Private roads are often an integral part of outdoor recreation and they allow us to make use of our Right of Public Access. They can take us to lakes, fishing waters, berry-picking grounds and other popular spots.
Vehicle traffic can cause severe wear and tear to private roads. Owners therefore have the right to ban vehicular traffic. However, they are not permitted to prohibit people from walking, cycling or riding horses along their road unless this would cause damage.
Motor vehicles refer to any vehicle propelled by an engine or motor, including cars, motorcycles, mopeds, tractors, engineering vehicles, snowmobiles and cross-country trucks.
Landowners are permitted to ban motor vehicles
If a road owner has declared their road closed to motor vehicles, this must be clearly indicated by a road sign or other means. A barrier may be placed across the road but a road sign should also be erected for the sake of clarity. Even a home-made sign must be observed.
Road owners are permitted to close their roads to motor vehicles because it is unreasonable to expect them to pay for repairing the road as a result of damage caused by other people using it.
Walking, cycling and horse riding are permitted
Road owners are only permitted to close their roads to motor vehicles – they cannot prohibit people from walking, cycling or riding horses. Non-motor traffic can be prohibited under local traffic regulations, though this is unusual.
Roads outside built-up areas are governed by local traffic regulations issued by the county administrative board. Roads in built-up areas are administered by the local municipality.
The same parking rules apply to private roads as on other roads. If the road owner wishes to further regulate parking, they can do so through the local traffic regulations.
In some cases, a road owner may prohibit or restrict parking on their road by virtue of the Act (1984: 318) on control fee for illegal parking.
Signs not permitted without a permit
Unless they have a permit from the local municipality, landowners are not permitted to erect a sign that excludes the public from accessing an area for the purpose of outdoor recreation. It is not permitted to post signs on a private road that prohibit walking or cycling. This usually includes signs that prohibit horse riding.
Road signs for implementing local traffic regulations in built-up areas are erected by the municipality or the regional unit of the Swedish National Road Administration. Other signs, such as warning and direction signs, are the responsibility of the landowner.
Subsidised roads must be kept open
A private road whose owner is receiving a central or local government grant for its upkeep must usually be kept open to public traffic. The owner may be permitted to close the road to certain types of vehicles during the spring thaw and at other times of the year when there is a particular risk of damage. The road may only be closed after consultation with the relevant authority.
In the case of forest roads originally built with the aid of a government grant, motor-vehicle traffic is regulated under the terms of the grant.