Action has been taken to challenge the exclusion of riders from a new off-road route, which spans nearly 200 miles.

The British Horse Society (BHS) and Cycling UK have called on the government to reconsider proposals that would effectively prevent riders and cyclists using the Wainwright Coast to Coast National Trail.

Defra announced on 12 August last year that £5.6 million would be allocated to improve the route, ahead of it becoming a National Trail in 2025. The route stretches from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hoods Bay in North York Moors National Park, and currently uses a combination of footpaths, which riders and cyclists cannot use, and bridleways, which they can.

The proposed upgrade to a National Trail effectively excludes those choosing to ride horses or bikes, as there is no continuous route they can use. This is contrary to recommendations made in the Glover Report 2019 which was used to inform the Government’s Landscapes review, advising how to make national landscapes more open to everyone.

The BHS and Cycling UK have written a letter before action to the Secretary of State for Defra, the Rt Hon Ranil Jawawardena MP calling on the government to reconsider proposals

“As vulnerable road users, riders face considerable dangers on our roads and the need for safer off-road riding opportunities has never been greater,” said Mark Weston, Director of Access at the BHS. “For very little extra investment and a small proportion of time spent consulting with us and Cycling UK, we could make a real difference to horse riders and cyclists who want to continue to be safe, as well as enjoy the countryside.

“Supporting this route to be multi-use could also make a valuable contribution to the north’s rural economy, helping to achieve the government’s stated objective of levelling up. It’s still not too late and we hope Defra will take the opportunity to discuss the benefits of this approach with us.”

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, welcomed the upgrade to the route, but said it should be accessible to all.

“There’s so much to celebrate about the new trail’s aims to increase opportunities for people to experience the outdoors, but what is frustrating is the tunnel vision automatically excluding specific groups like people cycling or riding, that is also contrary to government policy on outdoor access,” he said.

“If you ride a bike or a horse, you can use only 22 percent of England’s rights of way network or ride two out of 16 of our National Trails. We need to do more to increase access, not limit it. The benefits are real for rural hospitality businesses, which will see increased trade from a more diverse group of visitors.”

Lead image by Steven J McCormick

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