Offroad / onroad driving in Sweden
I have in the last weeks seen several Trans-Euro-Trail Facebook questions about what kind of roads you are allowed to drive on with your motorcycle here in Sweden and Scandinavia (I can only comment on the situation in Sweden, but I guess it’s the same in Norway and Finland). So let’s explain some things. In our Nordic understanding “offroad” does not mean “unpaved” road (no tarmac, asphalt), but starts where a visible road ends (terrain). There are tens of thousands of kilometers of unpaved (gravel) roads up here, simply because they are cheapter to build and maintain in the cold wet climate, compared to paved (tarmac) roads.
Driving in terrain (=offroad) is defined by the Terrängkörningslagen, the terrain driving law. It basically says that driving motorized vehices is only allowed on roads. So the question is: what is a road?
A road is any kind of pathway that was build or created with the intention to make it possible for a four-wheeled vehicle to drive there. So it needs to be wide enough basically for horse drawn carriage, cars, trucks, etc. Not necessarily your family sedan, but it could require some vehicle with four wheel drive and higher ground clearance! Some examples of what is legal and what not:
The land owner builds a simple access road (maybe simply by leveling the terrain, maybe by improving the surface with gravel) for allowing logging trucks to extract trees from his forest. Yes it is legal to drive on those, as long as it is not signed otherwise or blocked with a barrier. The land owner has the right to decide if he allows public traffic or not!
A small gravel road between two farms or settlements. Yes you are allowed to drive there, if not otherwise signed. If the land owner allows public traffic, he can receive state benefits for maintaining the road. If he decides to close it for public traffic, he will lose his state benefit.
An abandoned railway line, where the rails have been removed. Hmmm… this is a bit more difficult since it not really a road build for cars, but most times these rail beds are used by the locals as roads today and can hardly been distinguished from gravel roads, so I’d say yes you are allowed to drive there. If not otherwise signed….
The land owner has left tracks in his woods when he used a tractor to pull out some logs. Clearly this is not a purpose build road, so NO, you are not allowed to drive there. The forest counts as terrain and is as such off limits.
Hiking trails, horse riding trails, biking trails: Since those are not purpose build for vehicular traffic: no, you are NOT allowed to drive your motorcycle there!
Straight through forests, meadows, cultivated fields, gardens, parks… No, of course not! Not even the land owner is allowed to drive there for fun, only if it is necessary for agricultural or forest work.
An old overgrown logging road, where the trees and bushes are man high? No, this counts again as terrain because it has not been regularly used and nature has taken it back. It is terrain now = off limits.
Feels quite limited, compared to what I see is possible e g in the US? Yes, but at the other hand we have the right to roam freely by foot, horse, bicycle in nature and even to some extend on private land and camp almost anywhere we want!
One specialty for Norway: many roads there are privately owned toll road. Means: you pay a little bit of money, many times 10 or 20NOK for maintenance. Sometimes motorcycles go for free. While I have never been checked, I am still always paying. Seriously: 20NOK is peanuts compared what you will spend in Norway for other travel expenses like e g food. The toll is many times collected by putting coins in a numbered envelope, you then ripp off the receipt with the same number and throw the envelope in some kind of „savings box“. I have once come to a manned pay station in the middle of the woods! Other, more modern land owners set up automatic barriers with a credit card reader. In any case it is good to have a few coins with you.