I've just moved to Edinburgh, and I understand that the land reform act 2003 lets me cycle on most land, excluding certain places like some highways or ministry of defense land. Does this mean I'm within my rights to cycle on the pavement, as long as I'm not behaving in an "antisocial manner"? I presume I can't do so on the land directly next to a highway, but what about paths set in from the road?

  • 5
    I fear this counts as direct legal advice, which we can't give you. If you can't puzzle it out from reading the law and public explanations, I think you're going to need to pay a lawyer. The pragmatic explanation is to do what everyone else does, and is often summarised as "don't be a dick".
    – Móż
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 3:06
  • Its an interesting and relevant question, but you'll need some Scots to answer.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 6:11
  • You could try talking the usual suspects like police/public services/city hall/... After all they are supposed to know the law.
    – stijn
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 8:18
  • Legality aside, where the pavement meets the road (e.g. crosses a side road) the risks increase significantly. It's also often really slow cycling around pedestrians, even where it's allowed - you pretty much have to assume that they'll turn across you without warning.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 8:27
  • 5
    To those not in the UK: "pavement" means the footpath alongside a road, not the road itself. "Sidewalk" in the USA.
    – user23374
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 20:35

5 Answers 5


From http://www.bikehub.co.uk/featured-articles/cycling-and-the-law/

In Scotland the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everybody the right to non motorised access to most land in Scotland, including roads, tracks, and paths. So, apart from trampling over gardens or disturbing working farm-yards, you can walk, ride your bike, or ride a horse on any path, road or field margin.

But even in the rest of the UK you are often within your rights to cycle on the pavement:

Minister for Cycling Robert Goodwill has reiterated that the official line from the Department for Transport (DfT) is that cyclists may ride on the footway – more commonly referred to as pavements – provided they do so considerately, and that police officers need to exercise discretion.

This reiterates advice that Paul Boateng, Home Office Minister at the time, gave to police in 1999. At this time a new law was introduced allowing cyclists to be issued with a fixed penalty notice for cycling on pavements. However Mr Boateng gave advice on how this should be applied and recommended that it be used only when the cyclist is riding in a manner that "may endanger others":

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

  • 4
    The enforcement of the UK-wide law is inconsistent to put it mildly. And of course "may endanger others" leave a lot of room for interpretation.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 9:12
  • 2
    It is definitely a recipe for "police discretion" which primarily used to reinforce existing inequalities. Like The Clash said "{you} have the right. You're not dumb enough to actually try it, are you?"
    – Móż
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 0:01

It seems to me (neither a Scot nor a lawyer), that it's generally illegal to cycle along Scottish pavements (using the UK interpretation of "pavement": "sidewalk" in the US).

According to a briefing for the Scottish Parliament:

the issue of cycling on the pavement is more complicated than it may first appear. [...]

As we will see...

Firstly, they define "footway", and state that it's not generally lawful to cycle on one:

Footway: Commonly known as “the pavement”, a footway is a way, which is associated with a carriageway, where right of passage is limited to foot. [ ... ]

Generally, anyone cycling on a footway or footpath in Scotland is committing an offence under the provisions of Section 129(5) of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. It is not an offence to cycle across a footway or footpath to access a cycle track, driveway or other land where cycling is allowed.

This looks like it's generally illegal to cycle along Scottish pavements (using the UK interpretation of "pavement": "sidewalk" in the US). Next, they look at the Act mentioned in the question:

The issue is complicated by access rights granted to cyclists under Section 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (“the 2003 Act”). The 2003 Act allows cycling on most land unless access is controlled by or under another enactment. This means that land reform access rights do not normally apply to roads or footways as their use is restricted under various statutes. [ ... ]

To further complicate matters, Section 7(1) of the 2003 Act states that the restriction on access rights described above does not apply where land has been designated as a “core path” under the provisions of the 2003 Act. This means that cyclists may be able to cycle on a footpath, or even a footway, designated as a core path without committing an offence.

This (official) guidance seems to say that pavements are not generally covered by the Land Reform Act (because "access is controlled by or under another enactment"), but there are exceptions. It's not clear to me how to determine whether something is a "core path"; I think it's determined by Local Authorities rather than centrally.

The briefing goes on to say:

However, it is important to remember that access rights must be exercised responsibly and cyclists should consider cycling on the carriageway (i.e. road) even if the associated footway has been designated as a core path

Which sounds like good advice to me.

  • "It is not an offence to cycle across a footway or footpath to access a cycle track, driveway or other land where cycling is allowed" suggests short pavement riding shortcuts are generally legal?
    – Nic
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 13:16
  • @Nic, that's referring to crossing pavements in order to access driveways, cycle paths, etc; very short shortcuts (basically, the width of the pavement).
    – srank
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 15:21
  • @Nic No, it doesn't say that at all. You are allowed to cycle on a public road; you are allowed to cycle on your own driveway. It's saying that you are allowed to cycle across the footpath to get from the road to your driveway, and similar analogous situations. You're allowed to do this because there is no way of getting to your driveway except crossing the footpath. (OK, you could carry your bike for those two meters but you couldn't carry your car and it would be silly to allow driving a car onto your driveway but not riding a bike.) Shortcuts aren't the only way from A to B. Commented May 13, 2017 at 18:19

Strictly speaking, no.

Highway Code Rule 64 says:

You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement

This is a "MUST NOT" rule, i.e. backed up by legislation. In Scotland the relevant legislation is the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, Section 129. The rule seems pretty unequivocal.

Personally speaking, when I'm out cycling with my young children and there is no cycle track available, I'll choose to ride with them on the pavement (footway), taking extra care when encountering pedestrians or others using the footway. It's by far the safest option for them and I've yet to be challenged by the police or anyone else for doing this.


Seems like it is police discretion if a pedestrian is injured on a pavement by a cyclist.

Whether the cyclist was cycling in a controlled manner or in a reckless manner depends on witnesses to the incident.


I found a bit of info on the internet about the pavement issue on a Government laws and rules site that stated bikes are not allowed on a pavement unless they are a designated cycle path. The not was highlighted in bold letters and underlined. Hope this helps


  • Thanks, but what do they define as a pavement?
    – Nic
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 21:03
  • 6
    You found it on the internet but can't provide a link?
    – Móż
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 22:04

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