Cycling UK today (Thursday, 22 June) welcomed the opportunities presented by the Welsh Government’s consultation "Taking forward Wales’ sustainable management of natural resources" calling them “a landmark step towards increasing the opportunities for cycling, health and rural tourism.”
Launched on Wednesday 21 June, the Welsh Government presents a number of proposals designed to “Maintain and enhance the resilience of [Wales’] natural resources and ecosystems”.
Cycling UK welcomes the Welsh Government's proposals to allow cycling and horse riding on footpaths, similar to those provided for cycling on bridleways under the Countryside Act 1968. This would dramatically increase where people who cycle and ride horses can go, as currently they are only legally entitled to use around 21% of the rights of way network in Wales.
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 windfarm and utility tracks, and will look to make this case in response.
Commenting on the consultation, 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.”
Mark Weston, British Horse Society Director of Access added:
“The British Horse Society welcomes this consultation and looks forward to furthering these access opportunities with all stakeholders.”
Cycling UK’s Rides of Way Off-Road Report (2017) found off-road cycling was ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’ for 90% of off road cyclists, and for ‘very important’ for two thirds in terms of mental health and wellbeing.