Rights of way information and advice

Information about the different types of rights of way and who can use them.

We are responsible for managing the longest public rights of way network in England at over 10,000km.

A public right of way is a way over which the public has a right to "pass and repass", whether or not the land is privately owned.

On all types of public right of way you can take a pushchair or wheelchair if the path is suitable, although many are across farmland so may have an uneven surface and may have gates or stiles. You can also take a dog, but it must be kept under close control, especially when near livestock. On open access land there may be restrictions at certain times of year to protect wildlife.

You are also allowed to picnic on public rights of way, but remember to take your litter home.

If you come across an illegal obstruction then you have the right to take a short deviation around it or remove it as much as is necessary to get past. Find out more on our rights of way maintenance page.

You are not allowed to ride a horse or a bicycle on a footpath (this is a trespass against the landowner). It is illegal to drive a motor vehicle on a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway.

For more information, download  public rights of way - using the network in North Yorkshire (pdf / 6 MB).

Further information

waymark_yellow.jpg Public footpaths can be used by walkers only. They are waymarked with a yellow arrow.
waymark_blue.jpg Public bridleways can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists, and are waymarked with a blue arrow.
waymark_pink.jpg Byways open to all traffic waymark can be used by walkers, cyclists, horseriders and motor vehicles, and are waymarked with a red arrow.
waymark_purple.jpg Restricted byways (formerly roads used as public paths or RUPPs) can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and non-motorised vehicles. Waymarked with a purple arrow.

Rights of way law is drawn from a patchwork of different pieces of legislation, key among them the Highways Act 1980, Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Details of these and other relevant laws can be found at the government legislation.

The local access forum advises us and other public bodies on how to make the countryside more accessible, influencing planning and policy. It has 18 members, with new members recruited every two years.

Landowners, the County Council and the public each have responsibilities for rights of way.  Download a copy of our leaflet duties and responsibilities of landowners and farmers (pdf / 2 MB). The public can do their part by following the Countryside Code, closing gates, protecting plants and animals and taking litter home.

Among our responsibilities are protecting the rights of way network, making sure paths are free from obstructions and that the furniture is easy to use and in good condition. Outside the national parks, maintenance of rights of way is taken care of by our public rights of way officers, field officers and a team of countryside volunteers. Together, they look after 4,645km of footpaths, 37km of cycle track, 1,389km of bridleways, 9km of restricted byways and 7km of byways open to all traffic.

See our rights of way maintenance page for more information.