Common questions about barriers

We've answered some of the most common questions we receive around barriers on the National Cycle Network.

Why are barriers there in the first place?

There are a few reasons you might find barriers on your local stretch of the National Cycle Network.

Some barriers, such as cattle grids and gates, are used to keep livestock off the paths.

In other cases, landowners wanted to make sure that motor vehicles couldn’t get onto their land, so the planning permission or landowner consent was conditional on barriers being installed.

Most of the time, barriers are meant to keep illegitimate users from accessing the Network.

This includes people using motorbikes, mopeds and other vehicles.

But barriers always end up excluding a much wider group of people.

Find out more about why barriers exist on the National Cycle Network.


What’s the problem with barriers? Why do we need to remove them?

There are two main issues with barriers.

Firstly, they exclude lots of legitimate users from accessing the Network.

If you’re using a non-standard cycle or mobility aid barriers might prevent you from getting onto the route.

Secondly, barriers often aren’t effective at doing what they’re meant to.

It is often possible for motorbikes to go over, under or around them.

Ellis explains how barriers stop him getting around on the National Cycle Network.

What is the alternative to barriers?

It's important to remember that every barrier is different and so every solution is different too.

For instance, where barriers have been installed to contain cattle, it may be possible to redesign the barrier so that all it fulfils its purpose while also being accessible.

A common concern around removing barriers is that if they are removed there will be an increase in antisocial behaviour and illegitimate use.

When routes are accessible to more people, they become busier. Busier routes mean more ‘eyes on the street’, which can make paths safer.

Another effective way of combatting antisocial behaviour and the use of motor vehicles on routes is for local communities to record and report any instances to the authorities.

More rigorous policing helps reduce motor vehicle use on paths.

Illegal use of the Network is a criminal activity, and so it is ultimately a police matter.


What if barrier removal and redesign lead to anti-social behaviour and illegitimate use?

Firstly, barriers often aren’t effective at doing what they’re meant to.

It might be possible for motorbikes to go over, under or around them.

If someone is determined to get onto the route with their motorbike, they’ll just find another access point, maybe via a gap in a hedge or a fence they can lift their motorbike over.

So, in many cases, barriers are stopping legitimate users from accessing the Network, but aren’t preventing illegitimate users from getting onto the paths.

Secondly, there is evidence from our report in London that local communities perceived the area to be safer after barriers were removed.


How do I get involved in redesigning or removing barriers?

We've put together a guide which takes you through the step-by-step process of how you can help get a barrier removed or redesigned.

Check out our step-by-step guide.

If you have a query which hasn't been answered on this page, please don't hesitate to send us an email at: