Shared Paths – Cycles and Horses
Horses and bicycles have shared paths since the bicycle was invented. It is quite safe provided both types of riders respect each other.
Remember we are all enjoying the same countryside, and being off the roads. We have a lot in common.
On the flat and downhill cycles will usually be faster than horses, it may be the other way round going uphill or on a poor surface. Be aware at all times of other riders approaching you.
Sustrans advises that cyclists should give way to horses. On bridleways that is the law. If it is easier for you to give way, don’t stand on your rights. Horses can be difficult at times which often makes it safer for all if the considerate cyclist can make room.
Passing needs to be managed. As with any other meeting the key is to understand what the other person expects of you. Plan ahead.
Don’t go too fast – be able to stop well within the distance you can see ahead. That means going slowly at corners or where braking is difficult, especially on multi-user paths.
Make sure the other rider knows you are there. Make sure a horse is aware of you before it might perceive you as a threat. Do this early. Make yourself visible by moving out from any shadows. If you need to make a noise to draw attention to yourself don’t be loud or abrupt. If you have flashing lights turn them off.
Slow down and stop at a safe distance. A safe distance is one that the horse will not think is too close to them, not just far enough away for you not to come into physical contact with it.
As you approach plan the best passing strategy for both of you. Be aware that horse riders have a much better view than cyclists do.
Let the other rider know what you want (them) to do. Don’t do anything until you are sure they have agreed. We’ve all come across other riders who try to be helpful, but don’t let you know how they are going to do it !
You may not happen to meet other riders at the best place to pass them. If so be patient, and communicate. The best strategy may be to simply stop and wait to be passed.
If you are in a group or approaching a group identify the leader – the person to communicate with. Don’t pass until you are sure everyone in both groups is ready. If you are the first of a group approaching from behind say how many are in your group, as they may not be able to see them all. If you trying to pass a group do it in one go – avoid cutting into the middle.
Be aware of children on bicycles or horses who may have less precise control than adults.
Dogs in any situation can be unpredictable. When they are with a horse be especially careful you don’t do anything that will cause them to alarm the horse.
Always leave a margin for error. If there isn’t one don’t pass.
When passing don’t make sudden gestures or sounds. Do say thank you. Create some goodwill. Next time they may be passing you.
Horses leave things behind them. In the countryside not everything that is brown is mud. Don’t spray yourself or the people behind you.
This is also another skidding risk, like mud and leaves, especially on tarmac.
Advice provided by a Sustrans member.