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Right of Way

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Right of Way
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A Right of Way is a route along which the general public have a right of passage, with certain conditions depending on the type of right of way. In England and Wales, Rights of Way are designated either in legislation or under by laws.

In Scotland, the public have a more general right to roam, and so Rights of Way are those routes considered to be more highly trafficked and linking two definitive places, roads or destinations. They must have been in use for 20 years but there is no necessity for them to be signed, and they do not get marked on Ordnance Survey mapping.

Types of Right of Way

There are three funadamental types of Rights of Way, footpath, bridlepath and carriageway. Carriageways are roads, footpaths and bridlepaths are paths.


A Footpath is a Highway where the public have a right to pass and repass on foot only. In addition to the right to pass and repass the public also have a right to enjoy activities that are ancillary to that such as having a picnic, stopping to read a map, pushing a bicycle or pram, and walking a dog.

There is no criminal offence of using a non-motorised vehicle (eg horse and cart, bicycle) on a footpath, although this may constitute a civil trespass in some circumstances.

There is no criminal offence of using a powered mobility scooter on a footpath.

The routes are found in both urban and rural locations, and range from short links between roads in modern housing estates to lengthy routes across fields or open countryside. Urban routes are often signed with No Cycling roundels, which leads many to believe that the lack of a sign permits cycling, although this seems to be a grey area. In rural areas paths are predominantly signed on the roadside, traditionally by green finger posts, but increasingly with timber finger posts. Once on the route, it is more common to find plastic discs with yellow arrows affixed to posts or trees. A wide range of waymarkers exist however.

Footpaths are identified on the defintive map and signed accordingly. This is without prejudice to the question of the existence of higher (bridlepath/carriageway) rights. Many carriageways and bridlepaths are under-recorded as footpath.


Bridleways are the next stage up from a footpath, being a route that is open to cyclists and horse riders in addition to walkers. They are less likely to run through fields and normally have gates in place of stiles to allow the users easier passage. The routes were originally defined as for foot or horse traffic, with cycles added in 1968. This results in cyclists having to give way to other users, and there is no requirement for the routes to be passable on a bike. Signage is similar to Footpaths, except that blue waymarkers are used in place of yellow ones.

Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT)

Main Article: Byway Open to All Traffic

This classification of carriageway was created by the Countryside Act 1968. It is now defined by section 66 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981:

“byway open to all traffic” means a highway over which the public have a right of way for vehicular and all other kinds of traffic, but which is used by the public mainly for the purpose for which footpaths and bridleways are so used;

Where a defintive map and statement shows a BOAT, this provides conclusive evidence that the road is a carriageway upon which there is a public right of way for motorvehicles and all other forms of traffic.

Road used as Public Path (RUPP)

This classification of carriageway was created by the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The defintion of RUPP was defined by the Act as:

"Road Used as Public Path" means a highway, other than a public path, used by the public mainly for the purposes for which footpaths and bridlepaths are so used.

The definition proved to be contentious. The most recent authority as to its statutory meaning was examined by the Court of Appeal ( ) at paragraph 88:

"It follows from the statutory definitions that a RUPP is a highway over which the public have rights of way with vehicles (since public paths are excluded from the definition). It also follows that a private carriageway over which the public have access on foot or on horseback only cannot be a RUPP. The highest status it can have is that of a public path. The compiling of the draft map, the provisional map and the definitive map were required to show any way which in the opinion of the authority "was… or was … reasonably alleged to be" a RUPP (section 27 (2))."

Restricted Byway

This is the new classification for RUPPs since 2006. It allows any non-motorised traffic to pass, which includes horse-drawn traffic over and above a Bridleway.


Main Article: All-purpose Road

This is what is commonly called a road or more specifically an All-purpose Road, and generally speaking is open to all traffic. Local restrictions may include height, width, length and weight restrictions, generally due to the physical size, shape or route of the road in question but also due to environmental considerations.

Special Road

Main Article: Special Road

Most Special Roads are Motorways. They are not rights of way, as pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn traffic, learner drivers, slow moving or low powered motorised vehicles are not permitted.

Permissive Path

As with Special Roads, Permissive Paths are not Public Rights of Way. They are routes across private land which the landowner allows pedestrians (and rarely cyclists and horse riders) to pass. In order to prevent them becoming Rights of Way, there will be restrictions on their use, most commonly by closing them on a specific day, or days, in the course of each year. They are nearly always clearly signed as Permissive Paths to prevent any misunderstandings. The majority of such paths are on publicly or charity owned land (such as nature reserves and National Trust property), although they are also found on private land, particularly within National Parks.

Right of Way
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