Getting a physical barrier redesigned or removed on the Network is possible. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to assist you in your endeavours to help make traffic-free routes more accessible for everyone. It’s important to note that each barrier redesign case is different and depending on the circumstance and where in the UK you're based, not every step and recommendation in this guide will apply to the barrier(s) you’re looking at. The barrier redesign process can often be a lengthy one, so patience and persistence is key.
As part of putting a case forward for a barrier redesign or removal, you must be able to prove that a barrier or a set of barriers are restricting access for legitimate path users.
We recommend gathering evidence on how the barrier is problematic and stopping users getting through.
You can do this by:
Often it's safe to assume that a barrier belongs to the local council, and if not, they can often point you in the right direction so this would always be our first suggestion of who to contact.
Get in touch with the best person at your local authority by sourcing contact details for relevant officers who are responsible for highways, countryside access, rights of way, active or sustainable travel.
You can find the contact details of relevant officers through the authority’s website or by calling its main contact number.
However, sometimes ownership isn’t always a straightforward process and may take some detective work, especially if the barrier is near a local authority boundary. Or, if there is more than one landowner.
Be prepared for responses which confirm who does not own the barrier, rather than who does.
It’s advisable to then ask whoever you are speaking to for their suggestion on who else to talk to - to find an answer on ownership.
If you've gone through these steps and you're struggling, these tips will help you find out who owns the barrier:
Throughout the process of trying to get a barrier removed or redesigned it is extremely helpful to stay organised.
We advise for you to:
A lot of the time people think they need a group to create enough pressure for change.
However, we have found that even one person acting alone and emailing their local council can make a difference.
Even if the barrier is not immediately rectified you have raised this important issue to someone who might not have been aware of it before.
If you are still finding it difficult to get commitments from the landowner to remove or redesign their barriers, it might be useful to gather a group of likeminded people to share tasks with and to support each other.
You can contact local and regional groups and organisations which may share the same views as you.
For instance, disability access groups, cycle campaign groups, walking or ramblers groups, horse riding associations and local schools/nurseries.
Linda and her son Adam love getting outside to enjoy nature in the fresh air.
But when a barrier prevented the pair from using their local stretch of the National Cycle Network, Linda got in touch with Sustrans to change this.
The Equality Act 2010 can act as a tool to reference when it comes to outlining the legalities around why it is vital for physical barriers on the National Cycle Network to be redesigned so that everyone can have equal access to all routes.
The Equality Act is a law which protects people living in the UK from discrimination.
The Act protects people from unfair treatment related to a number of characteristics such as disability, race and age.
Public and local authorities (for example, Environment Agency, National Park, Network Rail, Natural England, Forestry Commission, the police, and schools) must comply with The Equality Act and consider all individuals when shaping policies and when delivering services, this includes providing safe active travel routes.
There are two sections of The Equality Act which directly relate to the negative impact physical barriers have on people who cannot access routes because of them.
It covers a range of protected characteristics including disability, race, age and gender, to name a few.
The Disability Justice Project has put together a guide to support disabled people identify where they have experienced discrimination when it comes to physical barriers.
The guide also outlines the step-by-step process to take when challenging discrimination.
Barriers are often used to keep motor vehicles off walking and cycling routes. But they end up excluding a much wider group of people. Credit: Alan McAteer/Sustrans
Submitting a written Freedom of Information Request to a local authority is a good method to obtain information which isn’t already in the public domain.
This can be particularly useful to question a local authority’s recent decision to install a physical barrier along the National Cycle Network, for example.
It’s important to consider, when submitting an FOI (which can be done via email, post or via social media), to refer to the law where relevant. For example, The Equality Act 2010 can be mentioned when highlighting the legalities around the redesign of a restrictive barrier and specifically who it has a negative impact on.
To find FOI requests which have been submitted and to see how they have been phrased, and to submit your own request, you can visit WhatDoTheyknow.
Using the search bar you can search for relevant words to find similar examples.
If you are requesting information about a newly installed barrier you can ask to see the Equality Impact Assessment for the work.
EIAs are an evidence-based approach designed to ensure that policies and decision-making processes are fair and do not disadvantage any protected groups from participation.
The Equality Act 2010, mentioned above, introduced the Public Sector Equality Duty. This requires all public bodies, including local authorities, to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
You can quote the following when putting forwards an appeal to get a barrier redesigned.
The Department for Transport’s most recent Cycle Infrastructure Design document (July 2020), states in section 16: ‘Access control measures, such as chicane barriers and dismount signs, should not be used’ as ‘they reduce the usability of a route for everyone, and may exclude people riding nonstandard cycles and cargo bikes’.
It continues: ‘Control measures ‘reduce the capacity of a route as well as the directness and comfort. Schemes should not be designed in such a way that access controls,
obstructions and barriers are even necessary.'
Further on in the document in section 5.6 another mention of barriers states: ‘Deliberately restricting space, introducing staggered barriers or blind bends to slow cyclists is likely to increase the potential for user conflict and may prevent access for larger cycles and disabled people and so should not be used.’
In another document curated by the Department for Transport (December 2021) called ‘Inclusive Mobility: A guide to best practice on access to pedestrian and transport
In section 7.6 it states: ‘As a principle, access control measures, such as staggered barriers that require cyclists to dismount, should not be used.
‘This is because they both reduce the usability of a route for everyone and may exclude users of ‘nonstandard’ cycles.’
The guidance is Local Transport Note 1/20. The relevant section for barriers is section 8, pg.83.
It states that any barriers must have a gap of 1.5 metres and be able to accommodate the cycle design vehicle, which is 1.2m by 2.8m.
Cycling by Design, Access Control, p.70 also highlights 1.5m and states barriers should be used only when necessary.
Physical barriers on the National Cycle Network are preventing access to many users. In this video, we explore why these barriers need to be redesigned to make the Network truly accessible for everyone.
Between 2020 and 2022 a full audit of Scotland’s traffic-free National Cycle Network was conducted, with our volunteers accounting for over 70% of the total mileage covered.
This data has been used to create a tool which local authorities and partners can use to identify issues on both the network and its immediate link paths.
Given the Scottish Government’s commitment to spending 10% of the transport budget on active travel, there are multiple funding streams available to address these barriers.
Every year, Sustrans Scotland opens the Accessibility Fund for stakeholders to request funding provided by Transport Scotland to remove or redesign barriers on the network.
Public feedback is key to making this a priority with local authorities and other landowners.
You can get involved by following the steps above to let landowners know of any issues, and don’t forget to cc email@example.com into your email. Or you can send us a copy of your communication.
Sustrans’ Access Control Removal Research, Innovation Fund report (2016) gives some real life examples of barrier redesign work, including before and after photos.
One is located on a residential street in South Bermondsey, London under a road bridge.
Before the redesign process there were two barriers at the entries to the underpass.
Each was formed of staggered railings across the width of the street with a one metre gap between railings to enable access.
In its previous form, people on cycles had to stop and dismount to negotiate the barriers.
People who were walking were required to leave the footpath and enter the cycle route.
Additionally, consultation with residents in the area suggested a long term problem with illegal mopeds and scooters using this route as a cut through, as well as anti-social behaviour.
In January 2015, the barriers were removed and replaced with a much more open layout which also included bollards to prevent cars from entering the site.
The redesign puts people who walk, wheel and cycle in the area at the forefront of the new layout.
Motorcycle speed humps were also introduced at the site, with the aim of deterring illegal moped and scooter users.
Following the redesign, the site saw a significant increase in active travel and a substantial increase in cycling.
The site saw a 39% increase in cycling (65 additional journeys) and a 28% increase in all users.
80% of cyclists stated that they used the route more often due to improvements in the site layout.
100% of respondents stated that they felt changes increased accessibility for all users.
The information and opinions contained in this guide act as pieces of general information and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
Therefore, it should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice from a solicitor.
Frame runner and former Team GB Para Dressage rider, Kyrby Brown discusses her passion for disability sports and leisure, and why the National Cycle Network needs to accommodate all users.
These improvement plans are made by local authorities to assess whether public rights of way networks in the local area meet the needs of the public.
This includes accessibly, physical barriers and creating more opportunities for sustainable travel.
The plans are in place to ensure the authority considers a range of people when improving public rights of way networks.
It aims to provide a better experience for:
Local authorities must review their rights of way improvement plan every 10 years.
These forums allow people to participate in decision making when it comes to public access.
LAFs advise decision making organisations (such as local authorities) on improvements which can be made to public access for outdoor recreation and sustainable travel.
LAFs are made up of local, voluntary members who are typically:
Most LAFs meet at least four times a year.
Some forums also have topic groups which meet more regularly.
Members of the public can attend meetings as an observer, but only LAF members can participate in the discussions.
To become an LAF member you can search for the area you live in on this website.