It may be your desire to jump on a bike and go cycling off-road, and it may also be your instinct that you can go cycling off-road anywhere in the UK but the reality is that there are places that you are not allowed to go cycling.
However, let’s start with places that it is legal to go mountain biking.
The Countryside Agency state that there are over 140,000 miles public rights of way. These include off-road footpaths, bridleways and byways. These are some of the places that are legal to take your mountain bikes or any other sort of bike for that matter.
Bridleways are Legal Cycle Paths
There are approx 17,000 miles of Bridleways in England & Wales (sorry, we don’t have the data for Scotland & Northern Ireland). Bridleways are legal rights of way due to an Act of Parliament from 1968. Cyclists are entitled to share Bridleways with horse riders, walkers & joggers etc. However, please bear in mind that horses may get spooked by you riding too fast or by children ringing a cycle bell. So, slow down and be courteous.
Byways are Legal Cycle Paths
Byways are open to all traffic and cover around 2,000 miles. Byways allow all traffic, including motor vehicles so be careful with children.
Forest Tracks, Trails and Paths Require Permission
Forest trails require permission if it is official Forestry Commission land. However, in many cases, this permission is granted in advance and is implied permission so there’s no need to ask ever time. Having said that, you do need to check. The Forestry Commission are fans of mountain biking so you’ll find loads of trails across the UK. Our guide to Mountain Bike Trails will help you find places to ride.
It is of course good manners to stay on the official trail, perhaps only if it’s to avoid vehicles on fire paths.
Green Lanes are Legal Cycle Paths
Green Lanes are a non-legal term for a pleasant unsealed country road, track or byway. There are 6,500 miles across the country.
OS White Roads are Legal Cycle Paths
Ordnance Survey (OS) maps have around 4,000 miles of White Roads. These are roads with no recorded rights-of-way status. They appear to be farm tracks or private roads but may be public highways. These are legal cycle paths and thus can be ridden by cyclists.
Footpaths are Not Legal Cycle Paths
Now on to those places that are not legal. The obvious illegal way to ride your bike is on a footpath. Let’s look at the name again, Footpath. There you are, they are for feet, not tyres.
Canal Tow-Paths are Not Legal Cycle Paths, But..
As a legal right-of-way, Canal Tow-Paths are not legal. However, many towpaths are now becomming legal as they are made into official cycle paths.
Disused Railway Lines May be Legal Cycle Paths
Only those Railway Lines that have been way-marked and designated as cycle routes are ok to cycle along.