This is the best news that horse riders have had from central government for a long time! Multi-use of cycleways has been made official policy. The Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP, has stated that conflict between user groups is “infrequent but exaggerated” and local authorities should do all in their power to allow horse riders to use such routes.
The policy decision was in response to a letter by Anne Main MP, regarding the use of the Alban Way by horse riders. The letter, which has been circulated to all Local Access Forums and County Councils. This is a copy of the letter dated 14th June 2011.
“Past research has shown that user conflict on shared use routes is actually infrequent but exaggerated, and that additional maintenance cost to ensure appropriate surfacing is minimal.
I would urge all local authorities to allow horse riders to use cycle trails, routes and any other ways it is in their power to do so, and to encourage that permission or dedication to happen where it is not in their power. Unless there are good and specific reasons not to expressly allow horse riders to use such routes, local authorities should take steps to accommodate them. Local authorities should be making the most of their off-road networks through integration of use. Multi user routes have been shown to be readily adopted and well appreciated by local people. Where they are done well they bolster community cohesion and create a better understanding between users.
Horse riders are particularly vulnerable road users, and cycle routes can provide appropriate opportunities to avoid busy roads. There is potential for conflict in any situation where people share a public space, but the possibility of conflict is not reason enough to disregard ridden access; actual conflict could be resolved and any misplaced concerns reduced over time.
It seems sensible that where a change of policy, [or the making explicit or the start of enforcement to an existing policy] might increase danger to horse riders, the local authority should consult those users and the relevant local access forum.”