GREEN LANES: Should the UK allow 4x4 off roaders to green lane - or 4x4 green laning as it is better known? It is a source of enjoyment for 4x4 owners, but a source of irritation for environmentalists. So, where do we go from here?
When we discuss green laning 4x4, quad bikes, and motorbikes are the 'culprits'.
Yet, their owners have been using byways and bridleways as personal off road tracks for years.
These lanes are often disused and not maintained (or owned) by anyone.
They are almost inaccessible to all other traffic. This is one of the reasons we call it '4x4 green laning'.
This subject has caused a dilemma for me in recent times. As keen off-roaders, we also attend track days at various courses around the country. We have been green laning in Kent quite a few times in the past years.
But, the battles over lane closures in Hampshire have left us wondering. Who should we be siding with - 4x4 drivers or who?
Some complaints from local residents caused the closure of three lanes in Hampshire. They complained about disturbances occurring on countless occasions.
The residents blamed green laning 4x4 vehicles and dirt bikes for driving down these lanes.
A lot of these byways and bridleways are inaccessible to most traffic. They get used on occasions by horse riders and ramblers. In our opinion, they do not disturb the peace of the countryside at any level.
So how would you feel about having off road vehicles using these lanes near your home? It would become quite irritating if it happened on a regular basis right? Thus, most likely you and I would complain too.
Environmentalists have had their say too. They claim these vehicles damage the countryside. They cause excessive amounts of noise and air pollution and disturb the wildlife.
Understandable yes. But, these lanes are muddy, rocky, overgrown, and not maintained. They are not beautiful, serene, countryside walkways.
This has sparked discussions about other lanes like these all over the country. Should all byways and bridleways be completely closed to all traffic? Should lanes near housing areas get closed off? Could some lanes be re-opened for all traffic to use - including 4x4 vehicles?
So what about the people that everyone has been complaining about? Do they think they are in the wrong? We discussed it with a group of off roading enthusiasts to ask them their opinions. Typical responses included:
Now, there are potential problems whichever way you go with this debate. There are no laws preventing road legal vehicles using these lanes. If they are re-opened to traffic, councils will have to maintain them. It would be a colossal task deciding which lanes should get shut down; I know I wouldn’t want the job!
You now have your monster 4x4 right? Let's assume you managed to dig out an OS map (1:25,000) and identified some BOATs marked by a large green cross. The final preparation is packing a bag of essential provisions.
The least you will need is a fuel can and most likely some food and drink. Using a 4x4 in low range transmission mode, or even its low gears, burns up fuel fast - and so will the driver!
Natural green lanes are usually remote. They often take a long time to traverse, despite how they appear on the map. It may also be a long hike to the nearest fuel station or refreshment cafe.
Apart from the usual 4x4 gear accessories you should also consider taking these extra reserve essentials:
Note: Unless you are very optimistic, we would always recommend taking a rain coat. Don't forget your wellies and a fully charged mobile phone in case of an emergency.
Always double check your 4x4 and SUV insurance policies. You may not have coverage for off-roading. Contact a specialist and ask for 4x4 insurance with green lane cover.
Having the full kit prepares you for the thrill of travelling around green lanes. You rarely know what you are going to find. Most likely you will experience driving in:
Drivers can go off road into green lanes in designated areas. But, they should also be mindful of other people they may come across. There are several green lane environmental action movements. It is unlikely they understand or agree with your purpose.
Many of the Hampshire green lanes are in a remote part of the countryside. That means it would be unlikely to meet anyone or anything. Even so, always travel slower and be extra polite if you do.
You may come across a family picnic, a group of ramblers, another green laner, or a startled deer. Spraying them with mud is not good. Neither is it the reason off roaders head to remote and overgrown green lane locations.