Increasing pressure by cyclists to have the legal right to ride on all public footpaths was strongly opposed at the West Riding Area AGM held at Ilkley on 28th January. The meeting unanimously passed a resolution to “urge that The Ramblers’ Association use all possible endeavours to oppose proposals for cycling to be allowed as a matter of course on footpaths”.

The AGM motion accepted that cycling is a popular and healthy pursuit, but viewed with great concern the proposals being made by cycling organisations for cycling to be allowed as of legal right on public footpaths. All those who spoke in the discussion on the motion considered that cycling on public paths is a danger and a nuisance to walkers, and that walkers had nothing to gain and much to lose if cycling was permitted on public paths. It was pointed out that cyclists come up from behind at speed and often without warning. Cycling on canal towpaths was a matter of particular concern.

There was discussion about the possibility of doing quid pro quos with cycling but also a feeling that cycling appeared to have a policy of all quid and no pro quo. The meeting agreed that there was “a need for additional routes for use by cyclists” and that this should be provided by “the creation of cycleways separate from footpaths”.

The unanimously agreed motion has been sent to the Board of Trustees for inclusion on the agenda of this year’s General Council (the national AGM) which will be held at Southampton in early April. It may, however, become part of a composite motion based on motions on cycling submitted by several Areas. There is no doubt that the issue will be hotly debated at General Council. There is, however, a diversity of opinion, some taking the view that the there should be no legal right to cycle on any public paths, others willing to allow shared use on some paths.

The cyclists’ organisation Cycling UK (formerly the CTC) has been campaigning for “off-road access” for many years. It has secured two major successes, the right to cycle on bridleways (1968), and the “presumed access” for cyclists on access territory in Scotland (2003). However, the Government has no plans to change legislation.

This year’s West Riding Area AGM was a lively and successful event with a good attendance of 49 members, including at least one representative from nearly all of the Area’s local Groups. In the address, John White gave an interesting illustrated talk on the life of Alfred J. Brown (the first West Riding Area president), and it was good to have an address on a topic that was a bit different (see also book review). The considerable decline in membership in West Riding Area over recent years was another major topic of discussion. The officers and members of Area Council appointed by the AGM are printed in the West Riding Area Walks Programme – there are some vacancies. Thanks to Richard Smith for leading a pre-AGM walk (but no thanks to the weather).

Keith Wadd
Ed. Let us have your views on cycling on public footpaths. Letters welcome.