What are Public Rights of Way?
Like a public road, a Public Right of Way is a
highway which anybody may use at any time. Public Rights of
Way are classified according to the nature of the public's rights
along them. There are four categories of Public Right of Way
recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement, each with
different groups of people who may use that category - for further
details see the relevant section below:
||Summary of user
||Walkers, horse riders, cyclists
||Walkers, horse riders, cyclists, horse-drawn vehicles
|Byway Open to All Traffic
||Walkers, horse riders, cyclists, horse-drawn vehicles,
There are just over 1900 km of Public Rights of Way in Cheshire
East - nearly 1800 km of Public Footpaths and around 150
km of Public Bridleways, Restricted Byways and Byways Open to All
Traffic. The Council works closely with both users and
landowners to keep the network in good shape for all to enjoy.
Waymarked with yellow arrows, Public Footpaths can be used by
walkers, including wheelchair users and those pushing prams or
pushchairs, although this does not mean that all routes are
necessarily accessible for all users. As with all Public
Rights of Way, you may also take a dog, although you will need
to keep it on a lead or under close control.
There is no right to ride a pushbike along a Public Footpath,
although individual landowners may permit cycling on some routes
which are Public Footpaths, for example on certain sections of
canal towpath in the care of the Canal and River Trust.
You should be careful to distinguish between 'Public Footpaths'
and 'footways'. Pavements beside public roads are not Public
Footpaths - it is better to refer to them as footways or simply
pavements. Footways are not recorded on the Definitive Map as
Public Rights of Way. A footway is really a part of the main
highway which has been set apart for pedestrians.
Contact the appropriate area highways office for advice or
issues on footways.
Waymarked with blue arrows, Public Bridleways are for use
by walkers, horse riders and cyclists.
Historically, Public Bridleways were available for walkers and
for horse riders only. The Countryside Act 1968 gave
cyclists the right to use Public Bridleways. However,
cyclists are required to give way to both walkers and horse
riders. You can also lead a horse along a Public Bridleway,
with these rights also extending to mules and asses but not,
for example, to llamas or other animals.
The 1968 Act did not place a duty on highway authorities to
maintain Public Bridleways to a standard suitable for cyclists and
so many will not be particularly suitable for cycling. The
push in recent years to encourage cycling does mean, however, that
more attention is now being paid to the needs of cyclists -
provided that improvements for cyclists are not to the disadvantage
of horse riders.
Restricted Byways are waymarked with purple arrows and are
available for walkers, horse riders, cyclists and horse-drawn
This is a relatively new category of Public Right of Way
introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000.
All routes which, immediately prior to the commencement of
the relevant section of the CROW Act on 2nd May 2006, were recorded
as Roads Used as Public Paths (or RUPPs), were changed to
Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs)
As the name suggests, these routes - often simply called byways
- are for walkers, horse riders, cyclists and vehicles - including
horse-drawn carriages, motorcycles and other motor vehicles.
BOATs are waymarked with red arrows.
The term Byway Open to All Traffic was introduced by the
Countryside Act 1968 and refers to certain carriageways (routes
available to vehicles) which are used mainly for the purposes for
which Public Footpaths and Public Bridleways are used, i.e. walking
and riding. Members of the public enjoy the same rights on a
BOAT as on an ordinary public road, but should not normally expect
the route to have a sealed (tarmac) surface.
Public rights and private rights
Be careful to distinguish between Public Rights of Way and
private rights of access. The Council does not hold records
of private rights of access, wayleaves or easements. Different
rules apply - you should seek your own legal advice on such
You are likely to come across a number of other terms being used
to describe routes that you want to follow. If you've ever been
puzzled by them then find out other terms used to describe