How to get barriers redesigned or removed

Getting a physical barrier redesigned or removed on the Network is possible. We’ve put together a step-by-step guide to assist you in your endeavours to help make traffic-free routes more accessible for everyone. It’s important to note that each barrier redesign case is different and depending on the circumstance and where in the UK you're based, not every step and recommendation in this guide will apply to the barrier(s) you’re looking at. The barrier redesign process can often be a lengthy one, so patience and persistence is key.

Guide to getting barriers redesigned or removed

Step one: Identify a barrier or group of barriers

As part of putting a case forward for a barrier redesign or removal, you must be able to prove that a barrier or a set of barriers are restricting access for legitimate path users.

We recommend gathering evidence on how the barrier is problematic and stopping users getting through.

You can do this by:

  • taking photos and videos of how the barrier is restricting access, either to you or to a
    group of people
  • measuring the dimensions of the barrier; this can be helpful when it comes to annotating your photographs of the barrier with the narrowest point of access and the distances between different parts of the barrier. For information on how to accurately measure a barrier
  • accurately mark up the locations of the barrier or barriers on a map. can be a useful tool to help you save and share a precise location
  • it’s also useful to explore the area to see if this is a sole barrier or one of several nearby which could be grouped together to be redesigned.

Step two: Find out who owns the barrier

Often it's safe to assume that a barrier belongs to the local council, and if not, they can often point you in the right direction so this would always be our first suggestion of who to contact.

Get in touch with the best person at your local authority by sourcing contact details for relevant officers who are responsible for highways, countryside access, rights of way, active or sustainable travel.

You can find the contact details of relevant officers through the authority’s website or by calling its main contact number.

However, sometimes ownership isn’t always a straightforward process and may take some detective work, especially if the barrier is near a local authority boundary. Or, if there is more than one landowner.

Be prepared for responses which confirm who does not own the barrier, rather than who does.

It’s advisable to then ask whoever you are speaking to for their suggestion on who else to talk to - to find an answer on ownership.

If you've gone through these steps and you're struggling, these tips will help you find out who owns the barrier:

  • look for physical landowner signs near to the barrier. These landowners could include if it’s on one of their properties, a private landowner, if it’s by a railway or or if it’s on a canal towpath
  • get in touch with your local authority by sourcing contact details for relevant officers who
    are responsible for highways, countryside access, rights of way, active or sustainable travel. You can find the contact details of relevant officers through the authority’s website or by calling its main contact number
  • it may also be useful to contact a local or neighbouring councillor, especially if they are proactive within the community
  • it’s advised to make contact with your local community council, town council or parish council, if they exist in your area. These organisations are the first level of local government and help provide a voice to members of the community along with a structure on how to take action
  • your regional ߣߣƵ network manager is also a good contact to make and the relevant person can be contacted via our regional and national hubs.

Step three: Plan ahead and get organised

Throughout the process of trying to get a barrier removed or redesigned it is extremely helpful to stay organised.

We advise for you to:

  • keep your photos and videos of the barrier stored all together in a place which is easy for you to find
  • keep a list of contacts for everyone you contact about the barrier, for instance people who work for a local authority or with a land-owning organisation. Keep a record of their name, job title and contact details.

A lot of the time people think they need a group to create enough pressure for change.

However, we have found that even one person acting alone and emailing their local council can make a difference.

Even if the barrier is not immediately rectified you have raised this important issue to someone who might not have been aware of it before.

If you are still finding it difficult to get commitments from the landowner to remove or redesign their barriers, it might be useful to gather a group of likeminded people to share tasks with and to support each other.

You can contact local and regional groups and organisations which may share the same views as you.

For instance, disability access groups, cycle campaign groups, walking or ramblers groups, horse riding associations and local schools/nurseries.

Adam with his carer Gemma on the Water Rail Way, Lincolnshire

New adventures on the Water Rail Way: Linda and Adam's story

Linda and her son Adam love getting outside to enjoy nature in the fresh air.

But when a barrier prevented the pair from using their local stretch of the National Cycle Network, Linda got in touch with ߣߣƵ to change this.

Read their story.

Which law can you refer to when getting a barrier redesigned?

can act as a tool to reference when it comes to outlining the legalities around why it is vital for physical barriers on the National Cycle Network to be redesigned so that everyone can have equal access to all routes.

What is the The Equality Act?

The Equality Act is a law which protects people living in the UK from discrimination.

The Act protects people from unfair treatment related to a number of characteristics such as disability, race and age.

Public and local authorities (for example, Environment Agency, National Park, Network Rail, Natural England, Forestry Commission, the police, and schools) must comply with The Equality Act and consider all individuals when shaping policies and when delivering services, this includes providing safe active travel routes.

Relevant sections of The Equality Act when it comes to barriers:

There are two sections of The Equality Act which directly relate to the negative impact physical barriers have on people who cannot access routes because of them.

  • places a duty on public bodies and property owners who provide a public service to make reasonable adjustments to ensure someone with disabilities receives the same services, as much as this is possible, as someone who does not have any disabilities.
  • is a legal duty placed on public bodies to ensure they consider the needs of everyone in their activities.

It covers a range of protected characteristics including disability, race, age and gender, to name a few.

to support disabled people identify where they have experienced discrimination when it comes to physical barriers.

The guide also outlines the step-by-step process to take when challenging discrimination.

Blockquote quotation marks
A lot of the time people think they need a group to create enough pressure for change. However, we have found that even one person acting alone and emailing their local council can make a difference. Blockquote quotation marks
A man with a white beard wearing high-vis using an adapted trike in Arcadia Park in Scotland on a cloudy day

Barriers are often used to keep motor vehicles off walking and cycling routes. But they end up excluding a much wider group of people. Credit: Alan McAteer/ߣߣƵ

Using Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to obtain information which isn’t already in the public domain

Submitting a written to a local authority is a good method to obtain information which isn’t already in the public domain.

This can be particularly useful to question a local authority’s recent decision to install a physical barrier along the National Cycle Network, for example.


It’s important to consider, when submitting an FOI (which can be done via email, post or via social media), to refer to the law where relevant. For example, The Equality Act 2010 can be mentioned when highlighting the legalities around the redesign of a restrictive barrier and specifically who it has a negative impact on.

To find FOI requests which have been submitted and to see how they have been phrased, and to submit your own request, you can visit .

Using the search bar you can search for relevant words to find similar examples.

If you are requesting information about a newly installed barrier you can ask to see the for the work.

What are Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) and what do they look like?

EIAs are an evidence-based approach designed to ensure that policies and decision-making processes are fair and do not disadvantage any protected groups from participation.

The Equality Act 2010, mentioned above, introduced the Public Sector Equality Duty. This , to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination and other conduct prohibited by the Act.


What does the latest government guidance say?

You can quote the following when putting forwards an appeal to get a barrier redesigned.

, states in section 16: ‘Access control measures, such as chicane barriers and dismount signs, should not be used’ as ‘they reduce the usability of a route for everyone, and may exclude people riding nonstandard cycles and cargo bikes’.

It continues: ‘Control measures ‘reduce the capacity of a route as well as the directness and comfort. Schemes should not be designed in such a way that access controls,
obstructions and barriers are even necessary.'

Further on in the document in section 5.6 another mention of barriers states: ‘Deliberately restricting space, introducing staggered barriers or blind bends to slow cyclists is likely to increase the potential for user conflict and may prevent access for larger cycles and disabled people and so should not be used.’

In another document curated by the Department for Transport (December 2021) called

In section 7.6 it states: ‘As a principle, access control measures, such as staggered barriers that require cyclists to dismount, should not be used.

‘This is because they both reduce the usability of a route for everyone and may exclude users of ‘nonstandard’ cycles.’

For England and Northern Ireland:

The guidance is . The relevant section for barriers is section 8, pg.83.

It states that any barriers must have a gap of 1.5 metres and be able to accommodate the cycle design vehicle, which is 1.2m by 2.8m.

For Wales:

The guidance is the . The relevant section is 15.3: Access controls, pg.262. It broadly has the same recommendations and highlights the ߣߣƵ guidance.

For Scotland:

, Access Control, p.70 also highlights 1.5m and states barriers should be used only when necessary.

Physical barriers on the National Cycle Network are preventing access to many users. In this video, we explore why these barriers need to be redesigned to make the Network truly accessible for everyone.

Barrier removal in Scotland

Between 2020 and 2022 a full audit of Scotland’s traffic-free National Cycle Network was conducted, with our volunteers accounting for over 70% of the total mileage covered.

This data has been used to create a tool which local authorities and partners can use to identify issues on both the network and its immediate link paths.

Given the Scottish Government’s commitment to spending 10% of the transport budget on active travel, there are multiple funding streams available to address these barriers.

Every year, ߣߣƵ Scotland opens the Accessibility Fund for stakeholders to request funding provided by to remove or redesign barriers on the network.

Public feedback is key to making this a priority with local authorities and other landowners.

You can get involved by following the steps above to let landowners know of any issues, and don’t forget to cc scotlandbarriers@sustrans.org.uk into your email. Or you can send us a copy of your communication.

Real life example of the positive impact of barrier removal

ߣߣƵ’ Access Control Removal Research, Innovation Fund report (2016)gives some real life examples of barrier redesign work, including before and after photos.

One is located on a residential street in South Bermondsey, London under a road bridge.

Before the redesign process there were two barriers at the entries to the underpass.

Each was formed of staggered railings across the width of the street with a one metre gap between railings to enable access.

In its previous form, people on cycles had to stop and dismount to negotiate the barriers.

People who were walking were required to leave the footpath and enter the cycle route.

Additionally, consultation with residents in the area suggested a long term problem with illegal mopeds and scooters using this route as a cut through, as well as anti-social behaviour.

In January 2015, the barriers were removed and replaced with a much more open layout which also included bollards to prevent cars from entering the site.

The redesign puts people who walk, wheel and cycle in the area at the forefront of the new layout.

Motorcycle speed humps were also introduced at the site, with the aim of deterring illegal moped and scooter users.

A positive impact on usability and accessibility:

Following the redesign, the site saw a significant increase in active travel and a substantial increase in cycling.

The site saw a 39% increase in cycling (65 additional journeys) and a 28% increase in all users.

80% of cyclists stated that they used the route more often due to improvements in the site layout.

100% of respondents stated that they felt changes increased accessibility for all users.

Please note:

The information and opinions contained in this guide act as pieces of general information and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

Therefore, it should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice from a solicitor.

Frame runner and former Team GB Para Dressage rider, Kyrby Brown discusses her passion for disability sports and leisure, and why the National Cycle Network needs to accommodate all users.

Common questions

If you're wondering why barriers are there in the first place, and what the alternative to barriers are - we've answered some ofthe most common questions we receive around barriers.

Guidance and resources

These improvement plans are made by local authorities to assess whether public rights of way networks in the local area meet the needs of the public.

This includes accessibly, physical barriers and creating more opportunities for sustainable travel.

The plans are in place to ensure the authority considers a range of people when improving public rights of way networks.

It aims to provide a better experience for:

  • people with mobility issues
  • people who walk, wheel and cycle
  • horse riders
  • horse and carriage drivers
  • people using motorised vehicles.

Local authorities must review their rights of way improvement plan every 10 years.

These forums allow people to participate in decision making when it comes to public access.

LAFs advise decision making organisations (such as local authorities) on improvements which can be made to public access for outdoor recreation and sustainable travel.

LAFs are made up of local, voluntary members who are typically:

  • people who walk, wheel and cycle
  • campaign groups
  • landowners and land managers

Most LAFs meet at least four times a year.

Some forums also have topic groups which meet more regularly.

Members of the public can attend meetings as an observer, but only LAF members can participate in the discussions.

To become an LAF member .