England ‘missing out on cycle tourism due to trespass laws’
Sarah Barth September 10 2016
Rural tourism could be worth so much more if cyclists were just allowed to use the paths that are there
The whole of the English countryside should be opened up to cyclists and others in ann attempt to benefit rural tourism and health, according to the campaign group Cycling UK.
New laws should be passed to bring the country in line with Scotland, say the charity, where responsible access laws, off-road and leisure cycle tourism is estimated by Transform Scotland to contribute between £236.2m and £358m per year to the rural economy.
In a response to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee inquiry “Rural Tourism in England”, Cycling UK explained rural tourism, currently valued at £17bn a year in England, would benefit significantly as a result.
Responsible access laws mean walkers, cyclists and horse riders can access the countryside in all areas unless explicitly told they cannot. In England and Wales, entry to the countryside works to a “presumed trespass” model, restricting rights of way to a limited network, such as public footpaths and bridleways.
Cycling UK argues responsible access laws would not just benefit tourism and the leisure industry, but would also enhance the opportunities for motor traffic-free cycling, particularly for commuters and school children.
Under current laws cyclists have a right to use just 22% of England’s rights of way network.
Whether a route is a footpath, a bridleway or a byway is generally determined by its history of past usage, and not at all by its suitability. This can mean cycling may be permitted on an unrideable muddy bridleway but not on a tarmac-surfaced footpath, even where it is used privately by motor vehicles.
The EFRA Committee reports that while England has seen a rise in tourism spend in the past year from both domestic and international visitors, the majority of this is in the urban environment, with over 50% of international spend in London.