A guide to public rights of way signs
Rights of Way are footpaths, bridleways and byways which have public access. They are protected by law. The following are the signs you should look out for, and what they mean in terms of your rights and those of the landowners. The information below is taken from the Hertfordshire County Council Rights Of Way guide.
- You have the right to walk together with any ‘normal accompaniment’ (e.g. a dog, pram, wheelchair).
- You do not have the right to use a bicycle, or even to wheel a bicycle along them. This is not a criminal offence, but a trespass against the landowner.
- It is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle along a public footpath (unless you have a private right).
- You do not have the right to ride or lead a horse or take a horse-drawn vehicle along a footpath, although it is not a criminal offence.
- You have the right to walk along them, to ride or lead a horse and to drive animals. You may also cycle along them (this right was granted under the Countryside Act 1968).
- Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders.
- It is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle along a bridleway.
- You do not have the right to take a horse-drawn vehicle along a bridleway, although it is not a criminal offence.
Public Restricted Byway
- Restricted Byways carry footpath and bridleway rights and may also be used by horse drawn carriage vehicles but not motor vehicles, motor bikes etc.
- Restricted Byway is a new type of right of way which was introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and brought into force by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
- As a result 'Roads Used as a Public Path' have now been re-designated as Restricted Byways.
Byway Open To All Traffic (BOAT)
- BOATs carry footpath, bridleway and vehicular rights. They are normally unsurfaced.
- They carry identical public rights to surfaced country lanes but they are, by definition, used mainly by walkers and riders.
- A BOAT’s surface is maintained to a standard consistent with its usage. The law applies to BOATs in the same way as an ordinary public road - any vehicle must be fully taxed, have an MOT certificate, and be insured. The driver must hold the appropriate driving licence. As a driver/rider you must also exercise the same level of care towards other users.
- Permissive routes can be used by permission of the landowner. They are the responsibility of the landowner to maintain.
- Routes with permissive rights may or may not be signed accordingly.
- Permissive routes have no legal status and the landowner can remove the permission at any time.
- Permissive rights may exist over a public right of way, i.e permission for horse riders to use a footpath.
- The County Council is not responsible for permissive routes.