We brought you news in June that the landmark proposal to bring Scottish style open access to Wales had been shelved by the Welsh Government despite responses to a consultation being overwhelmingly in favour. Cycling UK is now urging the Welsh Government not to lose momentum in its proposals to improve public access.
Our source, Cycling Industry News brings us the following update as we celebrate 50 years of being allowed to access bridleways on bikes in the UK.
This move fifty years ago helped grant cyclists in England and Wales access to just over 20% of all rights of way.But since then there has been little change, meaning riders are not allowed on 80 per cent of the rights of way network.
Recently, the Welsh Government proposed to open its rights of way up to allow more cycling. This was roundly welcomed by Cycling UK through its Trails for Wales campaign, which we told you about here. Public support for thw proposal was huge, with 16,468 out of a total of 17,391 responses supporting a change to access laws in response to the Government’s consultation “Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources” in September 2017.
CIN reports that Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “While Cycling UK today celebrates our victory 50 years ago of being able to ride on traffic free routes in our countryside, we’re also looking to the future and what else can be improved.
“There’s a huge sway of public support for change to rights of way in Wales, and it’s a missed opportunity if they continue to sit on the fence on this important issue. The Government sought the public’s opinion for their own proposals on how they could improve conditions for cycling off-road. A minority disagreed with an overwhelming majority, and now progress on public rights of way has been kicked into the long grass.”
In response to its decision, the Welsh Government in June 2018 announced, “now is not the right time for substantive reform” citing “strong but differing views”. Cycling UK has since written to Minister for the Environment, Hannah Blythyn AM, seeking an explanation for this move, and seeking a meeting to discuss next steps and how to improve countryside access pending future changes to the law.
In the UK, only the Scottish Government has passed laws to improve access, with the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This law allows people the right to access and cross land for recreational and educational purposes, unless expressly forbidden to do so. Consequently local tourism has boomed, with cycle tourism estimated to generate between £236 and £358 million for the Scottish economy each year.
We hope there are further, more positive updates in the future. We will as ever keep you updated.
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