I moved to an area with lots of agriculture and ranching. There are fields of crops all over this county, and many of those fields have access roads going to and around them. Virtually none of those roads have signs and even fewer have gates.

Is there an established etiquette for where the public is permitted to bike in these areas? Identifying and contacting all the landowners along a bike route would be a nightmare. The one time I encountered a farmer who wasn't in a tractor, she seemed happy to see me and talked my ear off. They usually at least wave.

Then I encountered a ranch hand in an area where fields meet pastures, and he was an asshole, despite not having signs and his "gate" being a coil of barbed wire stashed out of sight. He definitely did not want me on his land; I don't know why he couldn't spend $1 on a sign. Fortunately I looked him up and he doesn't own much. It's just frustrating to have to detour around him in the middle of a route.

So is there a way to know where it's ok to bike other than trial and error or becoming a detective so I can track down and ask permission from every land owner?

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    To begin to answer one would need to know where you are in the world. Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 16:03
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    I wonder if this question would be better suited to the law stack exchange instead.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 17:51
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    I'm in a very rural area of northeastern Colorado. Strava was a good idea but I don't subscribe (no heatmaps) and there are only 7 segments in my area, all on pavement.
    – user66598
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 21:23
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    Komoot has Open Street Map based mapping. It shows rideable routes and will show “not allowed” markers if previous contributors have added them. You can add the markup too as you learn about your local area. Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 12:18
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    @user66598 Komoot's suggested/searchable routes are a small amount of what it's for. The route planner is what you need.
    – Chris H
    Commented May 8 at 11:07

2 Answers 2


I live in a fairly rural area and experience a very similar situation to yours. My opinion is that, as long as you aren't damaging the farmers crop or other property, you should be fine. This goes doubly if the road is paved in any way, in that case I would treat it as a public road of sorts, unless there is signage or a gate impeding my way. Obviously asking permission is the gold standard if possible, but most farmers don't care about a bike flattening the grass on the pathways they use to get their tractors to the field.

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    This may be true wherever you are, but here in the UK (except Scotland; they do things better there) it's a very different situation. We have quite a clear (and restrictive) set of rights of way. Beyond that landowners tend to keep people off because they can - but even our rural areas are more densely populated with far smaller farms than much of the US
    – Chris H
    Commented May 8 at 11:10
  • @ChrisH Thats true, I live in germany so your mileage may vary. In my state Agricultural roads are generally public access, but only if there are signs allowing cyclists, which are on pretty much every road in question.
    – Healthyboi
    Commented May 9 at 21:02

Is there an established etiquette for where the public is permitted to bike in these areas?

Yes. Only ride open trails/roads, seek permission before crossing private land and do not trespass. Refer to the IMBA's Rules of the Trail.

Your local bike club or local bike shop should be able to help out with the local situation. It may be that roads are public roads, and you have the right to ride them. (Some landowners don't recognize public roads crossing their land.)

If you live in a state/country with "Stand your ground" or "Castle doctrine" laws, then I would advise against an approach of seeking forgiveness. Overall, upsetting landowners by riding without permission is not good in the long run for anyone. If you are not certain it is OK, only ride you bike where you would drive your car.

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    there is no local club/shop. we only have three paved roads in the whole county.
    – user66598
    Commented May 9 at 13:58
  • Who do you pay property taxes to, do they have a public information service/web page Q/A?
    – mattnz
    Commented May 10 at 3:57
  • They do have that info online in the US, even in this tiny county. It only includes owners' mailing addresses tho and I'm back to the problem of needing permission from more than a dozen owners, some of whom are not "natural persons" (meaning they're corporations or trusts or etc). I've given up on riding off-pavement until I move away from here.
    – user66598
    Commented May 11 at 14:28

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