Q: Can I stop on a right of way?
A: You may stop to rest, admire the view, make a sketch, take a photograph, have a picnic or do other things incidental to your journey but you must not obstruct other people when you do so.
Q: Do I have a right to take a wheelchair or pushchair on a public right of way?
A: You may take a wheelchair or a pushchair along any public right of way, although it may not be practical to do so.
Q: Can I cycle on a footpath?
A: Cyclists may use bridleways, byways open to all traffic and restricted byways. They must give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways. There is no right to cycle along public footpaths. It is not an offence to ride on a footpath, but may be a trespass against the landowner. However, it is an offence to ride on a pavement beside a carriageway and also where a traffic regulation order or a bylaw is in place to prohibit cycling. You may take a wheelchair or pushchair along any public right of way although it may not be practical to do so.
Q: Can I ride a horse on a footpath?
A: This is not an offence unless horse riding is prohibited by a traffic regulation order or a bylaw but it may be a trespass against the owner of the land. It is possible that "higher rights" may exist that have not yet been recorded, and if so it would not constitute trespass.
Is it legal to shoot across a right of way?
A: It is not a specific offence to shoot across a public right of way but to do so could amount to a common law nuisance, wilful obstruction of the highway, a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974 or intimidation. It is an offence for anyone except the landowner or occupier (or someone with their permission) to carry and discharge a loaded firearm or air gun in a public place, including any public right of way. Organised shoots should adhere to the BASC Code of Good Practice.
Q: Are cars or motorcycles allowed to use public rights of way?
A: Vehicles may use byways open to all traffic (unless there is a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) in place). They may not use footpaths, bridleways or restricted byways - this is a criminal offence if done without lawful authority, or if the motorbike/car is ridden/driven inconsiderately or causes damage. The legislation is enforceable by the Police as for other road traffic offences. Races or speed trials on paths are forbidden. Permission for other types of trials on paths may be sought from the local authority, if the landowner agrees.
Q: In the countryside, where can I...?
A: Walk, ride my horse, ride my bike, drive my horse-drawn carriage, drive my 4X4 or ride my motorbike?
Walk; on all rights of way (footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways, byways open to all traffic), some cycle tracks, Open Access Land, permissive paths and various open spaces such as village greens, parks, some nature reserves, woodlands and National Trust and Forestry Commission land is also open to walkers, and these are often shown on Ordnance Survey maps. More information can be found here.
Ride my horse; on bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic, permissive bridleways and toll bridleways.
Ride my bike; on bridleways, cycle tracks, restricted byways, byways open to all traffic and on permissive cycle paths.
Drive my horse-drawn carriage; on restricted byways and byways open to all traffic.
Drive my 4x4 or ride my motorbike; on byways open to all traffic. Remember any that traffic legislation that applies to using a vehicle on a public road equally applies to the use of vehicles on public rights of way.
Problems on Public Rights of Way
Q: Can a farmer keep a bull in a field through which a public right of way passes?
A: The only bull allowed in a field crossed by a public right of way is a bull under 10 months old or a beef bull accompanied by cows or heifers. Breeds of bull that must NOT be kept in fields with a path include Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry. Farmers are advised to ensure they comply with the HSE Agricultual Information Sheet No 17 on Cattle and Public Access.
Q: What should I do if I find an intimidating sign on a public right of way (e.g. Private, Keep Out, Beware of the Bull etc.)?
A: Misleading or intimidating signs on rights of way are unlawful. Please report any that you come across.
Q: What can I do if a public right of way is blocked?
A: You may remove a sufficient amount of an obstruction on a public right of way to get by otherwise you may take a short detour to get around it,but be careful not to trespass on another owner's land. Be aware however that if, for instance, you cut an illegal fence wire across a public right of way thereby allowing stock to escape onto a road you could be liable for damages. It is best to report the obstruction to Public Rights of Way for them to take action.
Q: What if someone tries to stop me using the right of way?
If you have a map with you check that you are on the correct route, avoid confrontation, take an alternative route if possible and report it to the Council as soon as you are able.
Q: I am concerned about anti-social behaviour on a path near my house. What can be done about it?
A: This is a matter for the Police, as the people are a problem rather than the path. Report it to the Anti Social Behaviour Team at the Council
Q: I cannot use a path because the field has been ploughed / cropped. What should I do?
A: Use the nearest alternative route. Report the location to Public Rights of Way.
Q: I have been using a path for years and it has recently been blocked off by a locked gate or a fence or building/there is a new private sign/someone has stopped me and told me not to use the path. What can I do about this?
A: Firstly, check whether it is a public right of way. See the Mapping (Link) to check the mapping to see if it recorded. If it does not appear to be recorded as a public right of way see how can I claim a public right of way that is not shown on the Definitive Map ?
Q: What is the law on aggressive/intimidating livestock in a field through which a public right of way passes?
A: The keeper of any animal may be liable for the damage/injury caused by the animal. Please report the matter to public rights of way.
Q: What should I do if a public right of way is overgrown with vegetation?
A: The landowner is responsible for keeping hedges from obstructing public rights of way. The Rights of Way Team is responsible for clearing vegetation growing from the surface of the path. Report this issue to the public rights of way.
Q: Who is responsible for removing litter or fly-tipping from a public right of way?
A: The local council is responsible for clearing fly-tipping on a highway. Report this to South Gloucestershire Council
Q: Who should I contact if I find an abandoned car on a public right of way?
A: This is the local council's responsibility. Report this to the Council.
Q: Can an electric fence be erected across a path? What about barbed wire?
A: Electric fences adjacent to public rights of way should be clearly labelled. Electric fences may be erected across a footpath (but not across a bridleway or byway) but they must be clearly labelled and insulated handles must be provided. It is an offence to place barbed wire across a public right of way. Barbed wire adjacent a path could be considered to be a 'public nuisance'. A walker or rider who is injured or damages their clothes on barbed wire when using the path could claim for damages against the landowner.