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.

Further information

Types of public rights of way

Yellow waymark Public footpaths can be used by walkers only. They are waymarked with a yellow arrow.
Blue waymark Public bridleways can be used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists, and are waymarked with a blue arrow.
Pink waymark Byways open to all traffic waymark can be used by walkers, cyclists, horse riders and motor vehicles, and are waymarked with a red arrow.
Purple waymark Restricted byways (formerly roads used as public paths or RUPPs) can be used by walkers, horse riders, 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.

Local access forum

The North Yorkshire local access forum was created in 2003, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The main aim is to provide advice to Natural England and ourselves on how to make the countryside more accessible and enjoyable for open-air recreation. The forum meets three times a year with up to 12 members.

Local access forums set their own priorities depending on local issues. They also respond to consultations and draft policy documents. When making recommendations, local access forum members consider land use, as well as the need to conserve flora, fauna, geological and physical features.

Further information about local access forums can be found on the Defra website.

How to become a local access forum member

Members of local access forums are volunteers who bring a wide range of experience to the forum, including recreational use such as walking, riding and cycling, and land management.

Members include a range of people from the local community, including those with an interest in the land, nature conservation and heritage. Those with an interest in tourism, health, business and transport can also help to provide a rounded perspective on countryside access issues.

Forum members are not paid but can claim reasonable expenses for attending meetings. They need to commit to the forum and its work for a period of up to three years.

New members are appointed by the local authority or national park authority, known as the appointing authority or access authority.

If you would like to contact the North Yorkshire local access forum or register an interest in becoming a member in the future, please email the forum secretary at: Dawn.Drury@northyorks.gov.uk 

Apply to join the North Yorkshire Local Access Forum

North Yorkshire Local Access Forum are currently recruiting new members. People with a passion for the countryside and an interest in exploring their neighbourhoods are invited to apply. Apply online to join the North Yorkshire Local Access Forum.


Landowners, ourselves and the public each have responsibilities for rights of way. Find out more on our Guidance Notes for Landowners and Farmers page. 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.