Riding on footpaths- what is the worst that would happen?

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  • Riding on footpaths- what is the worst that would happen?
  • DanW
    Member

    Right then…

    Today I was faced with the choice of riding along a dual carriageway or through 2 fields of footpath. Only 2 options to get where I needed to go.

    I chose to use the footpath and promptly met the lovely couple living next to the field. The chap was very reasonable when I explained why I had made the choice and that I did not think I would do any damage to a wide and pretty dry path across a field with no animals in. The woman screamed at me and told me to piss off to the dual carriageway where she was not entirely concerned for my future safety ๐Ÿ˜‰

    In the end the chap said he didn’t have a problem despite the woman’s kind words still going on in the background. I walked the footpath so as not to take the p1ss too much having talked to them and tried to be reasonable.

    So my question is:
    What is the worst that would happen if caught cycling on a footpath?

    More generally it is rather frustrating that sections of bridleway end abruptly and turn to footpaths and the majority of the local countryside is footpaths regardless of the trail type. Even a lot of the countryside roads are designated footpaths.

    Today’s events just got me thinking that’s all…

    Premier Icon deadkenny
    Subscriber

    Legally? Nothing unless the land owner decides to prosecute you for trespass. It’s not a criminal offence to ride on them and generally the police won’t be involved unless the owner decides they want you off.

    Age old discussion though. Argue this to the nimbys and walkers…

    Their “right of way” as in the footpath is generally only there because of an act of deliberate mass trespass by walkers. Do they morally have a right then and why should not anyone else? Why should they have exclusive rights, and did the right of way really intend using it to let their dogs crap all over the path and leave it there or bag it up and stick the bag on the nearest tree?

    Why also should cyclists who are undertaking a healthy activity and have little more impact than a herd of ramblers, be treated like horses and confined to bridleways?

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Not much in reality.
    In some areas it can lead to conflict and access issues. In popular areas it’s just a plain bad idea to try and ride in the middle of 200 ramblers.

    The isue you have highlighted is mostly due to the mad way paths were classified many years ago. On parish council goes BW the next door one goes FP for no real reason.

    There are a few options one is the anything goes scottish approach
    another would be some grading due to suitability

    In the end of the day avoiding muddy boggy trails regardless of what they are would be good. This kind of common sense is a little hard to find though.

    Dales_rider
    Member

    Worse thing that can happen did, apart from a puncture, you got off and walked.

    DanW
    Member

    A quick glance here and here suggest that cycling on footpaths is only illegal if there are local council by-laws as deadkenny says.

    If the landowner wanted to be stupid about it then it seems they may pursue a civil case for trespass although I am unsure how a tyre mark fits in with this???

    Also seems fixed penalty notices only apply why the footpath is next to a road, i.e. a pavement not a countryside footpath.

    Does this seem about right?

    Anyone have any experience with outcomes of cycling on footpaths which are not just the usual ramblers shouting about the environment or similar?

    samuri
    Member

    When I’m on my bike and people want to argue with me for whatever reason, I find the worst that can happen is that I stop to argue with them. Being on a bike has two benefits:

    1. It’s awesome.
    2. I can ride off if people starting talking to me.

    HTH.

    andybloomer
    Member

    I’ve been chastised by folks recently for riding on the footpath but one of them actually started to cry when I told her I’m too scared to ride on the roads these days because recently I’ve lost 4 close friends under the wheels of cars/lorries. It soon makes them shut up.

    DanW
    Member

    I’ll make sure to look for landmines if I ever have the need to use the nice couple’s field again ๐Ÿ™‚

    Premier Icon mrelectric
    Subscriber

    Very little legal recourse but we have hearts & minds to win too, where very possible, on these shared routes. Apart from the antiquated law and arbitrary labelling, in practice, a Definitive Map recording designation as a FP does not mean other “higher rights” don’t exist, and often do. (See the excellent Byway & Bridleway newsletter). Being armed with the facts can calm a situation.

    Premier Icon mrelectric
    Subscriber

    You can bore the arse off them too.

    Greybeard
    Member

    Riding on a footpath without the landowner’s permission (in England or Wales) is trespassing; the landowner or representative can ask you to leave by the quickest (shortest?) route and use reasonable force to make sure you do. You are liable for any damage you do (that’s probably the biggest risk). Trespass is a civil matter not a criminal offence. The owner can go to court and get an injunction to stop a named person coming on the land, but you don’t have tell them your name which makes it hard for them.

    If you’re pushing a bike you probably are considered to be a pedestrian and can legally use the footpath – there are different views on this and I’m not sure if it’s been resolved. Whether you can, if asked to leave, push the bike instead I don’t know. Also I don’t know if the owner can tell you to leave by a particular route, or if you can legally say ‘the quickest way off your land is if I ride down this hill’. If you are injured by (say) a dog or a bull while trespassing I think you may have a case but not as good as if you were there legally.

    I am not a lawyer, and may not be 100% correct.

    Premier Icon deadkenny
    Subscriber

    Some places also give you a right of way by the landowners even where official public footpaths cross the land. The Hurtwood lands in the Surrey Hills are a classic example of open access. With a couple of exceptions for conservation purposes, open to all, walkers, bikes, dogs, horses, even on the public footpaths.

    Kevevs
    Member

    Is’s not something I’d worry about too much, unless it’s specifically designed for disabled access or something with big No Cycling signs, or it’s a ride with loads of other bods that are going to pish walkers off. It’s an issue of common sense I reckon. Don’t know if STW does that.

    Gary_C
    Member

    Were the couple the landowners over which the footpath passed?

    DanW
    Member

    I don’t know for sure but assumed they were the landowners when they started referring to the field as “my field” and they came out of the neighbouring house. If I could plainly see they were just walkers I would have been tempted to carry on and be overly polite.

    Thanks Greybeard. As far as I can tell with a quick search pushing a bike makes you a “passenger of a vehicle” or something equally daft and is compared to riding a push scooter rather than being a pedestrian. I think technically you can’t even push a bike on a footpath.

    Of course, with all of this common sense on both sides would hopefully prevail but I got curious today as to what could (or has???) happened if the landowner got out of the bed on the wrong side…

    dannyh
    Member

    ask yourself why it is nearly always the female half that has a pop. next time, just ask her how many shags it takes to get a nice house in the country.

    it does not matter whether you really think this is true or not, but it will definitely get a reaction.

    alternatively, you have actually done the best thing by being reasonable, but every so often it won’t hurt to give a little back.

    DanW
    Member

    My preferred option for riding cheeky trails (not riding through a field to stay off a dual carriageway which is somewhat more justifiable) is also to be so polite it winds them up even more. Being cheery does funny things to an irate person ๐Ÿ™‚

    samuri
    Member

    If it was their field they’d have been very specific about you being on their land. Both of them. That’s my guess. She was just pissed off about seeing cyclists shooting past in their awesome clothing on their awesome bikes.

    If it was their land they’d have threatened you with legal action and all sorts of stuff and they would both have been on it. No doubt the guy was struggling with conflict between supporting his wife while still trying to rationalise the insanity she was spewing. If it was a sensible issue (because it was their land), he’d have been really supportive of her.

    Basically, there haven’t been any prosecutions, so there isn’t much case law. There is however some case law that suggests that pushing a bike does classify you as a pedestrian, and does give you right of way on a footpath. I’m not sure if that right remains if the landowner has already caught you cycling, and therefore trespassing, on his land. If that right remains then you could just continue your journey on foot, if it doesn’t then the landowner could ask you to leave his land by the shortest route. I guess even after that you could re-enter their land so long as you were pushing the bike and keeping to the footpath, although maybe not the best idea in terms of keeping the peace.

    Only the landowner or someone representing the landowner can tell you not to cycle on a footpath. For all anyone else knows you could have permission to cycle on the land. The landowner can ask you to leave his land, and can use reasonable force, or instruct someone else to use reasonable force, to make you leave. Obviously using any sort of force without first asking you to leave would be unacceptable, as are threats/use of violence.

    It’s not a criminal matter, so the police won’t be involved if they can avoid it, and you won’t get any criminal charges unless other offences are also committed. The landowner can pursue you through the civil courts for damages caused by trespassing, but as far as I know there is no record of this ever happening because of cycling on a footpath. Unless you trash a large amount of crops or fences or something it simply won’t be worth pursuing you. It would also, of course rely on them knowing who you are in order to take you to court.

    Kevevs
    Member

    D’you reckon she was on a new years diet/giving up the fags and feeling crap and grumpy about herself? bit irate at a nice healthy cyclist enjoying the outdoors? haha, people can be wierd. should’ve told her to get a bike and all the positive outcomes cycling could hold for her physical and mental wellbeing. Or just forget about it cos other people are just different people! People like that used to wind me up, now it’s just “whatever”. The worst that could happen is you get told off by someone or other. Oh my.

    There’s very little anyone can do if your caught riding on a footpath, I have a footpath that runs from my estate to the main road clearly saying no bikes but I still use it as a short cut on my bike, when walkers stop littering or letting their dogs crap on the path then I will stop riding along it, besides I always stop when I approach a walker and have never been challenged by anyone yet.

    As long as your respectful then I don’t see why we can’t co-exist on footpaths. Call it hypocritical I do take exception to riding on pavements.

    labsey
    Member

    What if you carry the bike? Are you still a passenger?

    To the OP, I’d have done the same.

    DanW
    Member

    The other thing that prompted this thread was on my way home there were at least 4 yellow Police notices at the start of footpaths (6 miles away from where I bumped in to the couple- not the same area) which said something along the lines of “Successful prosecution in this area. Anti-social behavior will not be tolerated”. Perhaps there have been kids drinking/ riding quads/ whatever in the area? Kind of then though ooh er I wonder if the village mob will restrain me for using any more footpaths (I stuck to the road anyway)

    DanW
    Member

    I believe that just by having the bike around you you are still technically a passenger. But, as it doesn’t seem there are any instances of cycling on footpaths going through the courts there is even less likely chance or carrying a bike on a footpath ever making waves in the legal world

    No, as I mentioned, case law suggests that you count as being on foot if pushing a bike:

    “Pushing a cycle on a footpath was a grey area in law but has now been resolved – anyone pushing a bicycle is a “foot-passenger” (Crank v Brooks [1980] RTR 441) and is not “riding” it.”

    poly
    Member

    The worst that can happen? Probably you accidentally hit a frail old lady knocking her to the ground and fatally wounding her and you end up being charged with manslaughter… …how likely that is will very much depend on the path, your riding style, the popularity of the path etc.

    I would probably have done the same as you, but its worth bearing in mind that MANY dual carriageways are not inherently dangerous, and with confidence/assertiveness and high vis clothing you can ride them comfortably. If it were likely to be a regular problem for me, I’d write to the local council asking them to: either upgrade the cycle provision on the road OR provide a safe off road alternative, and get as many others to do the same as possible.

    DanW
    Member

    PleaderWilliams- Does the designation “foot passenger” therefore count you truely as a pedestrian or by the presence of the “passenger” part imply you still have something to do with the vehicle (bike) which is not permitted on the footpath?

    On the one hand there would be no way to negotiate a pavement in an urban area but on the other hand pushing a bike leaves much the same footprint as riding a bike on a countryside footpath assuming of course that you would not normally be skidding all over the place when riding.

    dekadanse
    Member

    I ride on footpaths as well as BWs locally. I’m friendly polite and respectful to walkers, indicate that they have right of way etc. Try to make them smile if poss. Even make a fuss of their dog if they have one. It works 99 times out of 100. Local farmer (landowner) was initially hostile when he caught me a few years ago. However even he has mellowed – last time he smiled and said I was fine. The battle of hearts and minds etc…

    enfht
    Member

    Be polite up until the point the silly bitch became abusive then all bets are off and can say what you like in return. Faced with a FP or a dual carriageway its a no brainer so don’t let some stupid tart influence your decision. With hindsight you should have stopped for a well timed piss.

    Premier Icon bruneep
    Subscriber

    I’m glad I don’t have to put up with all that shit here.

    enfht
    Member

    I’m glad I don’t have to put up with all that shit here

    Put up with what, silly flags on footpaths? ๐Ÿ˜†

    Premier Icon Nobeerinthefridge
    Subscriber

    Not a footpath, it’s a path!. Only a footpath darn sarf.

    enfht
    Member

    Sorry, I meant to say fooooooootputh ๐Ÿ˜‰

    highclimber
    Member

    bruneep – Member
    I’m glad I don’t have to put up with all that shit here.

    you are TJ and I claim my ยฃ5 (English)

    thepodge
    Member

    Trespass doesn’t have to be physical damage

    Didn’t some guy get taken to court for frightening birds on a shoot meaning the shoot organiser wanted to claim for lost earnings?

    Dales_rider
    Member

    As far as it goes, its very hard to be prosecuted for trespass as its not a criminal offence.
    On the other hand you can be prosecuted for criminal damage, which can include damage to vegetation.
    I’ll not put the facts on here but 2 friends and myself were, earlier this century, yes 21st century. Local Police were a bit annoyed at the time wasted but the local Duke has friends in high places. This was on Moor Land in the Dales !!!

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Subscriber

    have a footpath that runs from my estate to the main road clearly saying no bikes

    For a brief moment imagined you setting of from a manor house across your own lands, sadly your etate is shared like the rest of us

    Premier Icon crazy-legs
    Subscriber

    It’s very difficult to get properly done for it. The worst you could expect is an argument and some possible future retalition in the form of biker traps which sadly seem to be cropping up more regularly – the much-publicised story last week about traps in the woods around Saddleworth & Chew Plantation.

    nbt off here got into a bit of an argument when about 7 of us (rather unwisely) rode down a local FP in the Peak District. We buggered off out of sight leaving him to debate the niceties of historical access rights which he did very well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Other than the, the worst I’ve had, even in the overcrowded Peak District is a few tuts or comments about “bikes not being allowed here” to which my standard reply of “I know, how silly” leaves most people thoroughly confused. ๐Ÿ™‚

    gusamc
    Member

    DalesRider

    I was just going to post the bit about ‘criminal damage’ – which is a criminal offence, – I read somewhere to carry some sweeties/money etc and when challenged to offer them in ‘as compensation for any potential damage caused’ or something weird like that.

    If you could post anything that might help others understand this area more I’d appreciate it.

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