Filthy bridleway

Nearholmer
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by Nearholmer »

If ever I do get taken to court over pushing my bike along a rural footpath, I shall argue in my defence that a bike is very much my usual accompaniment when walking in the country, because the only reason I walk in the country is to get between bits of bridleway where I cycle. Anyone’s guess as to whether it will succeed as a defence.
pwa
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by pwa »

Nearholmer wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 5:54pm If ever I do get taken to court over pushing my bike along a rural footpath, I shall argue in my defence that a bike is very much my usual accompaniment when walking in the country, because the only reason I walk in the country is to get between bits of bridleway where I cycle. Anyone’s guess as to whether it will succeed as a defence.
The chances of you being asked not to push your bike on a public footpath are vanishingly small. People are more likely to appreciate you getting off and walking, making things safer and easier for other walkers.
Nearholmer
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by Nearholmer »

As I said above, it has happened once, in all the years I’ve been doing it.
Last edited by Nearholmer on 12 Mar 2024, 10:32pm, edited 2 times in total.
Pete Owens
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by Pete Owens »

As usual with these debates there is a confusion between lack of rights and prohibitions.
And also between public rights of way and useable paths, tracks and the like.

A public right of way only means that the public is allowed as of right to traverse the route -
On foot - on a public footpath
Plus on horse or bike on a public bridleway
Plus with a horse drawn vehicle or a restricted byway
Plus in motor vehicle on a byway open to all traffic (BOAT)

But that is all it means - the line of a PRoW may not correspond to the line of a path on the ground, or there may not be any trace on the ground at all. The route may not even be passable(I certainly would strongly advise anyone against attempting to ride a bike on one of the rights of way crossing Morecambe Bay even if they are legally entitled to do so as of right). The only thing you can expect is that the landowner cannot obstruct your passage, with a locked gate for example, or provide a stile on a vehicular right of way.

The absence of a right of way does not mean a route is prohibited. A motorable road may be designated as a public footpath and many paths, tracks and so on are not designated as any form of right of way at all. The landowner may choose to prohibit access by placing signs
or locked gates and so on. But just because a route is designated as a public footpath does not mean of itself that cycling is illegal. For that you need explicit no cycling signs.

Then we come to pavements (or footways in the legal sense). These should not be confused with footpaths. Here a footway as part of a larger highway reserved for the exclusive use of pedestrians. Here cycling IS illegal unless a highway authority explicitly designates it as shared use and puts up blue signs.

Then there are purpose built cycleways, greenways and the like. These are intended for cycle use, but are rarely designated as rights of way. No one is going to stop you using them but since your use is not a right they can be closed at any time if the landowner decided they wanted to.
AndyK
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by AndyK »

pwa wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:31am
If the track discussed here were just a bridleway, I'd be inclined to say that the mud is just something to put up with at this time of year, if the landowner isn't minded to allow upgrading. The law does not require bridleways to be cyclable. But as it is in fact restricted byway, the legal situation may be different. I don't know.

https://www.google.com/maps/@50.9473616 ... ?entry=ttu
This looks like the area concerned.

Maybe this?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rhby3SjzsZw
That's the one. Your Streetview pegman is standing on the border between Southampton City Council and Hampshire County Council. If you turn it around 180 degrees and go a few clicks south, you'll find yourself on a surfaced public road maintained by SCC.

Practical differences between bridleways and restricted byways (RBs) as I understand it:
  • Horse-drawn carriages may use RBs.
  • RBs may not be ploughed up for planting, whereas bridleways and footpaths may be. (Highways Act 1980. Should be restored within 14 days.)
  • Different minimum width requirements. Default minimum width for a bridleway that's not along a field edge is 2m. RBs, Byways Open To All Traffic (BOATs) and bridleways along a field edge must be at least 3m wide. (HA 1980 again)
That width requirement may be overridden for individual paths by the Definitive Statement recorded by the council, which describes each right of way in writing. The Definitive Statement for this path describes it as being 8ft wide for most of its length, but that statement hasn't been updated since 2008 so it doesn't reflect the path's change of status. (Yes, the rights-of-way team probably has something of a backlog...)

Otherwise, much the same. The landowner has no responsibility to maintain the surface to a particular standard. If the council were to adopt it as a maintained road - even an "unsurfaced" one - that would be different. But it would then be a highway, not just a right-of-way, and it would be the council's responsibility to look after it.

I think a lot of the confusion comes from the use of the word "byway", which has quite a loose definition in normal speech but a very limited one in law.
drossall
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by drossall »

Pete Owens wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:04pmBut just because a route is designated as a public footpath does not mean of itself that cycling is illegal. For that you need explicit no cycling signs.
I'm not sure I understand this. As I see it, if a route is designated as a public footpath, there is no more reason to believe that cycling is allowed than for cutting across a random field where no rights of way are designated at all. That way lies anarchy, surely? Unless we are going to deny property rights entirely, we have to have some respect and ride where we actively know that we are allowed to do so, rather than anywhere except where we know that we cannot.
jgurney
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by jgurney »

drossall wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:15pm
Pete Owens wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:04pmBut just because a route is designated as a public footpath does not mean of itself that cycling is illegal. For that you need explicit no cycling signs.
I'm not sure I understand this. As I see it, if a route is designated as a public footpath, there is no more reason to believe that cycling is allowed than for cutting across a random field where no rights of way are designated at all. That way lies anarchy, surely? Unless we are going to deny property rights at all, we have to have some respect and ride where we actively know that we are allowed to do so, rather than anywhere except where we know that we cannot.
You are both right. A route being a public footpath does not create any reason to suppose that cycling is allowed there, and neither does it of itself mean that cycling there would be an unlawful act.

A public footpath may, for example, also be a permissive bridleway or pass over land owned by a local authority (e.g. in a park) which allows cycling there without creating any permanent right to do so.

I tend to agree that in the absence of reasons to think otherwise it is wiser to proceed on the assumption that cycling is not allowed anywhere which is not a highway or other right of way.
pwa
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by pwa »

jgurney wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:51pm
drossall wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:15pm
Pete Owens wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:04pmBut just because a route is designated as a public footpath does not mean of itself that cycling is illegal. For that you need explicit no cycling signs.
I'm not sure I understand this. As I see it, if a route is designated as a public footpath, there is no more reason to believe that cycling is allowed than for cutting across a random field where no rights of way are designated at all. That way lies anarchy, surely? Unless we are going to deny property rights at all, we have to have some respect and ride where we actively know that we are allowed to do so, rather than anywhere except where we know that we cannot.
You are both right. A route being a public footpath does not create any reason to suppose that cycling is allowed there, and neither does it of itself mean that cycling there would be an unlawful act.

A public footpath may, for example, also be a permissive bridleway or pass over land owned by a local authority (e.g. in a park) which allows cycling there without creating any permanent right to do so.

I tend to agree that in the absence of reasons to think otherwise it is wiser to proceed on the assumption that cycling is not allowed anywhere which is not a highway or other right of way.
Me too. But in the case outlined in the original post, we seem to have a block of forest with a Restricted Byway (green light for cycling) and other tracks that, if signage does not indicate otherwise, I would take to have tacit acceptance of cycling. Where the tracks seem to be of adequate width to allow walkers and sensible cyclists to pass comfortably. That is my default approach in public access forests without signage to indicate otherwise.
rareposter
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by rareposter »

pwa wrote: 13 Mar 2024, 9:08am if signage does not indicate otherwise, I would take to have tacit acceptance of cycling. Where the tracks seem to be of adequate width to allow walkers and sensible cyclists to pass comfortably. That is my default approach in public access forests without signage to indicate otherwise.
I agree with that comment and in fact if a signposted FP is of suitable width and surface to permit cycling, I'll often just ride it - with suitable regard to weather conditions, how busy it is and so on.

Not far from mine there's a stretch of moor with two parallel tracks, one a well-surfaced FP, one a muddy BW. The BW is the legal route for bikes. No cyclist uses it because it's on a peat / grass base, is muddy, bumpy and slow. The FP is on a rock base so its pretty much impervious to erosion, it's wide and well-cared for cos it can (at popular times) get a lot of walkers along it but at quiet times, given a choice of the two, which would you ride?!

No-one bothers about it, the legal designation is effectively understood to be a historical hangover from way before bikes were invented so the sensible approach prevails.

In fact, the more cyclists ride routes like that, the more clout there is to get trails upgraded. This case for example:
https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/success- ... walla-crag
pwa
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by pwa »

rareposter wrote: 13 Mar 2024, 9:44am
pwa wrote: 13 Mar 2024, 9:08am if signage does not indicate otherwise, I would take to have tacit acceptance of cycling. Where the tracks seem to be of adequate width to allow walkers and sensible cyclists to pass comfortably. That is my default approach in public access forests without signage to indicate otherwise.
I agree with that comment and in fact if a signposted FP is of suitable width and surface to permit cycling, I'll often just ride it - with suitable regard to weather conditions, how busy it is and so on.

Not far from mine there's a stretch of moor with two parallel tracks, one a well-surfaced FP, one a muddy BW. The BW is the legal route for bikes. No cyclist uses it because it's on a peat / grass base, is muddy, bumpy and slow. The FP is on a rock base so its pretty much impervious to erosion, it's wide and well-cared for cos it can (at popular times) get a lot of walkers along it but at quiet times, given a choice of the two, which would you ride?!

No-one bothers about it, the legal designation is effectively understood to be a historical hangover from way before bikes were invented so the sensible approach prevails.

In fact, the more cyclists ride routes like that, the more clout there is to get trails upgraded. This case for example:
https://www.cyclinguk.org/blog/success- ... walla-crag
The whole Rights of Way thing is a bit of a tangle of imperfect law and varied practice, wonderful but deeply flawed, and a bit of discretion is required to get the best out of it. To go to an extreme example to illustrate a point, a Public Footpath that I would definitely not cycle on is a stretch of the Wales Coast Path a couple of miles from here, where the surface is dense clay (slippery after rain, soft after weeks of rain) and the path is a narrow channel between a fence and gorse/ blackthorn. It is well used by walkers. Opposing walkers can pass with care, but the introduction of wide MTB bars would create an awkwardness that would be unwelcome. If that stretch ever became popular with MTBers (which it, to their credit, hasn't) that would be a cause of friction.https://www.google.com/maps/@51.4001746 ... ?entry=ttu

But as you say, other Public Footpaths are different. It is a case by case thing. And many Public Footpaths are officially open to cycling because of other reasons. I will be walking on one such this afternoon, in publicly owned forestry. And if I meet anyone on a bike, from experience I can say that I will gather up my whippet, the cyclist will say thank you, we will probably find something friendly to say to each other, and everyone will be happy.
MikeF
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by MikeF »

Cycling along a public footpath is an act of trespass against the landowner unless the landowner has allowed cycling, as otherwise you haven't any right to be riding a bike there. Having said that I often ride along a short twitten which then leads to a public road and then to an access road that becomes a track over which there runs a public footpath. This then leads to a private estate road where the public footpath continues. This is a very convenient access from our house to places further afield,but I'm always very careful if there are pedestrians using the PROW.
"It takes a genius to spot the obvious" - my old physics master.
I don't peddle bikes.
Nearholmer
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by Nearholmer »

Cycling along a public footpath is an act of trespass against the landowner unless the landowner has allowed cycling
It might be, and it might not be.

What constitutes trespass is a fairly complex matter, and since there doesn’t appear to be relevant case law, nobody is totally sure whether riding a bike on a FP constitutes a trespass of itself, or not.

(I am aware that CUK’s published advice is that it does constitute a trespass, but I’m not sure how they’re sure.)
Pete Owens
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by Pete Owens »

drossall wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:15pm
Pete Owens wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:04pmBut just because a route is designated as a public footpath does not mean of itself that cycling is illegal. For that you need explicit no cycling signs.
I'm not sure I understand this. As I see it, if a route is designated as a public footpath, there is no more reason to believe that cycling is allowed than for cutting across a random field where no rights of way are designated at all.
If you don't understand then imagine the opposite case - The government enacts a law hat makes it illegal to go anywhere that is not explicitly a right of way. (and I wouldn't put it past the current lot to attempt to outlaw trespass) So from tomorrow:

You want to visit your local park - not a right of way - illegal.
You want to visit a shop in a private arcade - not a right of way - illegal.
You want to cross a car park to reach a supermarket - not a right of way - illegal.
You want to stroll across your housing estate on purpose built paved paths - not rights of way - illegal.
You want to ride along the Bristol-Bath cycleway - not a right of way - illegal.
You want to walk along a beach, go rock climbing, go caving... not rights of way - illegal.
You want to ride on a forest track - not a right of way - illegal.

Now you are not accessing any of these places by right. The council may close the park at night or for a special event, the arcade might be locked outside shopping hours, a landowner may charge to visit a cave or a waterfall, they might bar access to the forest track with a locked gate, on a public footpath there may be stiles or kissing gates that are impassable on a bike. But the absence of a right does not of itself mean a prohibition.
Pete Owens
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by Pete Owens »

jgurney wrote: 12 Mar 2024, 10:51pm You are both right. A route being a public footpath does not create any reason to suppose that cycling is allowed there, and neither does it of itself mean that cycling there would be an unlawful act.
Indeed, the way that rights of way are established in the first place is by habitual use of the route.
If your starting point is to assume that people are not allowed to go places where there is no right of way then there would be no rights of way at all and we would all be confined within the boundaries of our own property.
drossall
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Re: Filthy bridleway

Post by drossall »

What matters, I think, is what you do as a result of points such as these. I'm not sure I'm entirely disagreeing with you, and jgurney is correct that we're both right. But I would not want to encourage people to cycle on public footpaths on the basis of the absence of No Cycling signs. Whilst you're right also that rights of way are established by use, I'm not sure it would be good to try to establish a new bridleway on a current footpath by using it a lot by bike.

That point about establishment by use is why of course you get signs (mostly in town) to say that the landowner has not dedicated this path as a public right of way (i.e. you can walk along it, just don't try to use that to claim doing so as a right), and bizarre practices such as barricading country paths on Christmas Day (or other times when no-one wants to use them anyway), so that it can be demonstrated that the path has not been in continuous use for a whole year.

There has to be some respect for property rights as well as respect for the public's rights of way. The whole system generally collapses if anyone tries to claim one set of rights to the exclusion of others.
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