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Our position on the use of access controls on paths

Use of bollards on the National Cycle Network

Barriers, bollards, access controls – why are they there?

Access controls, which range from simple bollards to restrictive barriers, are a common feature on cycle paths throughout the UK. They are often a well-meaning response to understandable concerns regarding the safety of path users and the amenity of local residents.

For many local authorities the fear of people on motorbikes illegally using paths, or children and people on bikes coming straight out on to roads, is greater than their desire to make paths accessible for all. Where there are known issues, local authorities managing the risks should first consider alternatives to physical access controls, rather than defaulting to installing barriers that in turn compromise access.

Our view on the use of access controls

There should be a presumption for paths to be open to all legitimate users with minimal or no access controls. If some form of access control is necessary, a single row of bollards (or other features, such as rocks or planters) leaving 1.5m gaps and with clear visibility of other users can be effective in many locations. On the approach to an intersection signs and markings should normally suffice; if it is considered necessary to reduce the speed of people on bikes two rows of staggered bollards are preferred. 

Accessibility is an issue we take seriously

More restrictive controls may discriminate against people with different abilities and should only be considered if there is a demonstrable severe problem which cannot be controlled by other means, such as path management. The design of restrictive controls should be such that they can be easily relaxed or removed in the future.

We have published detailed guidance on this in ‘A Guide to Controlling Access on Paths’ (PDF); this discusses the legal issues, the process for deciding whether an access control is required, alternatives to access controls and what design of control may be appropriate.

Our responsibility for keeping the National Cycle Network accessible to all

As far as our responsibilities go (where we are the landowner) we aim to take all reasonable steps to ensure our paths are accessible to all. The use of restrictive barriers will be avoided wherever possible and should never be introduced where they would discriminate against people with disabilities, or prevent rightful access or passage.

However, we are responsible for only 500 miles of the National Cycle Network. Where we do not control the land, we try and work with the landowner to ensure barriers are removed or changed to make the route as accessible as possible.

Find out more about how we work in partnership to provide expert services to local authorities across the UK

Read more key references for access controls