A footpath (also pedestrian way, walking trail, nature trail) is a type of thoroughfare that is intended for use only by pedestrians and not other forms of traffic such as motorized vehicles, cycles, and horses. They can be paths within an urban area, or rural paths through the countryside. Urban footpaths are usually paved, may have steps, and can be called alleys, lanes, steps, etc. In England and Wales, there are rights of way on which pedestrians have a legally protected right to travel.
The term footpath can also describe a pavement/sidewalk in some English-speaking countries.
Many footpaths require some maintenance. Most rural paths have an earth or grass surface with stiles, and or gates, including kissing gates. A few will have stepping stones, fords, or bridges. Urban footpaths may be constructed of masonry, brick, concrete, asphalt, cut stone or wood boardwalk. Crushed rock, decomposed granite, fine wood chips are also used. The construction materials can vary over the length of the footpath and may start with a well constructed hard surface in an urban area, and end with an inexpensive soft or loose surface in the countryside. Stairs or steps are sometimes found in urban alleys, or cliff paths to beaches.
The main issues in urban areas include maintenance, litter, crime, and lighting after dark. In the countryside there are issues relating to conflicts between walkers and livestock, and these occasionally result in people being injured or even killed. Dogs often contribute to such conflicts - see Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953. Also footpaths in remote locations can be difficult to maintain and a route along a country path can be impeded by ploughing, crops, overgrown vegetation, illegal barriers (including barbed wire), damaged stiles, etc.
Definitive path maps
Footpaths and other rights of way in England and Wales are shown on definitive maps. A definitive map is a record of public rights of way in England and Wales. In law it is the definitive record of where a right of way is located. The highway authority (normally the county council, or unitary authority in areas with a one-tier system) has a statutory duty to maintain a definitive map, though in national parks the National Park Authority usually maintains the map. The Inner London boroughs are exempt from the statutory duty though they have the powers to maintain a map: currently none does so.
Types of footpaths
Footpaths can be located in different settings for various uses. These can include:
- Parks: including public spaces, urban parks, neighborhood parks, linear parks, botanic gardens, arboretum, and regional parks.
- Gardens and designed landscapes: in private gardens and in public areas; and at park visitors centers as natural history interpretive nature trails in designed wildlife gardens.
- Sculpture gardens and open air museums, as sculpture trails and historic interpretive trails.
- Wilderness trails, such as a day trail or long-distance trail, including those within a protected nature reserves, and national parks.
- jogging or running paths.
- Disability and wheelchair accessible paths in sensory gardens in all the above settings.
- The terms "shared-use path", "separated-use path" or "multi-use path" may be used, if pedestrians and other forms of traffic make use of the same thoroughfare.
- The dictionary definition of footpath at Wiktionary
- Footpath Map — a map of footpaths in the UK <http://footpathmap.com>