Riders are being urged to a sign a new online petition calling for the Department for Transport to allow horses to use government-funded off-road tracks, such as cycle ways.
The petition is the third to be set up by Debbie Smith, the creator of the Facebook group Pass Wide and Slow, which campaigns for safer roads for horses.
“Cyclists receive funding for off-road cycle tracks and campaigns, but we are yet to see the government put in new bridleways. Equestrians are not allowed to use cycle tracks and why is that fair if it’s going to be a safe place to get us off the road?” Debbie told H&H.
Debbie’s previous petition calling for a change to laws to protect horses being ridden on the roads did not reach the required 100,000 signatures in the time allowed.
“I’ve started this new petition because the transport minister is being a bit sticky with equestrians. He seems to help cyclists, but we need to keep bringing equestrians to his attention and keep MPs talking about us,” said Debbie.
“The Parliament debate on 5 November was very good and a lot of MPs spoke up for us. It’s the first time they have really talked about equestrians, which was really good to see; it’s all about keeping the pressure on. We have to keep pushing until the transport minister will happily include equestrians with cyclists.”
The petition has attracted more than 10,000 signatures since it was created on 15 November.
“I asked the Pass Wide & Slow group what do we want to ask for. We changed the wording of the petition this time to try a different way of getting our point through to the transport minister. We thought we would take a different approach on why we are being left out rather than trying to change the law,” said Debbie.
“Group member Marian Perrott, an ex-mounted police officer, helped with the wording — we wanted to create something that couldn’t just be thrown out by Parliament. We want safer riding on the roads for horses and to be allowed to share cycle routes that go alongside roads. More funding from the government could also help with things like more horse warning signs on roads.”
This petition is being run on the platform Change.org, rather than the parliament petition website.
“With the parliament petitions you have six months to reach 10,000 signatures and then you receive an automated government response and at 100,000 it is considered for debate. On Change.org it doesn’t matter how long you take to get signatures and the good thing about it is you can add updates to the petition like videos and links,” said Debbie.
“We will be posting weekly updates with riders’ stories and include horses that have died on the roads. People have been contacting us with their stories, they want to get them out there and they want people to know what has happened to them.”
Debbie, who successfully took a petition to parliamentary debate previously, said she is amazed how many signatures the new campaign has received so far.
“The plan is to get to 100,000 signatures and then we will ask local MPs to take it to Parliament. I will be speaking with my MP Derek Thomas, who took my first petition to debate,” she continued.
Riders only have until the 2 November to sign the petition
“I just got mad out riding one day and thought, ‘I’m going to change the law’”
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“I do the petitions because drivers need to respect us,” said Debbie. “One driver driving too fast and too close can cause injuries. The only way to stop it from happening is to keep reporting incidents to the police, wear cameras and if you feel the police haven’t dealt with it, then report it to the police commissioner.”
Debbie said people need to keep signing and sharing the petition. Among those who have already signed is international dressage trainer and H&H columnist Pammy Hutton.
“If people don’t sign and share nothing will change. If you want to be safe and want to be heard then you have to sign and share. If something doesn’t happen soon there is a risk that people won’t ride on the roads at all, which would be a big shame,” said Debbie.
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