The Countryside Code – 2021 Update & Mountain Biking

The revised Countryside Code [ Summary / Full ] has landed with great fanfare this month, and it’s been interesting to see the varied responses to the updated guidance on how we should all behave when enjoying the great outdoors.

All in all, it’s a good step forward for the mountain biking community, with our place in the outdoors more strongly emphasised amongst the revised guidance. In the new Code, perhaps the most significant change for us is an encouragement for walkers not to obstruct or endanger riders – on bike or horse – out on the trails. It’s a small thing, but significant in recognising our right to be there.

Other than that, it’s fair to say that not much has changed from the revised Code of 10 years ago. But there are some changes. The core of it is Respect, Protect and Enjoy. And from a Peak District MTB perspective, this fits very nicely as this is pretty much what we’re about too. And therein lies the challenge. None of those of you reading this needs to know that. That’s pretty much the refrain we all share when we’re out there. Indeed, by being a member of PDMTB or having an interest, you’re happily versed in our responsible riding message.

Yes there are some particular challenges – the cross through bikes on the footpath permission strikes against our scientifically based argument for more access. And the brilliant “Be Nice, Say Hi” being watered down to the much more proper, yet sadly less impactful “Be nice, say hello” is a shame. But the Code does provide a common lingua franca amongst the varied leisure users of the Peak District. It’s something that unites us all and something behind which we should all throw our support.

There’s some great images to use to spread the word – download, share and spread them across social media. Don’t wait for the next moorland fire before you take that step – crack on now.
The Code does give some great advice about how we can all think of our actions when we visit the Peak. Especially when it comes to community respect. No matter how we look at it, MTBs are still seen as the bad guys by many in the Peak and so arguably we have to go above and beyond in our behaviour if we’re to change perceptions of us all. It’s the little, but very visible things that the Code talks about which will make a difference to how we’re viewed by others – and subsequently treated when it comes to our arguments about access. From thinking about how you park, to litter, to thinking about livestock, a lot of it is common sense. But it only takes one car with a bike rack parked in front of a farm gate, one gel wrapper dropped or one sheep panicked into an early birth for the subsequent fallout to derail our position for a fair while.

There’s a wider debate to be had about the Code itself; how the word is spread; whether it hits the right people. We can all play a part in driving it forward. But for now, respect, protect and enjoy is a good message to go by. Maybe in 2031 we can add “share” to that too.

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11 April 2021