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Lord Hardy of Wath: I shall be brief. I was pleased to learn about Luxembourg. My local authority has been issuing circulars describing walks in its area for quite a long time; indeed, I believe that the first of these was published about 10 years ago. My concern at this stage relates to cycling. I worry about children cycling on main roads. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is a great deal braver than I because I would not wish to cycle on a British highway these days. Parents often buy their children bicycles, but they do not want them to ride them on main roads. Indeed, they want them to stay very close to home in the housing estates, and so on, where the neighbours complain that they are a nuisance.
However, that is not perhaps a problem for this particular Bill. We need to have areas where children can cycle safely, but that would not necessarily be in the countryside some distance from their home; or, indeed, on the major roads. A contribution towards ensuring safe cycling could be provided in this Bill, but I do not think that the sole answer to the problem lies within this legislation. We should certainly be promoting child health. As one noble Lord said, children are now less fit than they have been for many years. If they are to burn up the calories provided by junk food, we must find ways for them to exercise. This Bill can make a contribution, but other Bills must also make contributions to that effect.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 443A, which has been grouped with Amendment No. 416. My amendment reflects several issues mentioned by noble Lords. I am glad to have been able to listen to the contributions to the debate. The place for such facilities is very much a matter for the Bill. My amendment is based upon the very strong requests from the Cyclists' Touring Club and the British Horse Society that this Bill should do something for them.
I am sure that many noble Lords are aware of this, but, for those who are not, I should remind the Committee that it was the Countryside Act 1968 that gave cyclists the right to ride on bridleways for the first time, provided that they gave way to walkers and riders. Since that time, cycling has grown apace. I am very pleased about that development. However, one of the spin-offs is that some of our bridleways are literally being tarmacked over. Moreover, the verges that many riders have used to get off the road and out of the way of cars are also disappearing under tarmac, as the verges are used for cycle ways. Yet riders frequently have no right to use those cycle ways.
The Government may say that local authorities in designating cycle tracks can specify that they are to be used by horse riders too. However, my amendment makes it absolutely plain that, where the access authority agrees--I draw the Minister's attention to that point as there will obviously be occasions when the measure is not appropriate--both riders and cyclists should have access to bridleways and cycle tracks.
One of the main tenets of Part II is to promote exercise and health, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said. People's health is improved by taking exercise on pathways that are not used by cars. That applies to pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists.
As my noble friend Lord Greaves said, there is little provision in the Bill for these groups at present. Cyclists support the view of the British Horse Society that cycle routes should be made available to horse riders. There will obviously be much discussion as to who will give way to whom. However, I hope that the Government will not use that as an excuse to do nothing about the matter. The Minister assured us that much public money will be spent on improving the rights of way network. Bridleways should be used by as many people as possible, as should cycle tracks. The fact that up until the present the latter have not been included in the legal framework of the definitive map should not mean that we perpetuate them as a completely different part of the network. The network should cater for everyone and seek to keep people off the roads.
Baroness Mallalieu: I support what others have said about circular walks. I suspect that will be the provision that affects most people. I also support Amendment No. 443A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer.
Our present bridleway network is painfully inadequate and is becoming more so day by day. As the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath said, some riders are consequently taking to footpaths. That can lead to conflict. As we all know, recreational activity on the part of riders is a vast and growing part of the rural economy. I understand that there are now some 3 million horse riders in England and Wales, the vast majority of whom--as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, has already said--own no land and therefore have to ride on bridleways, tracks and roads. I think that it is right to say that only 20 per cent of the current rights of way network is at present open to riders. Unfortunately, the expansion in riding has also coincided with a vast increase in road traffic, particularly on country roads, with consequent increased dangers for both animals and people. Some eight horses are killed every day on the roads, not to mention the people with them who are killed and injured. The one thing we should try to achieve in the Bill is to get those people off the roads and on to paths.
Other Members of the Committee have made my next point. I believe that many people are disappointed with the Bill, particularly in relation to its limited proposals for removing the growing number of riders and horses from the roads. The noble Baroness's amendment provides an opportunity to do that.
As I understand it, £200 million is to be spent on establishing the national cycle network. Surely the principle of value for money, which we are told should apply to government legislation, should dictate that the routes we are discussing should be used by people other than cyclists. They should also be used by walkers and riders.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: The noble Baroness made an absolutely fascinating speech on a topic that she knows so much about. She mentioned the figure--which I find astonishing--of 3 million people in England and Wales who ride horses. Does she know how many of those people hunt?
Lord Rotherwick: I apologise for entering the discussion on the amendment at a late point. I support the amendment and all that the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said about horses. However, I do not totally agree with what she said about horses not damaging tarmac. I have certainly had tarmac badly damaged by horses wearing competition studs.
As a land manager I have observed the progress of a recently created circular walk which was highly contentious when established. However, it is of tremendous benefit to the local community. From my observations of that circular walk I believe that a proper code of practice needs to be established. I have seen galloping horses on the footpath disturbing walkers. Those horses are not meant to be on that footpath. I have also seen cyclists behaving in an undesirable fashion.
With the much needed increase in the footpath network, I hope that certain disciplines will be enforced on the people using it. If more rights are to be given to footpath walkers--we agree with that--those should also entail responsibilities. It is all very well to talk of a wonderful new footpath network, but there is a requirement for year on year funding. I am afraid that the footpath and cycle networks in this country are woefully lacking compared with those on the Continent. Our networks are especially inferior to those in the United States. I support the amendment but I am interested to know from where the year on year funding will come.
Lord Addington: I speak to Amendment No. 416A as it relates to ground covered in this debate. I hope that that will be for the convenience of the Committee. It gives the power to create new footpaths which will link in with existing paths and ensure that certain paths are accessible to those with mobility problems--for instance, partial sight or other physical restriction.
The amendment ties in with Amendment No. 416 and relates to those who are often excluded by small changes in their physical environment. Indeed, the noble Baroness referred to improved surfaces so that someone in a wheelchair, or those pushing a child's buggy, have access. An elderly person, or someone recovering from an illness, will be able to use the facility. If those individuals wish to progress to more demanding walks such a facility would be a good first step. Amendment No. 416A ties in with the debate on Amendment No. 416 if we consider the issue in a holistic manner.
I think that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has missed a trick. It would have made more sense to include this provision in the Long Title of the Bill. In this debate we seek to make new footpaths more accessible. I hope that my amendment will gain a fair wind from the Government.
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