Welcome to Essex

Byways in Essex

Public Byway

Byways comprise just 3.8% of our public rights of way network and are open to all types of user: pedestrian, horse rider, cyclist, carriage driver and motorist. You must be aware that if you use these routes in any capacity, you are likely to come across these other users who have a legitimate right to be there. Please respect their use of these byways even if it is different to yours, by being courteous and be prepared to slow down or give way or stop if necessary.

There is often a public perception that a great deal of damage is caused by motorised vehicles and there is always pressure on Highway Authorities to close byways to vehicular users. However our duty as the highway authority does not allow us to close routes without suitable justification. Essex County Council makes every effort to resolve problems including those of surfacing without having to resort to closure, which should only be used when all other measures have failed. Byways cannot be restricted simply because people do not ‘like’ motorised use of the countryside or that they have become a location for antisocial or nuisance behaviour. They are part of the public highway network even if they don’t look exactly like a road!

Using a vehicle on a Byway

Byways are governed by Highways legislation and as such a driver using a byway must adhere to the same laws as if they were on a road.

Before using your vehicle on a byway you must ensure it is:

  • Road worthy – this includes having a valid MoT if one is needed
  • Insured
  • Taxed (Vehicle Excise Duty paid)
  • Showing a visible number plate
  • Driven by someone with the appropriate driving licence

Failure to comply with this may result in Police prosecution.

If you decide to leave the byway and ride or drive where you do not have any rights or permission from a landowner, you might be committing a criminal offence. 

Traffic Regulation Orders

You may come across signs showing ‘no motorised traffic’ restricting access to motorised vehicles on some routes. These will be there for a valid reason, either maintenance or possibly protection of flora or fauna.

These maybe temporary, seasonal or possibly permanent. Do not ignore these signs. Please see our list of Long Term TROs on Byways

Voluntary Restraint

Our byways generally have a natural surface which is more vulnerable to damage during periods of wet weather. Essex County Council request that users voluntarily restrain from using the byways when use could damage the way. This is an informal measure which is supported by LARA (Land Access Recreation Association) to help alleviate specific problems on particular routes. The system should always be supported or upheld by users whether or not they are in recognised clubs. 

Vehicular users Code of Practice

This code of practice has been drawn from various sources and in conjunction with various user groups.

  • Use only routes that you know carry vehicular rights. If in doubt check with the Highway Authority.
  • Travel at a safe and appropriate speed for conditions and locations. Voluntary maximum of 20mph.
  • Always give way to others and if appropriate switch off engines.
  • Avoid using routes in times of poor weather when surfaces are more easily damaged.
  • Take care not to damage edges/verges
  • If travelling in a group increase spacing to reduce impact on the terrain.
  • Follow the Countryside Code.