Vehicles in the countryside

Public rights of way open to motor vehicles are called Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs)

Where motor vehicles can go in the countryside
  • public roads with a tarmac surface
  • unsurfaced public roads - known as Unclassified County Roads (UCRs)
  • Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) - recorded on the definitive map and mainly used for walking, cycling and horse riding as most do not have a surface suitable for ordinary motor traffic

Driving a motorised vehicle on a public right of way without lawful consent is a criminal offence. You can only drive a vehicle on a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway with the landowner’s permission.

Responsible behaviour for motor vehicle users
  • Follow the Countryside Code and Highway Code
  • Give way to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Consider stopping and turning off the engine until other users have passed
  • Drive at an appropriate speed. Do not cause damage, be a danger or nuisance to other users, or create excessive noise
  • Only use routes with public rights for motor vehicles and without Traffic Regulation Orders in place
  • Use a route to travel from A-B in a responsible manner. Travelling back and forth in the same area can cause damage and be a nuisance
  • Keep to the route. If a you stray from a right of way onto land with no other rights of public access, you are committing a trespass against the landowner
  • Vehicles must be road legal (with tax, mot, insurance etc.) and drivers hold a valid licence
  • Avoid routes that are vulnerable in wet weather. Follow any voluntary restraints
  • Report irresponsible or illegal use. Promote responsible behaviour to other motorised users
  • Take note of advice and codes of conduct issued by the Trail Riders Fellowship (TRF) and Land Access and Recreation Association (LARA)
Reporting concerns

Read our policy on the use and management of motor vehicles in the countryside.

Illegal use of vehicles in the countryside is a police matter. To report an offence, contact your local Country Watch Team.

If you are concerned about irresponsible use of a byway, speak to your Parish or Town Council and let us know.

If there is damage to the surface of a route, we can look at ways to manage the route. This could include:

  • surface repairs
  • drainage improvement
  • signage

We may work with motorised user groups to promote good conduct or a voluntary restraint but if this does not solve the problem, a Traffic Regulation Order may be considered.

Restricting vehicles

A Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is a legal order made under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It can prohibit use of rights of way by certain types of user.

TROs can be seasonal or year-round, permanent or experimental. They can be regulated by a permit scheme to allow a certain level of use.

Public rights of way affected by a TRO have signs at each end of the route.