Post-Brexit agricultural subsidies should be used for public access

Three people enjoying a bike ride on the Downslink
Three people enjoying a bike ride on the Downslink. Photo: Sam Jones, Cycling UK
Cycling UK is calling for the Government to make improvements to the public’s access to the countryside an integral part of its strategic ambitions for post-Brexit agricultural funding.
  • Charity says landowners should receive funding to improve signage and promote routes
  • Benefits are not just for visiting public but rural economy

The call, made in Cycling UK’s vision document “Beyond the Green Belt” published today, outlines the charity’s view that making the UK’s countryside more accessible to the public is a public good.

Cycling UK believes there is an opportunity to use post-Brexit agricultural funding for landowners to achieve this. The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP, announced similar plans in his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference in January, where he outlined plans to replace EU subsidies with a new system which pays farmers to improve "public access" to their land so that people can enjoy more of the countryside.

Following its report into off-road cycling, Rides of Way, which found visitors listed high quality sign posting as a priority, Cycling UK is suggesting funding should be provided to landowners to create way marked multi-user trails, particularly on disused railways.

There is the opportunity also to use funding to improve access along the urban fringe into the countryside says the charity, which it believes would benefit walkers, cyclists and horse riders. These improvements would also assist rural communities which could use the new off-road networks to access schools and shopping centres in local towns, without having to rely on public transport or private vehicles.

In England and Wales, cyclists and horse riders are denied access to 80 per cent of the rights of way network, a situation which Cycling UK believes if changed would attract more people to enjoy the countryside, and spend more in rural communities.

Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK’s chief executive said:

“Cycling UK wants cycling in the countryside to be a safer and more convenient activity than it already is. It’s relatively simple to achieve this, and the benefits won’t just be for the visitors coming by foot, hoof or wheel but also the wider rural community.

“The Environment Secretary has stated ‘public access is a public good’ and I believe our vision of Beyond the Green Belt can help him maximise the opportunities for everyone.

“Let’s be bold and look to create more signposted trails accessible for all countryside lovers, like the South Downs Way. The Government thought big for HS2 – let’s do the same for access and create routes, short and long distance, which will allow more people to leave their cars and enjoy the great British outdoors.”

Cycling UK also wants to see the National Trails become more accessible. Currently, only two of the fifteen National Trails, the South Downs Way and Pennine Bridleway, are fully open to cycling, with the majority featuring extensive stretches of bridleway punctured by sections of footpath. 

Powers exist to upgrade existing footpath sections, and the charity would like to see local authorities use these to create continuous routes and loops which would cater for a wide range of users.

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. Cycling UK’s vision document, Beyond the Green Belt, is available at:…
  3. Cycling UK’s off-road survey, Rides of Way, is available at:

Press contact information

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