Gove’s vision for enjoying countryside needs clarity says Cycling UK

View of track from a bike along the North Downs Way
Cycling UK applauds position to make access easier but calls for clarity and timelines
Cycling UK has applauded Michael Gove MP’s recognition of the benefits that will come by making it easier for more people to enjoy the English countryside, but says clarity of how this will be achieved is needed.
  • Environment Secretary recognises need for making it easier for people to visit and enjoy countryside
  • Cycling UK applauds position but calls for clarity and timelines
  • Only 22 percent of rights of way network open to cyclists

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference 2018 today (04, Jan) the Environment Secretary said public access “can be contentious” but also outlined his ambition to make it easier for the public to “visit, understand and appreciate our countryside.”

Cycling UK sees this as an encouraging step in the right direction from Mr Gove and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). However, the charity says greater clarity on how Defra intends to improve access and timelines are needed.

Roger Geffen, Cycling UK’s Policy Director said:

“Cycling UK welcomes Michael Gove’s desire to make it simpler and easier to visit and enjoy the countryside. This will benefit the rural economy, encouraging more people to visit, stay and spend money.  If they’re active while doing so, then the health benefits speak for themselves.

“Yet if you’re riding a bike or a horse, only 22 percent of England’s rights of way network is currently open to you.  This prevents councils, National Park authorities and rural businesses from capitalising on our long-distance trails and other wonderful assets.  Now we have a real opportunity to change this, for everyone’s benefit.”

Last year, Cycling UK’s Rides of Way report documented the problems people face in trying to create fully legal off-road cycling routes. The limited network available often has unsuitable surfaces and is badly fragmented. This often forces people cycling onto busy roads, even when more suitable routes could be opened up without causing any problems. 

The Welsh Government already has plans to simplify and improve cycling access, which is strongly backed by Cycling UK’s Trails for Wales campaign.  Similar plans in England could allow councils and other bodies dealing with tourism and countryside management to maximise cycling’s benefits for everyone’s health and the rural economy.

Cycling UK, together with the British Horse Society, Open Spaces Society and the Ramblers have all separately welcomed the Environment Secretary’s comments and are now writing to him jointly to offer their assistance in providing greater clarity on how opening-up the countryside can be achieved. 

Notes to editors

  1. For the full transcript of Michael Gove’s speech go to:
  2. Cycling UK is currently campaigning for increased access in Wales which the Welsh Government is currently considering, following the charity’s Trails for Wales campaign.
  3. Cycling UK’s Rides of Way report is available at:
  4. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone.

Press contact information

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email