IMBA-UK Briefing Note
The Legal situation
RTA88s31 states that it is an offence to take part in an unauthorised cycle race on a bridleway. Cycle races cannot be authorised on a bridleway, although it is possible to hold races over footpaths and byways if the necessary permissions / authorisations have been granted. This section was introduced following concerns from the equestrian community over the safety of horse riders if bridleways became regular venues for cycle races.
Progress to date
Considerable efforts were made during the late 1990′s to find a compromise which would provide for limited authorisation of races on bridleways. The process was accelerated by positive comments made in the DoT Review of Road Traffic Law in 1996.
This led to a meeting in 1998 between cycling organisations, the British Horse Society and the Ramblers Association at which a compromise solution was provisionally agreed. Following this agreement, Glenda Jackson, the then Minister of Transport agreed to lend her support to revising the regulations.
At the same time, the RAC Motorsports Division were becoming increasing concerned about the legality of the use of Public Rights of Way for rallying. This led to the development of a new proposed regulation the “Traffic Suspension Order” in which for the period of the race public rights ceased to exist (similar to road closure for quarrying). This document was published by LARA as “Competitive Sport on Minor Highways” in December 1999.
This document provides a suitable solution for the cycle racing conundrum, and cycle racing features have been fully incorporated in the proposals. They have been subsequently fully discussed in the period 1998/9 with Ministers Gus McDonald and Kate Huey, although Environment Ministers had not at that time been briefed.
The proposals have been presented to the Rights of Way Review Committee and accepted by the Advisory Group, and noted by the main committee.
They now await a Road Traffic Act for an opportunity for implementation.
Legislative opportunities for change
Any proposals will need to be sensitively tackled, as any changes are likely to be opposed by the equestrian and rambling communities. In particular, any proposals should be presented in such a way as to avoid impeding any subsequent T.S.O legislation. It would be useful to gain the ear of the Minister of the Environment, possibly via DEFRA / DETR in the hope that the department may acknowledge some degree of ownership of any proposals.
Potential problems associated with simple amendments, such as a change to RTA88s31:
- The bridleway will remain open for the public to “pass and repass”.
- Events will be liable to on site protest by walkers / equestrians exercising their rights.
- Cyclists will continue to be under an obligation to “give way to equestrians and walkers” as stipulated under the CA1968 requirements.
- RTA88 s28 and 29 concerning reckless and inconsiderate cycling will presumably still be in place and could have the potential to lead to a prosecution in the event of an accident to another rider, spectator or other member of the public.
Cycling organisations should be responsive to opportunities to raise the profile of this issue, if only as a means of easing the progress of a later RTA amendment.