Those who read history or, for that matter, novels set in pre-Victorian times, know what highwaymen are. For others, let this definition found on the Internet suffice:

The idea of robbing people while they travel along roads is a very old one. In the Middle Ages there were plenty of outlaws ready to rob travellers. However the ‘golden age’ of highwaymen was the 17th century and 18th century. At that time trade and commerce were increasing and there were many well-to-do travellers. However Britain was still a pre-industrial country. The population was small and there were vast areas of forest and other countryside where highwaymen could lie in wait. The invention of the flintlock pistol early in the 17th century also made life easy for highwaymen. Furthermore Britain did not have a professional police force, which made it harder to catch them. The most dangerous roads where those around London.

In other words, a place where one was likely to be attacked by highwaymen was a heavily wooded stretch of road where no one could witness the crime, where police were scarce, and where the attackers could hide quickly before and after.

Such as the American Tobacco Trail in Durham, where the 14th reported attack of the year just took place (read the “Related News” articles as well). Greenways in general attract crime for reasons that seem to escape city planners but were evident to 17th century criminals as well as their 21st century counterparts.