Dominic is the prize guy in our off-road survey

York's Dominic Littler with his iPad Mini after winning our off-road survey prize draw

Dominic is the prize guy in our off-road survey

York’s Dominic Littler has won an iPad Mini after taking part in the first national survey of off-road cycling activity in England and Wales.

Nearly 11,500 people took part in the survey, run by Cycling UK and OpenMTB – and Dominic’s name was first out of the hat in the prize draw open to all entrants.

The 24-year-old said: “Anything that improves access to mountain biking for others should be encouraged in my book and it’s great that Cycling UK and OpenMTB are finding out people’s views and trying to get something done. To have won an iPad Mini in the prize draw really is the icing on the cake.

“I cannot overstate the importance of cycling to my mental health. I suffer from severe social anxiety disorder and depression, and mountain biking is one of the few activities that lets me leave those things behind.”

Increased access for cyclists has remained high on the agenda following Cycling UK and OpenMTB’s high-profile joint ‘Trails for Wales’ campaign late last year.

In particular, through the recent off-road survey, Cycling UK wants to understand whether the current system of Public Rights of Way causes unnecessary confusion or alienates new riders.

Under current laws cyclists have a right to use a mere 22% of England’s Rights of Way network, and just 21% in Wales.

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.

Over 50% of the 11,482 people who took part in the Cycling UK/OpenMTB off-road survey backed ‘increased access’ as the number one campaign goal, with 74% considering the Rights of Way system unsuitable. A total of 65% quoted ‘lack of choice’ as their reason for using footpaths, with 52% saying it was ‘to avoid traffic danger’.

Making public footpaths accessible for cyclists where it’s safe and sensible to do so would improve things not only for myself, but it would make it easier for me to encourage other new riders to join me.”

Dominic Littler, winner of our off-road survey prize draw

Dominic, who cycles both on and off-road, said: “The existing Public Rights of Way network often makes it difficult to put together a ‘legal’ route.

“Many public bridleways near me in York have short sections that are made up of footpaths. Avoiding those sections would often mean not using the bridleway at all, and sometimes it is the only reasonable way to connect up a ride or avoid an area of heavy or dangerous traffic.

“A lot of footpaths are perfectly safe and usable for cycling and could easily be accessed simply by recategorising them.

“From my house it’s a two to three-mile ride to one of my favourite off-road areas, Strensall Common. But that involves using an extremely busy road. It’s a case of using the footpath or a road with the national speed limit, where the vehicles rush by and many get pretty close – especially if you’re on a mountain bike with wider handlebars.

“Then there’s Strensall Common itself. It’s a big, flat expanse of heathland which is jointly owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the MoD, but it’s unclear if the tracks there are bridleways or footpaths or unmarked.

“They are used by bikes, dog walkers and horse riders regardless, though. It’s my go-to example of where you could make access clearly available by recategorising the trails.”

Dominic, who works in computer game design, rides a Yeti 575 and mostly cycles with his dad John and friends.

Of the many thousands who took part in the survey, 91% rated off-road cycling as fairly or very important for their mental health, with 90% regarding it as fairly or very important for their physical health.

Dominic added: “One of the major draws of mountain biking for me is the sense of personal accomplishment. My experience with other trail users is almost universally positive, the worst I ever get is a grumpy look.

“Making public footpaths accessible for cyclists where it’s safe and sensible to do so would improve things not only for myself, but it would make it easier for me to encourage other new riders to join me. I have friends who are more reluctant than I am to ride to local locations on the road.

“They are missing out on a pastime which is not only fun, but great for your physical health and mental wellbeing.”

 

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