Welsh Government consultation doc brings “landmark step” for MTB footpath access

Launched on Wednesday, the Welsh Government has published a consultation document that makes some very positive sounds in relation to access rights for mountain bikers.

On page 38 of the ‘Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources’ document the Welsh Government outlines that it hopes “To enable cycling and horse riding on footpaths to occur under the same conditions as those provided for cycling on bridleways under section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968.”

Cycling UK Chief Executive, 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.”

At present just 21% of the rights of way in Wales are legally accessible to cyclists.

This move follows on from the 2015 consultation ‘Improving opportunities to access the outdoors for responsible recreation’. Cycling UK and OpenMTB in their joint response called for increased cycle access in Wales and an outdoor access code to ensure responsible behaviour from all users, among a number of other measures. The consultation received 5,796 total responses, with over 4,000 responses backing Cycling UK and OpenMTB’s Trails for Wales campaign.

Equally, the national cycling charity is pleased to see proposals for the development of a “statutory code for access to the outdoors for recreation similar to that in place in Scotland under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003”. Understandably, there is concern from some elements of the public about potential for conflict between cyclists, walkers and horseriders. Cycling UK is keen to work with the Welsh Government and other stakeholders to ensure conflict is resolved before it can begin.

Similar increased access policies introduced in Scotland through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 have significantly benefited the Scottish economy. A Transform Scotland report estimated off-road and leisure cycle tourism contribute between £236.2m and £358m per year, and Cycling UK is keen to see Wales benefit likewise.

While welcoming the consultation, Cycling UK believes there is still opportunity for the Welsh Government to allow people to cycle on access and common land, such as windfarms and utility tracks, and will look to make this case in response.