The government have started a consultation process which could see an end to motorcycles being allowed to use green lanes.
In early 2018, the government asked the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to do a review into whether the management of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (or more specifically, how they’re protected) is ‘fit for purpose’. They were to come up a list of what’s working and what’s not, things that could be done better and what changes need to be made. They called it ‘The Landscapes Review’.
During the review, it came to pass that some people get a bit eggy about motorcycles using green lanes. If you’ve ever done any green laning, you’ll know this to be true. You can be riding your bike perfectly legally, with the utmost respect to your countryside environment, but there’s usually someone who wants to get in your face about it. It can be cyclists, horse riders, dog walkers, you name it. Some of these people consider it ‘antisocial’ just to be on a motorcycle; you don’t even have to be riding it.
Breaking the silence
In response to the Review, the government said this:
Some country public rights of way and unsealed unclassified roads known as ‘green lanes’ allow for the legal recreational use of motor vehicles. Whilst many users make use of these rights in a responsible way, we have become increasingly aware of damage and disturbance caused by excessive use of off-road motor vehicles on some unsealed routes. This can result in impacts on local wildlife, the special qualities of an area e.g., tranquillity, and make the route less accessible for other users such as those on foot, bicycles, horseback, or in vehicles used by disabled people. In protected landscapes, these impacts could undermine the statutory purposes of the area.
They also went on to say that they “recognise many people enjoy using motor vehicles responsibly on green lanes without causing damage or disturbance” and that they “would like to explore the options available for protecting our green lanes while maintaining most public and private access rights”.
So they want the green lanes kept open, great. But not for everyone; because in the very next paragraph they said “the government could consider restricting the use of certain motor vehicles on unsealed roads through legislation.” So they are thinking of making a law against ‘certain motor vehicles’ using green lanes. I wonder which vehicles they are talking about.
Reading between the lines
Whilst there was no specific mention of banning motorcycles from green lanes in the government’s response, reading between the lines, they definitely suggested it might be on the table. And the fact that they also suggested giving National Park authorities more power to ‘enforce’ the law (such as issuing Traffic Regulation Orders, Fixed Penalty Notices and Public Space Protection Orders) could be another nail in the green laners coffin.
I think they’ve got it all wrong though. Let’s imagine for a moment that they made riding motorcycles on green lanes in National Parks illegal. That would mean that the law abiding people would stop riding their bikes on green lanes. The non-law abiding riders wouldn’t, though. And it’s the non-law abiding riders that are the problem. It’s the ones riding unregistered bikes that aren’t green lane-worthy (never mind road-worthy); it’s the ones that have no respect for the environment; no respect for the people and creatures in it; it’s the antisocial ones; it’s the ones that are breaking the law anyway.
And making riding in these green lanes illegal isn’t going to stop them riding there, because they’re already riding illegally. What difference is one more law going to make? It’s just one more law for them to break.
Slaughtering the cash cow
Meanwhile, the respectful, legal green laners will stop visiting the area. They’ll stop eating in the cafes, drinking in the pubs and staying in the hotels; all at great expense to regions that rely heavily on cash brought in by visitors.
I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to it, but if they do decide to ban bikes from green lanes, hopefully it’ll only be in National Parks or Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, and we’ll still have a few places to ride off-road.
Luckily this issue is still in the consultation process, so you can have your say. You can find out how on the governments website here. If you’ve got five minutes, it’s well worth doing.