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Is a Collision on a Bridleway a Road Traffic Accident?

Horse riders choose to ride along bridleways for many reasons. Getting away from it all and enjoying the countryside are two obvious ones that spring to mind. Another could be safety – you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d be safe from other vehicles when hacking along a bridleway.

Unfortunately, a recent horse riding injury case showed that equestrians are still at risk from irresponsible vehicle users. A 23-year-old horse rider from Mansfield sustained a broken ankle after falling from her horse, which bolted when a motorcyclist rode too close.

Can Motorbikes Use Bridleways?

Some bridleways do run on tracks where vehicle access is permitted for landowners or certain rights holders but, for the most part, motorbikes can’t use bridleways.

Under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, it is illegal to ride any motor vehicle on anything which is recorded on maps as a bridleway or footpath.

So, we know that the motorbike that spooked the horse on the Mansfield bridleway really shouldn’t have been there. But, what about the injured horse rider? Can equestrians in these circumstances make a personal injury claim against the motorcyclist?

Claiming for Accidents on a Bridleway

If you are injured in an accident on a bridleway when riding your horse and that accident has been caused by the negligent actions of another bridleway user, then you are entitled to make a personal injury claim.

People sometimes think that, if a motorbike is ridden along a bridleway then it can’t be a road bike that needs insurance – and therefore any personal injury claim is futile. This is simply not the case. Firstly because a bridleway is classed as a public place or road according to both the Highways Act and Road Traffic Act.

Secondly, a recent European Court of Justice ruling in the case of Damijan Vnuk v Zavarovalnica Triglav ruled that compulsory vehicle insurance cover is required for “any motor vehicle intended for travel on land and propelled by mechanical power.” So, this would definitely include motorbikes travelling along bridleways – and this was accepted by the Motor Insurer’s Bureau (MIB) in the case of the Mansfield horse rider.

Safe Use of Shared Spaces

Horse riders on bridleways are likely to encounter walkers and cyclists too, so it’s important for everyone to understand how to use these routes safely.

Pedal cyclists have the right to use bridleways along with horse riders, as do walkers, but according to the 1968 Countryside Act cyclists must give way to pedestrians and horse riders on bridleways.

Cyclists will also encounter horse riders on country lanes as many will need to use them in order to access bridleways. Our previous advice on how cyclists should safely overtake horse riders will come in handy here.

Horse riders are more likely to be injured in a road traffic accident than they are on a public bridleway as they are much more likely to encounter other vehicles. The British Horse Society offers some good advice for riding a horse on the road, which they’ll need to follow as using a public road is often the first step for a horse rider on their journey to an idyllic country bridleway.

For a free consultation about claiming personal injury compensation for an accident on a bridleway, call us 24/7 on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.

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