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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Considerate cycling

Explore the environmental impact of short-cuts and make a pledge to give our green spaces room to grow.

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You’ll need

  • Scrap paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Flipchart or whiteboard with markers
  • Copies of the ‘Mountain biking code of conduct’
  • Internet access (optional)
  • Overhead park image (optional)

Before you begin

  • You could print off individual copies of the Mountain biking code of conduct, for the group to take away with them.
  • On your flipchart or whiteboard, draw an overhead view of a park, with:
    • a front gate at the bottom left
    • some trees
    • flowerbeds
    • a small children’s play area
    • a toilet block
    • a walkway
    • a cycle path around the perimeter.

If you don’t have time, print out some overhead images from Google Earth of a local park.

Run the activity

  1. Explain what a ‘desire line’ is to the group, if they don’t already know.

A ‘desire line/path’ is a route caused by human or animal traffic wearing away the ground. These form over time in areas that aren’t designated walkways where people take short-cuts.

  1. Have some people come up and take turns to draw their preferred route across the park from the front gate to the toilet block on foot. Make sure they all use the same coloured marker.
  2. Have some other people come up and take turns to draw their preferred route across the park from the front gate to the toilet block on a bicycle. Make sure they use the same colour as each other, but a different colour to the walkers.
  3. It’s unlikely that everyone chose to follow the designated walkways or cycle paths, even though they know about desire lines now. Compare the lines together. See who opted for the quickest, most convenient route (remember you were going to the toilet!) and who didn’t. See whether cyclists and walkers chose varying routes.
  4. Come up with a slightly different scenario and see if the group would change their route in those circumstances.

Here’s an example you could use: ‘A gardener has planted some new wildflowers to improve the biodiversity of the park. The plants are very young and have just started to grow, in new flowerbeds between the gate and the toilet block. They need to remain undisturbed if they’re to grow into mature wildflowers.’

  1. Ask the walkers and the cyclists what their thoughts are on your new scenario. See if anyone would consider changing their route for any reason. Allow walkers and cyclists to explain their reasoning, if they wish.
  2. Split the group in half. Have one team look at the ways desire lines might affect wildlife and write down their thoughts. Have the other team look at how desire lines might affect the behaviour of other people visiting the area and write down their thoughts.

Remind them that desire lines are created by people going off of designated routes and using undesignated routes.

  1. Give everyone five minutes to discuss this and then have them share their findings together. If there’s time, share some points from this article with the group to add to the discussion.
  2. See if anyone can recite the five values of Scouting.
  3.  Have volunteers come up with one way they can stay true to these values when out and about in green spaces, and comment on how well they line up with both The Countryside Code and the Mountain biking code of conduct.
  1. Give out the copies of the Mountain biking code of conduct.
  2. Have everyone gather together and assign everyone a number between one and six.
  3. Make sure everyone can see a copy and then begin calling out the numbers. Ones should recite the first point in the code of conduct, twos the second point, and so on, until everyone is familiar with the code.


‘Always plan ahead’ from the Mountain biking code of conduct sounds an awful lot like ‘Be prepared,’ doesn’t it? And ‘Leave no trace’ is a famous quote from Baden Powell. How can being prepared help us to not leave anything behind? Planning a walk or bike ride with care, bringing a map that shows designated tracks for everyone, taking our waste away with us. How many other such benefits of planning and preparation can you think of?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

  • Encourage more exploration of the topic by seeking out real examples around your local area. This could include heading out and taking photos of real desire lines and eroded areas. You could also factor in the activities of motor vehicles and domestic animals, as well as walkers and cyclists.
  • Alternatively, the activity could be shortened to a bite-size discussion about the use of short-cuts across protected or private lands.

Not all short-cuts get used because people are ‘lazy.’ Many people with mobility issues need to use the most convenient or different routes to get from A to B. A common example in countryside and parks are stiles and kissing gates, which can be impassable obstacles to many, who have no choice but to find a way around. Factor into your discussions that many eroded areas could be the result of designated walkways and tracks not being accessible enough.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Apply the discussion and learning in this activity to a real world walk or bike ride. A cross-country cycle excursion would be perfect to encourage everyone to be green-conscious cyclists and help those working towards the Scouts Cyclist Activity Badge. Along the way the group could take note of parts of the path that could do with a little love or some clearer signage. They could then take their notes to their leader and see if it’s possible to get in touch with the local authority about volunteering for a community project that could help fix some of the issues they found.

Group reflection at the end of the activity encourages young people to take ownership of their behaviour outside the meeting place and develop as responsible citizens of their communities.