BRIDLEWAYS. Compiled by Duncan Castling

This discussion paper explores issues that arise from a legal opinion that; “the
publics rights of way on bridleways should be restricted to; individuals on
foot, riding a bicycle or on horseback (or leading a horse)” (ref OPINION A)

This interpretation has detrimental consequences for a diverse range of users.
The opinion was originally expressed to Polaris, a cycle clothing manufacturer
and organiser of a bi-annual Mountain Bike (MTB) orienteering event known as the
Polaris Challenge. The event is a 48 hour endurance test of teamwork,
navigational and cycling skills. Involving teams of two MTB riders who use their
orienteering expertise to locate various checkpoints and an overnight camp
within a fixed time limit. Teams set their individual challenge routes, and this
is the distinguishing factor between the event and a cycle race. Only public
roads, permissible tracks and routes where a right of way exists may be used
during the event.

With the organisers support and approval a unicycle team have entered the last
five events and although initially, the objective may have been merely to
successfully complete an event. Subsequent events have been used to raise to
sponsorship for a local charity, to develop a new offroad-unicycling sport
(Muni; Mountain Unicycling)and generally increase the overall smile factor (At
the last event the Muni team actually accrued more points than 176 MTB teams!)

At all times Polaris undertake to ensure teams only use permitted rights of way.
Following the opinion (and in the absence of any views to the contrary) Muni’s
have been banned from future events. Although it is important to note at this
point that any legal opinions expressed by individuals either on their own
behalf, or as a representative of a public body/association have equal merit in
the eyes of the law, as ultimately only the courts can decide on matters of
legal interpretation.

The statutory definition of a bridleway is found in section 329(1) of the
Highways Act 1980 (see appendix 1) which includes rights of way on foot and
horseback. This has been extended by section 30 of the Countryside Act 1968
which includes the right to ride a bicycle (see appendix 2). Although there is
no statutory definition in the 1968 act of a bicycle, the inference would
include a pedal cycle with two wheels. The effects of the strict interpretation
which is implicit in the opinion would mean that;

a) The riders of unicycles, tricycles and four wheeled cycles (wheelchairs?) and
any invalid carriage (not mechanically propelled) do not have a right of way.

b) Bicyclists do not have the right to carry a bicycle, although a person may
lead a horse.

c) Groups who take part in pony trekking or children riding ponies do not have a
right of way. Similarly donkey riding would not invoke a right of way.

d) In the absence of a right of way a person would commit the tort of trespass.
They could be sued by the landowner and be liable for damages.

e) Powers exist for the police to prosecute trespassers that refuse to leave a
bridleway where they have caused damage. (section 61 Criminal Justice and
Public Order Act 1994 (appendix 3))

f) If a trespasser obstructs disrupts or intimidates other bridleway users they
may be considered to commit the criminal offence of aggravated trespass and
be liable to be arrested. (section 68)

These examples provide a good illustration of the range of users who would
be prevented from having a right of way. Could this be what Parliament
intended? We will now examine a possible alternative interpretation to this
issue which although it may only be of equal merit, incorporates a great
deal more common sense.

The Countryside Act has been subject to a substantial amount of amendment and
one major enactment is of particular relevance namely the Wildlife and
Countryside Act 1981. The Act appears to resolve the conflict in c) above where
in section 66 (see appendix 4) the definition of a horse includes;

“a pony, ass and mule, and horseback shall be construed accordingly”

It is logical to assume that such users would therefor have a right of way. This
definition and interpretation is specifically referred to in the Countryside
Commission’s booklet “Out in The Country” (page 7, appendix 6). The booklet is a
guide to rights of access and responsibilities in the countryside (4th edition
1992) Although even this publication ultimately cannot be taken as a definitive
statement in law for the reasons previously stated. On the same page of
the guide reference is also made to the use of ‘pedal cycling’ as a
permitted activity on bridleways.

Reference to this important term may be found in section 66(3) which refers to
(inter alia)

“The provisions of section 30(1) of the 1968 Act (riding of pedal cycles on
bridleways) shall not affect the definition of bridleway in subsection (1) and
any right exercisable by virtue of those provisions shall be disregarded for the
purposes of this part.”

The logical conclusion from this reference which is supported by the Countryside
Commission is that a bicycle is also a pedal cycle and pedal cyclists have a
right of way on a bridleway. (ref OPINION B) The riders of a pedal cycle are
also provided with additional statutory rights, such as the right to ride on
special cycle lanes on the carriageway of a public road (Traffic Sign
Regulations 1994 S.I. 1519, appendix 7) in regulation4. This regulation also
contains the definition of a pedal cycle;

 "Pedal Cycle means a unicycle, bicycle, tricycle, or cycle having four
or more wheels, not beingin any case mechanically propelled............"

This definition and interpretation appear to resolve the issues raised in a)
it follows that the situations described in d), e) and f) would therefore
not arise.

This discussion paper is being circulated to various bodies concerned with with
rights of way issues to obtain their opinion of the interpretation proposed in
the latter part of this paper (ref OPINION B). All references to legal texts
were taken from Stone Justices Manual 1995 and Halesburys Statutes 1995 amd.

The consequences of a user carrying his bicycle (pedal cycle) is still
unresolved. But there again “de minimus non curat lex” which is perhaps the best
(and often ignored) legal rule of all.

(ENDS).Don’t look for the appendicies i havn’t been able to scan them, but the
references are there. If anyone want’s to use this in any publications it’s ok
provided you send me a copy (and discuss a fee?) contact thro’ Roger Davies.

Regards Duncan (:

Roger.Davies@octacon.co.uk Cleveland UK