Riders think cycle lanes will be too spooky for horses
Posted on February 22, 2008
Disgruntled horse riders have voiced their fears over new cycle lanes being installed on the outskirts of Dunstable.
Work has already started bringing a cycle path to the Green Lanes in Totternhoe and Eaton Bray, but it has prompted serious safety concerns.
Horse riders said they feel they are being pushed to the margins, and are worried that development of the area's bridleways could leave them with few places to go.
Afraid to ride horses on increasingly busy roads, many feel the lanes provide their only remaining sanctuary, and having to share a narrow concrete path with cyclists could prove a major headache.
Members of the British Horse Society (BHS) have been in touch with the Gazette this week to claim that they were not consulted properly.
Fears are rife that horses will be easily spooked if bikes pass by too closely, putting cyclists and riders in danger.
Among the worried parties is Anne Hudson, who fears the cycle paths could have a huge impact on her ability to ride her eight-year-old horse, Murphy
Anne, 64, said riding a horse is her best way of exploring the countryside, but fears that once cyclists and horses are thrown together on narrow routes, it will result in mayhem.
She said: "We're going to be mixed up with bikes and pushchairs, it's an accident waiting to happen. It's going to be lethal."
Anne said she already avoids Dunstable Downs because of ongoing work and fears that Murphy will be scared by hang gliders and kites.
Now she feels that cyclists whizzing past will provide an additional hazard.
"You can't hear a bike coming up behind you, but the horse hears it and gets spooked," Anne said.
And she added that putting concrete cycle paths along the Green Lanes will seriously impede local riders.
Anne said: -I use it a lot. It's the only route we've got in the area so all the riders head down there. The Green Lanes really are the only safe place for riders.
"At the moment the Downs is out A bounds. A lot of people say they don't dare use the Downs because of the kites and the hang gliders. We haven't got many riding facilities, and we seem to be cut off from a lot Of it."
The BHS district bridleways assistant officer, Rosalyn Whisker, said local roads are not safe for horse riders because of the volume of traffic they carry.
She added that planners should have consulted the community before giving plans the go-ahead.
Rosalyn told the Gazette: "We can share, and we've all got to get along, but there are some places where they're asking us to ride with a cycle path on either side of us. It's quite sad to see all the concrete going over the lanes."
The cycle path project is a joint venture between Beds County Council and sustainable transport charity Sustrans.
Councillor Bob King said: "We are aware that there are some concerns from horse groups and people using motorbikes. We are intending to set up a special projects group made up of people that use the lanes to see how we can best meet their needs.
"This project is also one of many that will make sure there is excellent access to the green spaces across Luton and South Bedfordshire.
"This is very important, as this corner of Bedfordshire is within a big housing growth area.
"The county council takes issues of safety very seriously The development of the route will be supported by ample signage and work within the local community to encourage responsible use.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing the Sustrans scheme completed and getting out there with my family and friends. It will open up the countryside to everyone, no matter whether you're young or old."
And Andy Knight, area manager for Sustrans, said: "Sustrans works to improve accessibility to local facilities for everyone, and believes that routes can happily be shared by people on foot, riding bicycles and riding horses providing that paths are wide enough.
"As part of the development of this regional route, we have had several successful on-site visits with representatives from the British Horse Society which have led to improvements that will benefit everyone, including widening paths to provide more room for horse riders and relocating sections of surfaced path.
"This is a golden opportunity to provide some excellent green routes before the proposed housing growth in the area, giving people easy access to the local countryside."
For the latest news from Eaton Bray and beyond, get the Dunstable Gazette every Wednesday and make a daily date with Dunstable Today.
Source: Dave Burke, Dunstable Gazette, 20 February 2008
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