How to find quiet bike paths near you
If you want to find a quiet bike path, there are a number of resources available to help you explore away from the buzz of traffic.
From maps to apps, finding and following a route doesn’t have to be daunting, whether you’re following a marked route or arranging your own ride.
The latest cycling apps and GPS bike computers mean you can also have a route at your fingertips, with step-by-step navigation to ensure you stay on track.
Here are our favorite resources for planning leisurely cycling routes.
Use an app
There are many apps that offer routing features designed specifically for cyclists.
In the UK, the OS Maps app also lets you find on-road and off-road cycling routes with options to filter by length and difficulty.
Komoot Highlights recommends road or trail sections, as well as local highlights selected by users and app ambassadors. These are usually illustrated with a short description and photos. Ride With GPS and Strava offer similar functionality.
Another way to find quiet routes to ride is to look where other people have ridden. Most cyclists aren’t looking to ride on busy roads, so if you know where most people ride, chances are it’s a quieter, more enjoyable route.
Luckily, you can access this information from heatmaps, which show traces of the routes most frequently taken by cyclists.
There are several sources: many cyclists use Garmin computers and Garmin offers you heat maps on its Connect application. Strava does the same, although you have to pay for a Strava subscription to access its heatmaps.
Explore the National Cycling Network
Another very useful resource, if you are looking for quiet routes, is Sustrans.
The organization is responsible for the UK’s National Cycle Network (NCN), which includes a large number of traffic-free cycle routes that criss-cross the country and range from short stretches to very long adventures. They are also all well signposted.
Many NCN routes are traffic-free, and we rank some of them among the best cycling routes in the UK. Check out our guide to the best family-friendly cycling routes for more information.
An NCN overlay is available in the OS Maps app. Openstreetmap, which provides open source mapping information for apps like Komoot and Ride With GPS, also includes NCN mapping.
Use a card
Studying a good old-fashioned map is a great way to find leisurely cycling routes.
Ordnance Survey (OS) maps are the most popular and cover the whole of the UK. They offer many details on geography, points of interest, roads and bridleways.
OS Maps are available as traditional paper maps or through the subscription-based OS Maps app. This subscription includes all available map scales, with standard coverage of the whole of the UK.
The OS Explorer series cartography uses a scale of 1:25,000, where 4 cm on the map equals 1 km. The Landranger series cartography is produced at a scale of 1:50,000, covering a wider area with 2cm on the map showing 1km.
Larger scale maps can also be used for cycling, but smaller roads can be removed to maintain clarity.
On OS mapping, major roads are marked in red or green and highways in blue, while B roads are in brown and minor roads in yellow.
If you’re looking to create a quiet road cycling route, connect the yellow roads, as these are likely to have the least amount of traffic. The route may be a bit longer than following the main roads, but it will be much more enjoyable and there will definitely be more to see.
Finding off-road routes with a map
If you are in England or Wales, also pay attention to the bridleways. These will be displayed on the OS map as longer green dashes. Short green dashes indicate trails that are not open to cyclists.
You can also cycle on secondary roads and restricted roads, which are marked by long dashes with crossbars on them. Lines of green circles indicate cycle routes.
Access laws in Scotland mean you can access virtually any off-road path.
Cyclists are only permitted on carriageways in Northern Ireland and are explicitly prohibited from riding on bridle paths.
Consult council resources
Tourist offices, national parks and councils usually have plenty of resources if you are looking for designated cycling routes.
Often these are off-road routes such as cycle paths and cycle paths. Old train tracks dot the landscape and many have been turned into cycle paths.
Go through the water
Canals are often a good option for getting from A to B without traffic, especially those going into cities.
The towpaths are generally very passable and often paved, so you can slide under the roads and emerge where you want to be.
The quality of the towpath varies, so it is worth trying a short stretch before committing yourself. Some are quite narrow and bumpy and some parts can get muddy in winter and after rain. The Canal and Rivers Trust has more information on cycling the towpaths.
Many rivers are also lined with cycle paths.
Ask a cyclist
Cyclists are adept at finding clever routes and crossings to avoid traffic, so asking a cyclist is a good option.
They certainly have some favorite routes and directions for going out into the countryside.
Often they will have these mapped out as well and will be happy to share them with you if you have a compatible computer or route planner app.
Most cycling clubs will also have local routes.