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
Footways (paths at the side of carriageways);
Footpaths (a public right of way
on foot only);
Walkways (designated routes through
buildingsHighways Act 1980 s.35);
Routes across parks and other local
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
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 ridersat
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