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How to know types of road on OS maps?

amitywebamityweb Posts: 44
edited August 2013 in Routes
Hi, new here.

Trying to explore my new local area, using a 1:25000 OS map.

I am very confused to know where I can ride. I can see many websites and posts that state Bridleways, Byways Open to All Traffic, Green Lanes, Forest Tracks and Paths and White Roads, BUT how does one tell these roads on OS maps (specifically the BOATS and White roads)? I mean, I can see some white coloured roads on my OS map, but one has a sign that says "Private Drive", another is from a farm house and has a locked gate on the end, had climb over the gate. I can see Bridleyways on some maps that just end at a farmhouse with a white road continuing on, but I dont know if I can ride on that road, I assume I can else why end a Bridleway in the middle of nowhere, dont see the point in going down a dead end track and coming back. I feel a bit shy mountain biking onto someones property thinking I can just carry on down their road. There's a wood near me that shows lots of criss cross roads (I assume forestry roads) which I cant even get to because its down some of these roads.

So how does one tell which roads on OS maps are the above classifications? I cant find this info out anywhere. If you cant on OS maps, then are there other maps?

Should I only use 1:50000 which do not show some of the roads I am questioning.



  • pletplet Posts: 34
    My own opinion is that, generally, 1:25000 is too fine a scale. You can have too much detail. Go with 1:50 000. Even then there will be some ambiguity with some "white roads" and tracks (black dashed lines) which may or may not be private.

    So long as you're not on footpaths (the fine dashed red lines) you'll mostly be OK.

    But the exploring is half the fun, isn't it? I've found that eventually you build up an intuition about what you'll be able to cycle along.
  • OuijaOuija Posts: 1,386
    Also try Bing Maps, which has an ordnance survey mode that uses the different scale/zoom levels.
  • amitywebamityweb Posts: 44
    I think 1:50000 is safer, but then you may miss out on many public tracks that I am allowed to cycle down. I have emailed my local council to see what they say about identifying roads that the public can use, I wont hold my breath though.

    I am tempted to get a road bike and just stick to the roads, because 90% 0f my cycling is along country lanes, and keep the mountain bike for proper trails further afield. But it is a lot more fun taking some off road detours along the way, I just dont want to trespass.
  • Your local council may have the 'definitive map' on their website - I know Durham Council does this. Which will identify which roads you can cycle on.

    Otherwise look at this ... legend.pdf I think it's pretty clear which are byways and brideways etc. At least where I live there are a surprising amount of byways and bridleways many of which just head straight across a field with no other markings.
  • amitywebamityweb Posts: 44
    Regarding the key, I think the issue is this "Other road, drive or track, fenced and unfenced". These white roads are the the ones all over the place that lead to farms, connect B roads etc. Have no idea if these are for public use. Should we assume all these white roads are not for the public, because the Bridleways, Byways and Roads uses as Public Path are indicated with different markers? Should we only go on those and not on the white roads? But there are white roads near me that surely must be for public use, but dont have any Bridleway/Byway/Public path markers!

  • I think that's probably where the definitive map comes in. As I understand it the white roads don't really have any defined legal status, so they could be open to the public, or may not be, it's up to the landowner.
  • amitywebamityweb Posts: 44
    Actually I was a bit mistaken, the white roads I said "that lead to farms, connect B roads etc" are yellow on the Bing maps. Have to check my hard copy map when I get home. The actual white roads on the map are mainly ones leading to (and passing) farms. Some of them have footpath lines on them, some don't. Maybe the ones that don't which are "Other road, drive or track, fenced and unfenced" are not allowed to cycle on, the yellow ones we can. But then the yellow one only says "Road generally less than 4 m wide" and nothing else.

    This then leads to the question can we cycle on white roads that have a footpath marker? We cant cycle on footpaths, but the path is on a "Other road, drive or track, fenced and unfenced".
  • amitywebamityweb Posts: 44
    I think that's probably where the definitive map comes in. As I understand it the white roads don't really have any defined legal status, so they could be open to the public, or may not be, it's up to the landowner.

    Yes, here is a site I found for Ramblers: ... ssage/3404
    roads that are not given the yellow infill fall into 4 categories, i.e.

    1. Minor roads in urban areas
    2. Short spur roads leading only to one or two farms or houses.
    3. Roads with gravel or other inferior surfaces.
    4. Private roads and drives.

    OS explained that the yellow colouring has been removed from some roads
    because earlier assumtpions that they were public roads have proved
  • amitywebamityweb Posts: 44
    I guess from this statement we can't actually tell which ones we are allowed to cycle on or not.
  • thistle_thistle_ Posts: 6,976
    On the 1:50k maps, I'm pretty sure white roads with red dots are OK to ride on.

    As well as the defnitive map, the local council will have a list of streets which is all the roads maintainble at public expense. Matching these to a map can be tricky, the lists I've seen just have road names on them.

    On the 1:25k maps, often you can ride on paths/roads with green blobs on them as well. I think these are ones where there is 'other public access' (but note that the public access may not be for bikes).

    There are also permissive paths you can ride on. Sometimes these are not shown on any maps, sometimes permissive routes are shown in orange dashes on the 1:25k maps. In Wales I some of them are called Tir Gofal routes so NRW (or CCW in England) may show these on their maps.

    The Forestry Commision often say on their website if you can or cannot ride in a specific forest. I think 'Open Access' means you are supposed to stick to the fire roads.

    IMBA UK used to have something on their website about where you can and cannot ride. I'm not sure if it's still there.

    The Scots have the right idea :roll:
  • lg18lg18 Posts: 92
    I don't understand why people are inferring differences in white roads or rights of way between the 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 OS maps. Roads are colour-coded the same on both maps, and public rights of way are similarly the same, except that they are green on the 1:25000 and red/pink on the 1:50,000. "Permissive" footpaths and bridleways are also the same on both maps except for colour.

    So back to the OP's initial question, mainly about white roads - on both maps, you have no legal right to use them unless they have the respective coloured dots or lines indicating "right of way" or "permissive" bridleway or "byway open to all traffice" or "restricted byway". These are clearly marked on both types of map. OS get their information from the local authorities, so unless there has been a recent change in a land owner agreement, or you have an old out-of-date map, it should be clear what you are legally entitled to ride.

    It is unfortunate that many nice bridleways stop in the middle of nowhere, or the green lines stop at a "white road". If they don't continue along the white road, you could either risk it (if it's not too far to another bridleway or yellow road and if it doesn't go through a farm)... or it might mean that the landowner refused to allow an access agreement with the local authority, i.e. s/he'll hates the public and will gladly shoo you orf their laand with a shotgun!

    As for white roads with FOOTPATH lines on the map - given that white roads with no public access lines mean you have no legal right, and given that white roads with public bridleway lines means you do have a legal right to ride, it makes sense that a white road with footpath lines means you have a legal right to walk, but not to cycle. Even though it is technically a road. It is private and the agreement with the owner is for walkers not cyclists. (Doesn't mean you can't sometimes get away with it though - you could always try politely asking the farmer).
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