Legal procedures for removing Cycle Barriers

Every day, I usually see a number of posts about barriers which have been erected on cycle routes, and the problems they cause with the following:

  • Wheelchairs
  • Hand cycles
  • Tricycles
  • Longer bicycles
  • Tandems
  • Cargo bikes
  • Cycles with any form of carrier for kids
  • Cycles with trailersAND
  • Anyone using a conventional bicycle who has a problem with dismounting or just using these gates.
  • Mobility scooters (not currently legal to use “cycle lanes”, but they are allowed to use shared paths).

Firstly, there’s a general misconception that these barriers serve any kind of useful purpose – they don’t, and it’s been shown time and again that people who want to find a way round them will.

Even if there was reliable evidence to say that these barriers provided some element of benefit, it’s highly unlikely they would be deemed a “reasonable adjustment”, given the number of people they exclude.

Thank fully, many councils have stopped installing this kind of barrier. I’m not aware of any that have gone in here in Coventry since the early 2010s, and I know that the new fences on more recent paths have been very “forgiving”. They would certainly stop a car, but I’m not aware of any problems that users of any of the above would have.

However, there must be hundreds of these barriers that still remain in the city, and I’m not aware that the council has any plan to remove them – in fact, I did an FOI on this a few years ago, and they said they had no such plans, essentially using the tired “protect the vulnerable” line.


  • Sustrans – guide to their own policy on barriers with suggested links at the end.
  • Sustrans news article on their aim to remove 16,000 barriers.

Note that although Sustrans manage the NCN (National Cycle Network), they are rarely responsible for routes after they have been implemented.

  • Fix My Street – tool to report issues via their platform and log on their map.
  • Email your councillor and MP (yes, that tired old route that does sometimes get a result – what do they know?

Note – councillors will also get emails about anti-social behaviour and all the other “problems” that cycle barriers are meant to solve. Many local politicians are increasingly becoming aware of the equality case to make cycling open for everyone, but others aren’t quite there yet. Whilst it’s best to try any available route, don’t hold on to get councillors to do something when there’s a direct legal procedure that might be more effective.

  • Wheels for Wellbeing – charity with a focus on providing adapted cycles, and campaigning for all matters relating to disabled cycling.
  • Pushbikes Birmingham – an excellent article by Chris Lowe about the CRT’s own experience on removing motorcycle barriers, and why they aren’t considered to be very effective at reducing antisocial behaviour.
  • Heavy Metal Hand Cyclist (twitter account) – is always a mine of information on matters relating to obstructive barriers and gates.

Legal Procedures

If you have tried the above, and nothing is working, then there are legal proceedings which can be issued. This needs to be done by logging the number of times you have had problems, detailing the location(s) and why these problems occur.

This needs to be served in the small claims court against the authority responsible for the route. This is usually your local council, but it might not be, especially if the route is on an old railway.

Note that if you are in a two tier local authority area, highways and rights of way will be a county matter.

  • Sample FOI request. Note there are two purposes this can provide.
    • Firstly (and most obviously), it will confirm that the council is responsible for the barrier.
    • Secondly – it **may** result in instant removal. This is obviously the goal, and in some cases this does happen, but it’s not something that can be relied on!
  • DART – the Disability Attitude Re-adjustment Tool. This is your next step. See also extensive list of links below this article.

Old Railway Paths

These can be hugely problematic, due to complex problems regarding who might actually own the land. However – even if the ownership is in doubt, your local council might well still be required to act if they have adopted the route as a public right of way.


Canal towpaths are the responsibility of the Canals & Rivers Trust. They are also challenging to deal with, because they are not public rights of way, even if council money has been used to upgrade the route.

Irrespective of their status, the Equality Act 2010 would still apply, as they are open for usage by the general public.

There is no longer any requirement for any cyclist, using a conventional bicycle or otherwise, to have a “licence” or permit to cycle along the canal.

However, canal towpaths may fall foul of the “reasonable adjustment” criteria if access is needed over an historical bridge, and providing such access would be considered to “substantially harm” the character of that structure. This again is highly debateable, given that many canals are otherwise derelict. None of these concerns would apply to more recent barriers which have simply been installed to try and block access by motorbikes.


Barriers removed in Leighton Buzzard Morrisons – possibly because they were installed illegally in the first place (allegedly by Morrisons).

York Cycle Campaign – how to take action, including details on making FOI requests, a standard “letter before action” and follow up through the Small Claims Court.



Traffic Anxiety is a blog about recording and dealing with road traffic danger. My focus is on the problems caused by aggressive driving, and the need to reduce both road danger and the noise that goes with it.

In order to give everyone the chance to cycle (remember that cycling doesn’t just mean riding a “bike”), I know the core focus needs to be on cycle paths and safe local filtering (aka LTNs or “low traffic neighbourhoods”). However, if these routes are then blocked by barriers, they can never be open to all.

However – barrier removal is not something I have much experience in.

I’ve written this post because every time someone else has brought it up, I’ve added in a few twitter accounts who do deal with this stuff, but I haven’t had a single point of reference which details these matters on one page.

So I hope this helps. If you need further assistance, please try any of the links mentioned above. Of course, I’m more than happy to reply to comments below, or via twitter.

#IANAL (I am not a lawyer)



One reply on “Legal procedures for removing Cycle Barriers”

After unsuccessfully chasing my council to get barriers on the footpath next to my home removed, I tried emailing my councillor as you suggested and got a result within a week. Thanks for such helpful advice.

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