Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the British Horse Society—East of England (RTS 22)



  British Horse Society research has shown that riders consider the largest hazard they face on the roads is the speed of motor vehicles. This response to press notice 15/2001-02 highlights the need for consultation before traffic calming measures are implemented, to reduce the risk of making roads worse for horses, and considers the unfortunate and often unintentional consequences of the use of the signs that encourage cyclists on to verges. Recommendations are given to improve the situation.


  The British Horse Society is now halfway through an exercise in monitoring the perceptions of riders in the East of England, with surveys having been performed in three of the region's six counties (Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire). The survey questions relevant to the Committee's present inquiry related to the hazards that were encountered when using the roads.

  In the most recently published survey[39], 99 per cent of respondents cited the speed of motor traffic as the biggest hazard faced by them when riding on the roads. It was found that 5 per cent of the respondents had had an accident with a vehicle while riding within the preceding 12 months, and 50 per cent reported a "near miss" in the same period. There are an estimated 68,000 riders in Hertfordshire. Fewer than 3 per cent could go for a ride without using the roads at all.

  The results for the other counties have followed a similar pattern.


  Different highway authorities have tried to reduce traffic speed by various methods including traffic calming in villages and suburban areas. These areas are those where the majority of on-road riding takes places as most riders live on the urban fringe. The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions has recently consulted on the draft contents of a Local Transport Note entitled "Design and Effectiveness of Traffic Calming Measures". The draft note gave examples of methods used to encourage drivers to slow down, by means of signs and physical features. The Society advised that where traffic-calming measures are implemented without taking into account equestrian needs, matters could be made worse for riders. For example, the use of gateway features at a village entrance, while causing motor traffic to slow down, could also force riders off verges. The Society supports suitable measures to reduce traffic speed providing the needs of all the vulnerable road users have been taken into account.

  Road re-design must also be considered carefully. It has the potential to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, but if performed inappropriately can make matters worse for all. There are reports of walkers and cyclists not mixing well where a highway authority has changed a pavement into a cycle track without ensuring there was adequate width. On roads where a cycle track is painted at the edges, many riders think that they cannot ride there, and so are pushed further into the carriageway.

  In other places, verges used by riders have been converted into cycle tracks under s.65 Highways Act 1980, so prohibiting riders, when a hard surface could have been applied under the general powers of maintenance, keeping the rights of riders to stay off the carriageway. At present, the effect of erecting the pedestrian and cyclists roundel (Sign 956 from the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 1994) is to prohibit horses, whether or not that was the intention. Authorities who see the sign as one which encourages cyclists off the road but which did not wish to prohibit riders are faced with a dilemma, as there is no road sign to indicate that a route is for walkers, cyclists and riders. The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions consulted on revisions to the 1994 Regulations last year, and the Society hopes that its recommendations relating to signage will be incorporated before the necessary statutory instruments are laid before Parliament.

  Section 268 of the Transport Act 2000 will allow local authorities to designate "Quiet Lanes". The Society believes that this concept has the potential to reduce speeds and make the designated lanes a safer part of the routes used by riders and other vulnerable road users than they are at present. The Society looks forward to the introduction of Regulations under this section in due course.


  From the survey results, it appears that the majority of riders would be pleased to see a reduction in the speed of traffic. Although a reduction in the speed limit sounds attractive, it is unlikely to be effective in changing riders' perceptions without adequate publicity and enforcement. The government could take action that would benefit riders in other ways:

    —  Amending s.65 Highways Act 1980 to provide for margins for walkers, cyclists and riders. [Primary legislation]

    —  Promoting more widely the ability of highway authorities to create routes suitable for cyclists in margins without removing the rights of riders (that is, by not designating the route under s.65 of the 1980 Act). [Departmental guidance]

    —  Encouraging better consultation with representatives of non-motorised user groups before physical measures to reduce speed are implemented. [Departmental guidance]

    —  Creating a road sign that indicates that a route is designated for non-motorised users. [Secondary legislation]

    —  Providing for Quiet Lanes. [Secondary legislation and Departmental guidance]


  I trust that this brief submission will assist the Committee in its consideration of methods to reduce inappropriate vehicle speeds.

Dr P D Wadey

January 2002

39   BHS/RN/01-A Survey of Riders and Horses in Hertfordshire 2000 (published 2001). Back

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