You will know from our blogs that many members of our personal injury and medical negligence teams are sporty types, with cycling and horse-riding being up there as favourites.

John Knight - Head of Cycling Claims at Ringrose Law

John Knight – Head of Cycling Claims at Ringrose Law

But the problem both types of rider face is having safe spaces in which to carry out those activities.  The roads are becoming very dangerous for both.  They are classed as “vulnerable” road users and the recently published new Highway Code reflects and emphasises that with its “hierarchy” of vulnerability.

Sometimes even a fairly short road distance between the starting point and a safe and pleasant place to ride is just too risky.  Thus, the numbers able to take part in what are actually very desirable activities are dwindling, though paradoxically, both would love to do more.

The government is quite rightly concerned about the increasing numbers of obese children and adults, which can lead to all sorts of health problems and pressure on the NHS, at a time when it doesn’t need it.  The pandemic showed us that people ARE interested in mental health, well-being and the environment and how important getting out and about is in maintaining these.

Exercise can certainly help, but how to do it safely? The infra-structure is just not there.

Well, one thing that can be done is you could sign up to a petition calling for the de-restriction of footpaths, off-road cycle routes and bridleways, as promoted by the Yorkshire Post newspaper this week.  The idea is to promote such routes being turned into “public rights of way” open to all including cyclists, horse-riders and pedestrians, thus increasing access to the countryside, or indeed cycling to work and school, in a safe and sustainable way.

We are not saying this wouldn’t be without its initial problems.  The various groups would have to respect each other’s restrictions-horses can be frightened by cyclists speeding past and pedestrians don’t really want several tons of horse galloping past them at some speed.  Dogs would need to be kept under control and land use and animals respected. Landowners will probably have their objections to an increase in the number and type of “traffic” on their land.  But if the will is there, solutions can surely be found?

As the Yorkshire Post’s Editor, Sophie McCandlish says:

      “Responsibility has to be taken and the Countryside Code promoted and adhered to as strictly as the Highway Code.  Everyone who uses the countryside has a duty of care to the landscape, the animals and the people who live and  work in it”

We have to remember that for many, what seems to us “just a field” is in fact their “office” or “creative space” or “manufacturing workshop”.  It’s not a free for all playground.

But it could be done- Scotland has its Right To Roam and that seems to work well. The government seems interested, because in February this year, it scrapped the cut- off date for registering rights of way on the “definitive map”.  Had they not done so, then many ancient and re-discovered  rights of way would have been lost forever by not being included.

The petition is here:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/610936

It will run for 6 months, with a closing date of 21 September 2022.

Why are we asking people to do this?

Well, apart from it seeming a good idea, a petition needs 10,000 signatures before the government is required to formally “respond”.  If the number of signatures reaches 100,000, then the petition can be debated in Parliament.

So numbers and signatures are crucial.

It is not something likely to happen overnight, but we should be looking to the future and for the generations to come, so they can benefit. Even if it just raises awareness of the idea and the issue, it will be a step in the right direction (excuse the intentional pun….)

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