Where can you cycle?
Page written in 2003, so could be possibly
Are bikes allowed on countryside footpaths?
Unfortunately not. Countryside access is a huge subject, policed by specialist
lawyers and 'rights of way' experts. Unlike in countries like Sweden or
Germany, we can't wander where we please in this green and pleasant land of
ours. All outdoor users have to stick to 'rights of way'. A bike,
unfortunately, is not what the law deems a 'natural accompaniment' to walking
(such as a walking stick or a dog) so you can't ride on a footpath.
Technically speaking, you can't even walk on a footpath with a bike. Cyclists
are committing trespass by riding on footpaths - no matter how wide - and
could be prosecuted by the landowner for any damage caused. Don't worry, it's
a civil matter, not a criminal wrong. In practice no landowner will sue you
but riding on footpaths upsets walkers.
YOU CAN RIDE ON -
Bridleways (27 400 kms)
We've had the right to share bridleways with walkers and horses since an Act
of Parliament in 1968. Note the word 'share'. Horses get spooked easily and
we're faster than walkers so it's only fair give them due consideration. Slow
down, smile, say hi and pick up speed once you roll past.
Byways Open to All Traffic (3000kms)
Otherwise known as BOATs these allow all traffic to pass, including vehicles.
Forest tracks and paths
Permission is officially required for riding through Forestry Commission land.
Often this permission has already been granted by the local conservator and
the Forestry Commission generally regards cycling favourably. Stick to the
waymarked routes, you don't want to meet a 60-ton logging truck coming round
the corner of a dirt track.
Green lanes (10 200kms)
A non-legal term for a pleasant unsealed country road, track or byway.
White roads (7000kms?)
Most roads on Ordnance Survey maps have colours to denote their status. White
roads have no colour so are not recorded as having any rights-of-way status.
When looking at an Ordnance Survey map they can appear to be farm tracks or
private roads when, in fact, they might be public highways. Of the estimated
7000 kms of 'lost' white roads many of them are great, totally legal trails
for use by cyclists just waiting to be 'found' and put onto the 'definitive
It's a sign!
It's fine and dandy knowing which routes you're supposed to stick to, but on
the ground it's often a different kettle of coconuts. There's not always a
footpath sign when you need one and many wide, open trails look as though they
must be bridleways. It's therefore good practice to always carry an Ordnance
Survey (OS) map. These don't list every right of way - check out the
'definitive map' at your local highway authority for that - but will include
the main ones. Or look for paths that have coloured waymarking arrows: yellow
on footpaths, blue on bridleways, and red on byways that can be legally used
(C) 2003,Dave's Mountain Bike Mania