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Where can I cycle?
 
Often, the first time that people think about cycling, the first thing that they think of is where they can cycle. Usually they either try to think of where the nearest cycle path is, or they try to find a location that they can drive to for a ride.

What these people fail to realise is that there is a perfect and mostly safe cycle network in existence right on their doorstep, it is called the road network.

Other people use their bicycles to go where they like. They ride through pedestrian areas in town, on pavements alongside roads, or, in the countryside, on footpaths and fields.

So where can you really ride?

The department for transport gives a clear and easy guide here
1. Public Rights of Way (ProW) comprise Footpaths, Bridleways, Restricted Byways and Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATS). All public rights of way are highways, and are shown on the Definitive Map held by local highway authorities. Because cycle tracks are not a category of right of way, they are not shown on any Definitive Maps, and the conversion of a footpath to a cycle track requires its removal from the Definitive Map. In addition to the rights of way described below, pedestrians and cyclists may also share space in pedestrianised or vehicle restricted areas as outlined in Section 8.2.
2. Cycle Track means a way constituting or comprised in a highway, being a way over which the public have the following, but no other, rights of way, that is to say, a right of way on pedal cycles (other than pedal cycles which are motor vehicles within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act 1972) with or without a right of way on foot [Section 329(1) Highways Act 1980]. The words in brackets were inserted by section 1 of the Cycle Tracks Act 1984. Cycle tracks may be created through conversion of a footway or footpath or newly constructed.
3. Footpath means a highway over which the public have a right of way on foot only, not being a footway [Section 329(1) Highways Act 1980].
4. Footway means a way comprised in a highway, which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public has a right of way on foot only [Section 329(1) Highways Act 1980]. Footways are the pedestrian paths alongside a carriageway, and are often referred to as a pavement.
5. Bridleways provide a right of way on horseback, foot and bicycle. The Countryside Act 1968 gave cyclists the right to use bridleways but they must give way to other users. The right for cyclists to use a bridleway can be subject to an order or bye-law prohibiting cycling on particular parts of it.
6. Restricted Byways were created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. They are generally open only to pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders and horse-drawn vehicles and replace the former category of 'Roads Used as Public Paths' (RUPPs).
7. Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) have full public rights, including for vehicles, but rarely have a sealed surface and are generally used in a similar way to bridleways. The definition was created under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In summary you can ride on any public right of way other than footpaths and footways (the pavement). Some pedestrianised areas may allow cycling, so check the bylaws or signs carefully. If cycling is not specifically allowed, presume you may not ride. (LTN 2/04 section 8.2 gives slightly more info on this).

The CTC successfully lobbied to allow cyclists to use bridleways as from 1968. We do however have to not only share them with horses and pedestrians, we must give those users priority. There is good reason for this, horses can be unpredictable and startled by cyclists approaching from behind, pedestrians are usually on these paths for a gentle stroll and may also not hear cyclists approaching. Please remember this and be considerate to other users; if you are rude or barge past, the victim may take their frustration out on the next cyclist (and in another situation you may be that next cyclist!) If you are approaching a horse from behind start talking loudly or shout a gentle warning, the horse and rider will appreciate it. Also, in some areas such as parks, please double check the bylaws as your cycling rights may be restricted.

Overall, this is good news for cyclists. When you consider the various definitions in the order of footways and footpaths, cycle tracks, bridleways, restricted byways, BOATS, roads, motorways and other restricted roads; us cyclists have the most rights other than pedestrians. Pedestrians can use everything from the footways to roads, we can use cycle tracks to roads, horses bridleways to roads, cars can use BOATS to motorways.

Please enjoy this and respect others whilst riding. Enjoy riding where you are legally allowed, donít ride where you are not supposed to. Do not be tempted to "hop onto the pavement" for any reason, if you consider it too dangerous to be on the road then either find an alternative route, or get off and walk.

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