Cycle laws and etiquette explained
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We’ve all been caught behind a cyclist who seems to insist on cycling in the middle of the road, or a group who seem completely oblivious as they continue to travel in sets of two or more.
But did you know that this new, assertive style of cycling is actually put forwards by Bikeability, a cycling training course backed by the Department of Transport.
So, let’s look at three of the most annoying traits of cyclists and see why they do it.
Even though most drivers will think otherwise, it’s actually perfectly legal for cyclists to ride side by side on UK roads – although they should still ride single file on slim roads. A cause of great annoyance for drivers, the common perception here is that cyclists riding two abreast makes it more difficult to overtake. However, as a motorist should give cyclists as much space as a car when overtaking and move to the other side of the road to overtake, cycling two abreast shouldn’t make overtaking harder, and also means overtaking is quicker as there is less of a ‘line’ of cyclists to get past. This makes roads safer for all involved.
Hogging the lane
While 169 of the Highway Code states that you should not "hold up a long queue of traffic", this is specifically for large or slow moving vehicles with further advice to "if necessary, pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass". As such, Rule 169 does not mean cyclists need to immediately pull over to let traffic past, but it could be interpreted by some police officers to suggest that a cyclist riding in the middle of the lane (or cyclists riding two abreast), should at some point look to move to the left or single out if there is a significant queue building up behind them, though a key question would still be whether there was an opportunity to do so safely.
Cyclists must use lights at night, following the basic lighting rules of most vehicles on the road; red lights at the back and white lights at the front. These lights must be fixed to the bike and clearly visible from their respective sides, clean, lit and work properly between sunrise and sunset. These lights can now be flashing lights, provided they flash between 60 and 240 times per minute.
Any more lights on a bike don’t need to comply with regulations, except that white lights cannot go at the back or red lights at the front. And, unlike other vehicles, lights are not a legal requirement for cyclists during the daytime in seriously reduced visibility, so be careful when driving through fog for an unaware cyclist.
Reflectors on bikes, like lights, are legal requirements that only apply between sunset and sunrise. There must be a red rear reflector and four amber pedal reflectors, one at the front and rear of each pedal.
Improving overall attitudes
As mentioned earlier, there is no love lost between the driver-cyclist relationship. Most issues arise from the three main problems mentioned earlier, and can actually be solved through all road users making a conscious effort to brush up on the Highway Code*. No one likes being held up, yet a little patience with a cyclist can prevent an accident taking place. Don’t shout, beep or attempt aggressive manoeuvres—it’s simply not helpful or worth the risk to both parties - and bear in mind that the cyclist may be doing something that makes both your lives safer.
*We recommend you brush up on cyclist laws here, to make certain you’re crystal clear on the correct driver/cyclist etiquette.