PASS WIDE AND SLOW Stop Preventing Horses Using Government Funded Off-Road Tracks
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Dept for Transport: Stop Preventing Horses Using Government Funded Off-Road Tracks
What we seek here is to get more horses onto the off-road tracks that are already in existence, for the safety of both equestrians as vulnerable road users and the convenience of other road users.
In law, horses and bicycles ridden on public highways are the same thing i.e. transport objects. That is because on public highways bicycles and horses are used for identical purposes so, in law, horses are just classed as 'property', without any rights to have their safety considered.
Since the mid 1990's successive governments have funded the building of off-road cycle tracks to the tune of around £100m but have handed the grant funds over to fund managers with discretion for equestrians to be denied access to use the paths. The way this has been sanctioned is by the DfT calling all cycling and walking on public highways “transport” and all equestrianism on public highways “recreation”, despite highway law defining horses/horse-drawn carriages as transport objects. The government of the time devised a grant scheme, called it a “sustainable transport” initiative and dedicated it for the support of cyclists and pedestrians only, leaving the equestrians to fend for themselves amongst the traffic on the roads even though they fit the criteria for sustainable transport. That has remained the same ever since. Since then, a horrifying number of horses, riders and carriage drivers have died or have been seriously injured on our roads as a result of this positive discrimination in favour of cyclists and pedestrians and against equestrians.
It is difficult to see no correlation between the facts that cycling is a male dominated pursuit, equestrianism is a female and children dominated pursuit and all government minister decision-making, since time immemorial, has been male dominated. How can it be that, currently, such blatant discrimination is still tolerated? Why can taking part in male dominated pursuits mean access to safe, traffic-free roads, but following Women and children dominated pursuits mean using dangerous vehicular highways, complete with their highly vulnerable horses and ponies when it is patently unsafe and unnecessary? Especially since, in law, they are equals.
We, as equestrians, agree that off-road infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians is a hugely important safety necessity that should ultimately evolve into a joined-up nationwide network of highways that are free of motorised traffic. However, all non-motorised transport users, including equestrians, are vulnerable road users, so should all be treated equally and inclusively in terms of safety initiatives.
Again, all we seek here is to get more horses onto off-road tracks that are already in existence, for the safety of both equestrians as vulnerable road users and the safety and convenience of other road users.
Is that so much to ask of the DfT?
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