Unsurfaced highways shared with motor vehicles

Cherry Allan's picture
Unsurfaced highway
Unsurfaced highway are good for cycling, but damage from motor vehicles is often a problem
Headline Messages: 
  • Unsurfaced highways are valuable routes for cycling in the countryside, although their use by recreational motor vehicles and tractors too can compromise enjoyment and make the surface un-rideable.
Key facts: 
  • A byway open to all traffic (BOAT) is open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles, but is not necessarily maintained to the same standard as an ordinary road. There are some 3,000km of them.
  • An unsurfaced, unclassified road (UUCR) is repairable by the local authority, but access rights may not be clear and subject to dispute. It is ‘unclassified’ because it has not been categorised as an A, B or C road. There are some 9,000km of UUCRs.
  • Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) can be used to stop motor vehicles using BOATs or UUCRs; if repairs are needed, ‘Section 56’ notices can be served on the highway authority.
CTC View (formal statement of CTC's policy): 
  • CTC accepts that licenced recreational motor vehicles (2 & 4 wheel) have a legal right to use BOATs and UUCRs. 
  • Not all of these highways, however, are robust enough for use by motor vehicles, so they should be managed to avoid stirring up mud and creating ruts.
  • Cyclists and other non-motorised users go to the countryside for quiet recreation. Unmanaged motorised use of unsurfaced highways is incompatible with this, particularly where these vehicles, especially motorcycles, are inadequately silenced. 
  • If, after a reasonable time, voluntary management fails to remedy a damaged highway, or is not implemented, then a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) should be sought to prevent motorised vehicular use.
  • The police should implement robust policies to discourage illegal use by unlicenced and/or unsilenced vehicles.
  • Use by tractors as part of agricultural or forestry practice can also be extremely damaging, and where this occurs the Highway Authority (HA) and landowner/tenant should agree on measures to allow unimpeded use by cycles.
  • Where, following extensive discussions, an HA fails to maintain a highway that is ‘out of repair’, then, if the route is an important link, consideration should be given to serving the authority with a Highways Act section 561 notice requiring them to repair it suitably.   

What is a Boat? A byway open to all traffic is a highway open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles. It may not be maintained to the same standard as an ordinary road. 

What is an UUCR? An unsurfaced, unclassified road is repairable by the local authority, but access rights may not be clear and subject to dispute. It is ‘unclassified’ because it has not been categorised as an A, B or C road.

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Publication Date: 
February 2015
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