Motor vehicles and rights of way

Our position on motor vehicles that use rights of way.

Motor vehicles should not endanger or disturb walkers

As Britain’s walking charity, we’re committed to fighting for the things that matter most to walkers.   But we recognise that the countryside is a shared space for many kinds of work-related and recreational activities and that these activities need to co-exist happily for the countryside to be a place that we can all enjoy.  One activity that can sometimes conflict with the needs of walkers, is the recreational use of motor vehicles such as quad bikes and 4x4s.  We want to ensure that use of these recreational motor vehicles in the countryside does not endanger or disturb walkers.   


The issue 

Paths which don’t have sealed surfaces can be damaged by motor vehicles, making them difficult to use and costly for local highway authorities to repair.  Use of motor vehicles on these paths can also spoil the enjoyment of the countryside for walkers.  In addition to making the paths difficult to use, they can be noisy.  

The recreational use of motor vehicles on footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways is illegal in most circumstances, and should be reported to the police. 

They can however be used on paths classed as byways open to all traffic (BOATs), and on other unsealed roads which carry rights for motor vehicles (often called ‘green lanes’).  


What we want to see in the future 

Laws exist to protect our paths, but they are often inadequately enforced.  We believe there should be:   

  • Proper enforcement of the law which prohibits the driving of motor vehicles on footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways (with use of criminal proceedings where appropriate). 

  • Timely use of traffic regulation orders (TROs) to prohibit the recreational use of motor vehicles on BOATs and other unsealed roads to protect paths from damage. This is particularly important within National Parks and AONB, and on National Trails which attract large numbers of walkers.  

Without consistent and comprehensive use of these measures, the most cost-effective protection of these routes may require new legislation. 

As a charity, you can support our work to protect and improve our paths and green spaces by donating or becoming a member.   Together we’ll increase access to green spaces, open up more places to walk and boost Britain’s wellbeing one step at a time. 


Shared use – walking and cycling

We are protecting walkers’ rights on the path network as the increased popularity of cycling leads to a growing number of shared use routes.


Rights of way and cattle

Serious incidents relating to cattle are rare. But when they do occur they can have profound consequences so farmers should minimise the risks to walkers.

A man walking with a walking stick with a lady by his side

Disability and public access

Spending time outdoors in nature should be easy, accessible and enjoyable for all. But our paths, tracks and trails are not always accessible to everyone.