Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the British Horse Society East of England (WTC 96)


  There are many benefits that are generated by increased levels of walking:

    —  Less dependence on the car;

    —  Health benefits to the walkers;

    —  Reduced levels of crime because regular walkers notice the unusual.

  Each of these benefits is sufficient to make the encouragement of walking a worthwhile cause. However, this response to press notice 62/1999-2000 is concerned with the routes that are used for walking rather than with the walking itself.


  Walking in towns and cities can be on a variety of routes:

    —  Footways (paths at the side of carriageways);

    —  Footpaths (a public right of way on foot only);

    —  Walkways (designated routes through buildings—Highways Act 1980 s.35);

    —  Routes across parks and other local authority land.

  As towns and cities have expanded into adjacent countryside, developments have often surrounded the following categories of route, on which walking is permitted:

    —  Bridleways (public rights of way on foot, horse, or pedal cycle);

    —  Cycle Tracks (most cycle tracks carry a right of way on foot as well as on cycle).

  Where development has taken place in a haphazard way or before an area had a good local plan in place, development has often reduced the width of bridleways and footpaths, and the result has been narrow urban alleyways. As adjacent owners have changed, often two metre fencing has been put up between the alleyway and the neighbouring properties, leaving such alleyways as dark and dingy places. These discourage walking. Pedestrians often consider that sharp bends in narrow paths could hide a mugger, and so the choice is between a longer route adjacent to traffic or driving instead of walking.

  Routes in urban and suburban areas do not have to be like this. The Countryside Agency is conducting a number of Greenways pilot schemes. A Greenway is a largely motor traffic free route. A good Greenway has no sharp bends behind which criminals can lurk; some of the width will be hardened to provide a suitable surface for the whole year; and where there is sufficient width, the route can be combined with routes for other non-motorised users.

  The British Horse Society is highly supportive of the Greenways scheme. In Hertsmere Borough, a Greenway was constructed to join one suburban area (Oxhey) to another (Bushey) and was created wide enough that walkers, riders and cyclists could all use it in harmony. It is of particular use to walkers and cyclists in Oxhey who go to the schools at the other end of the Greenway in Bushey. And it is popular with riders at the weekend. It was fortunate that there was sufficient land for this path to be six metres wide, but other Greenway paths have been four metres and still catered for walkers, riders and cyclists.


  Often, when local authorities are urged to create routes for walkers or cyclists, no mention is made of the possibility of creating a multi-user non-motorised route. The legal status of bridleway can be applied to allow all three user groups to use the route. The Society does not ask for all new routes to be bridleways, but it does consider that when a new route is contemplated, the local authority should consider whether footpath or cycle track is the right status. The Society has found instances of new footpaths or cycle tracks being created which, had they been bridleways, would have enabled horse riders to avoid dangerous bends or accident black spots on the road. The key message must be to consider the appropriate status for a new route after taking into account the needs of all the local route users or would-be users. Where there is insufficient space to create a multi-user route, then perhaps footpath is the right status for the authority to choose. But where there is sufficient room, many objectives can be met.

  It is worth drawing to the Committee's attention at this point some benefits of riding:

    —  Heath benefits to the riders—at least as good as for walkers;

    —  Reduced levels of crime because riders are higher up and can spot unusual or suspicious behaviour.

  In other words, two of the walking benefits apply directly to riding. Some people consider riding to be a rural activity. In truth, most riding is on the urban fringe since that is where most riders live. Many London Boroughs have set out specific horse tracks because riding is an urban activity. Members of the Committee may even have noticed a Pegasus crossing on Hyde Park Corner!


  I trust that this brief submission will encourage the Committee to consider asking for a mention of multi-use paths and Greenways in any future Government Guidance that may be issued.

Dr Phil Wadey
Regional Access and Bridleways Officer

7 January 2001

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