Campaign win: Agriculture Bill could facilitate more off-road cycling

Campaign win: Agriculture Bill could facilitate more off-road cycling

On Wednesday 12 September, the Government published their new Agriculture Bill, covering the arrangements for agricultural payment and subsidies post-brexit for farmers and landowners. Cycling UK off-road policy advisor, Kieran Foster explains how this could benefit cyclists.

First off the Agriculture Bill could spell out good news for off-road cycling. It places financial support for improved countryside access front and centre of its proposals - in paragraph 1, section 1b of the bill – which is exactly what Cycling UK’s “Get on my Land” campaign was calling for.

Cycling UK is convinced that this has come about as a result of consistent lobbying to ensure the acceptance of public access as a form of public good by a determined coalition of user groups including Cycling UK, The British Horse Society (BHS), Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society.

It’s a great example of how we can all work together to influence government policy and should be recognised as a huge win.

Of course - the devil is in the detail. The Ramblers have lobbied hard for money to go into maintaining the network of existing rights of way. Both Cycling UK and the BHS want to see the bridleway network expanded and further access for cycles and horses, as we lobbied for in Wales through our Trails for Wales campaign, further access for cycles and horses.

The Agriculture Bill looks as though it will allow access funding to extend beyond purely agricultural land into woodland and other countryside.

Kieran Foster, Cycling UK off-road policy advisor

The Agriculture Bill looks as though it will allow access funding to extend beyond purely agricultural land into woodland and other countryside.

Why is this important?

It potentially means funding could be used to open up disused rail routes and other tracks - perhaps as bridleways or restricted byways - that would improve access for a wide variety of users. Cycling UK is also really keen for projects like this to be a focus for wider environmental improvements such as hedgerow creation and conservation headlands. Doing this would both enhance biodiversity and encourage people to connect with and enjoy nature.

Cycling UK’s focus going forward will be to ensure that the future direction for countryside access seeks to encourage more people to get out there and be active in the countryside. We’re busy behind the scenes talking to organisations like Natural England about making their flagship national trails more accessible for bikes and horses, and backing this up with our "Be Nice Say Hi” campaign to encourage responsible use of shared routes by all users.

Our work is by no means done, but with our main concerns now front and centre of the Agriculture Bill, the first battle is won.

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