who are building jumps and DH courses etc.

    Of course, we might be the same individuals in the various different groups, but they don’t need to know that..!

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
    Subscriber

    Exactly, think you’ve hit the nail on the head re the commuting/cycling for health/competition etc etc.

    The group of people that need representation are those that ride non-competitively and socially off-road purely for recreation. They aren’t trying to get anywhere and they aren’t trying to win anything.

    This is one way MTB is different from climbing – no-one climbs to work and the competition scene is very fringe.

    Guess this just needs tying down in a few succinct sentences…

    ninfan
    Member

    you may or may not be surprised at how many times I have heard this kind of thing so far. And that’s sort of why I’m getting so frustrated.

    I can’t discuss too much on open forum out of respect for the people involved, so will Email you direct about this and explain properly a bit later this evening.

    Molgrips, I think being a 40YO fat northern bloke has made it a bit easier for me at the LAF, as has the shooting & forestry background they can’t reinforce the adrenaline/lycra lout stereotype that they have laid towards the other mountain bike guy there, great though he is

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
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    @ ninfan Of course not, that would be great – thanks. Will be a lot easier to ‘talk’ on a proper PC too.

    Ironically a Snowdon access meeting in the morning!

    Cheers for now

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    I wonder if the rise of trail centres would help the perception of MTBers in that the DHers/junkies go there to get there fix leaving the ramblers out in the hills. I certainly take it far easier on natural trails now that I have the option of going to a trail centre to rip it up.

    shedbrewed
    Member

    mtbguiding – Member

    Exactly, think you’ve hit the nail on the head re the commuting/cycling for health/competition etc etc.

    The group of people that need representation are those that ride non-competitively and socially off-road purely for recreation. They aren’t trying to get anywhere and they aren’t trying to win anything.

    I would suggest that approach was pushed towards Welsh Gov and Visit Wales (who sit on and chair a pan-Wales MTB forum), paying particular attention to referencing the Active Travel Bill and the importance of Sustainability within tourism and leisure pursuits. Ken Skates would be the Minister to direct this toward.

    gwaelod
    Member

    Health benefits too…not just sustainability and tourism.

    Premier Icon mtbguiding
    Subscriber

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with riding hard responsibly though not so sure on the turn of phrase ‘ripping it up’ – sounds like damage is being done.

    And I’ve no problem with people riding close to their limits on natural stuff providing they can see ahead and can stop or slow down if/when needed. In other words in control. And choosing your day/place helps.

    But yes, agree that perhaps real adrenaline addicts are perhaps best on trail centres or even cheeky stuff where they don’t come into conflict with other users.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    In other words in control.

    That’s exactly what I am talking about. I do stuff at trail centres I wouldn’t do on natural trails.

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