Green laning is another name for exploring the UK’s vast network of byways and unpaved roads. But is it legal? How do you start? Where can you find green lanes near you? And how does green laning affect your insurance?
Here, we take you through all you need to know about green laning.
What are green lanes? And what is green laning?
Green laning is essentially driving or riding on infrequently used roads or byways, which are usually not paved or tarmacked. These roads, known as “green lanes,” get their name because they’re often a little overgrown. Their surfaces can vary from smooth gravel to grass to stream crossings, and often wind their way through natural vegetation. Green roads can be anything from countryside lanes to roads through National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Who can use “green lanes”?
Green lanes are multi-user routes shared by pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorised vehicles. They’re open to the general public yet see much less traffic than the usual highways because of their “green” nature. They commonly require a 4×4 vehicle or motorbike to navigate sections.
So, what counts as a green lane?
Although the term “Green Lane” is not officially used by the Countryside and Public Rights of Way Act 2000, there are four categories under public rights of way that can be considered green lanes. Note: not all of these are open to vehicles.
- Footpath: these paths are for pedestrians only.
- Bridleway: these paths are for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
- Byway Open To All Traffic (BOAT): these paths can be used by all kinds of traffic, but because of their unsurfaced nature, use is sometimes restricted to 4×4 vehicles, off-road motorbikes, horses, cyclists and pedestrians.
- Restricted byway (not for use by mechanically propelled vehicles): these paths can be used by pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and vehicles without motors, such as horse-drawn carriages.
Under other public access, there are also Unclassified Roads (UCRs) which are other potential routes with vehicle access.
On Ordnance Survey (OS) maps, BOATs are indicated by this symbol:
UCRs are shown as:
Is it legal to go green laning?
Like driving or riding on any other public roads, driving on green lanes is legal as long as your vehicle is road legal, MOT’d, road taxed and insured. You also need a valid driving licence for the vehicle you use.
Given that these are publicly accessible roadways, all the same rules of the road apply. You also need to ensure that the green lane you wish to use has the correct legal status, giving you the right to drive or ride it.
What is green lane driving? Is green laning the same as off-roading?
Green laning and off-roading are not the same thing. All green lane routes are public roadways, meaning your vehicle needs to be legal, and the same road laws apply.
Off-roading is a general term for driving or riding a vehicle on unpaved surfaces on private land. This is with permission or during an organised event. Off-road vehicles do not always have to be (and often aren’t) legal or roadworthy.
How do I find green lanes near me?
There are several ways to find green lanes to drive or ride.
Digital mapping is the preferred method, with various apps to suit your mode of transport, whether by car, 4×4, or motorbike green laning. Find out more about the OS Maps App here.
It’s recommended to carry a paper Ordnance Survey map which covers the area you want to visit. The 1:25000 scale is detailed enough to plan green lane journeys, and OS maps illustrate the routes and nature of different public rights of way.
By reading the key, you can find the lined patterns for “Byway Open To All Traffic” (BOAT) and “Unclassified Road” (UCR). When you know what patterns you are looking for, you can identify the possible green lanes.
How do I start green laning?
Once you’ve found a green lane near you, the next step is to check your local council website to ensure there are no Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO) which may prevent vehicular access. This information is a quick Google search away.
The Highway Authority has the most up-to-date information which can help you find routes to suit your vehicle of choice. You could also contact local reps of associations like the Green Lane Association.
There can be road closures that are seasonal and temporary, and some restrictions are only for specific types of motorised vehicles. For example, in the winter months, 4×4 vehicles might not be allowed on certain roads, whereas motorbikes are.
Bear in mind that even if a route is listed as accessible and there are no TROs related to that public right of way, the trail may not be traversable for a number of reasons. The paths may be too narrow, overgrown or flooded.
What special equipment do I need to go green laning?
When heading out on a green laning adventure, there are a few essentials to take with you. Always take your mobile phone and charger, GPS and a paper OS map, a spare wheel, jack and basic tool kit. An off-road jack, tow rope and shovel are also a good idea.
For your own safety, take a first aid kit, torch, snacks and water.
Can I go green laning on my own?
It’s recommended to plan your first few green laning trips with others. Planning together can give valuable insight when navigating the initially confusing world of OS maps, BOATs, UCRs, TROs and restriction checks. Travelling with someone who has local experience and know-how can not only be reassuring but act as a safety net if you get stuck or lost.
There are a number of organisations you could join or reference, depending on your choice of transport:
- The Green Lane Association (GLASS) is a great resource for all users of green lanes. Members of GLASS have access to Trailwise2 (TW2), a comprehensive database of unsealed roads in Great Britain, as well as reps who can give advice, answer questions you might have, and steer you towards other local groups in your area.
- The Trail Riders Fellowship is a good group for off-road bikers. The TRF website has a wealth of useful information, tips and guidance, as does their Trail website. The TRF works to maintain access to BOATs and to inform its members about where they can and cannot ride.
- For walkers, Ramblers has a number of resources which are valuable even to experienced walkers, as well as a library of routes and the Ramblers app.
There are also numerous clubs and Facebook groups for specific areas.
A few things to remember when green laning
Like the vast differences in the state of green lanes, their lengths also vary from a few miles to as little as a few hundred metres. When planning a green laning trip, try to plan a route that links a number of different lanes. It’s unlikely that you will be able to plan an entire route on green lanes — you’ll need to link lanes with regular roadways.
It’s important to show respect to other users, and give way to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. And green lanes are not racing tracks, so keep an eye on your speed!
What to know about insurance and green laning
One of the reasons why green laning is so popular is that it requires little to no modification to your vehicle, and the chance of damage to your vehicle is lower than the more extreme off-roading adventures.
That said, some green lanes are wilder than others, so do your research before heading out. Whether you’re tackling the most extreme green lanes or tamer trails, make sure you have the right insurance which covers you for off-roading.
Here are a few FAQs answered about insurance for green laning:
1. Do you need car insurance to go off-road?
Because green lanes are public roads, you need to have insurance for your vehicle. Vehicles used only for off-roading don’t require insurance, but unless you plan to transport your vehicle to and from the off-roading sites, you will need a minimum of third-party insurance to drive the roads to get there.
2. Does insurance cover my vehicle when off-roading?
Because insurers consider green laning and off-roading riskier driving, it’s unlikely that your standard car insurance policy will cover you on green lanes.
3. What does off-road car insurance cover?
There are two options when it comes to off-road insurance: either add off-road cover to an existing car insurance policy or choose specialist insurance tailored to off-road driving.
4. What does 4×4 insurance cover?
There are three levels of cover for standard 4×4 insurance, like standard car insurance: third-party; third-party, fire and theft; and fully comprehensive. There is also additional cover to insure you for off-roading and green-laning-related activities.
5. How much does off-road car insurance cost?
4×4 insurance costs slightly more than regular car insurance. This is because 4x4s are usually more expensive than regular cars, off-road driving involves more risk, and this type of vehicle usually causes more damage if involved in an accident. The exact premium depends on various factors, such as the type of vehicle, the modifications, and your location.
To recap: What does green laning mean? It’s the practice of driving on the UK’s network of byways and unpaved, unsealed roads. Green lanes offer an opportunity to take the road less travelled, regardless of your experience level.
If it’s your first time, plan the trip through your local green lanes with some more experienced green laners. There are many groups you could join to find potential travel partners and planned outings into your surroundings.
Is green laning illegal in the UK? Nope! Green laning is perfectly legal, so long as your vehicle is road-legal. Thoroughly plan your trip in advance and check that the green lanes you have earmarked don’t have any restrictions on them. Green laning does come with its risks, but being well prepared can put you on the right track — literally!