Cycling two abreast

Five Cycling Rules That Confuse Some Drivers13th Mar 2019

by Gary Plumb on 13th Mar 2019

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Let’s Bust A Few Myths…

It’s safe to say that cyclists and drivers don’t always see eye to eye. And I say that as both a keen cyclist and a responsible motorist. So I can see both points of view.

Drivers perceive that some cyclists disregard some basic rules of the road. But that can be wrong…because some so-called infringements are in fact legal!

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Let’s look at a few examples…


Can You Ride Two Abreast On The Road?

Short answer – yes, it’s perfectly legal. Rule 66 of the Highway Code states: “Never ride more than two abreast…” Two is fine but not three or more.

Racing cyclists also maintain that ‘two abreast’ is safer for drivers in the long run because – if they’re overtaking a large group of riders – they don’t have to spend so long in the middle of the road or the other lane.

But there’s more to it than that. Rule 66 continues “…ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”

So Rule 66 is not a licence to ride two abreast at all times.

Like so many rules, it’s simply a matter of common sense and courtesy. Do what is safest for both you and the other road users around you. Be courteous.


Can I Cycle In The Middle Of The Lane?

Yes – and not only is it legal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of a lane, the practice has a name. It is called the Primary Position, or ‘taking the lane’.

Normally cyclists should ride in what’s called the Secondary Position, around 30cm to 1m from the kerb.
But sometimes it can be safest to adopt the Primary Position if the road is narrow and it’s unsafe for a driver to pass you. Or if you need to avoid riding in the ‘door zone’ past parked cars.

However, just because the practice has a name, it does not give you carte blanche to ride in the middle of the lane at all times and cause traffic to build up behind you.

At best you’ll get a chorus of car horns; at worst you could end up the victim of road rage or careless/reckless driving.


Can I Cycle On The Pavement? 

Yes – but only if it is a shared pavement or if there is a cycle lane on it (marked by the blue cycle sign).

Highway Code Rule 62 states: “When using segregated tracks you must keep to the side intended for cyclists as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath.

“Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room. Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary.”

It makes sense not to ride too fast on pavements. Pedestrians can be unpredictable (or distracted by their mobile phones).

Furthermore, pedestrians can be hard to see at night because they tend not to wear hi vis clothing.


Can I Cycle Without A Helmet?

Yes – but we would NOT recommend it. Cycle helmets save lives so you should always wear one when riding, even though it isn’t compulsory.

Highway Code Rule 59 recommends: “You should wear a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened.”

We know from professional and personal experience that a good cycle helmet can save you from a serious head injury or worse.

So invest in a good helmet (preferably hi vis). Buy a hi vis cover if your helmet is a dark colour.

And buy a helmet light too – ideally one that flashes white forwards and red to the rear. USB rechargeable lights are the best. They’re brighter than lights powered by disposable batteries and will save you money in the long run.


Can I Ride Outside The Cycle Lane?

Yes – cycling lanes can be great but some don’t feel safe…notably the one in the middle of Wimborne Road, Bournemouth (approaching the Richmond Hill overpass roundabout). 

Sometimes it can be safer to ride outside a cycle lane, such as when there are lots of parked cars. Rather than weaving in and out of the cycle lane, it may be safer just to maintain a steady line on the road.

Highway Code Rule 61 states: “Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so.

“Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.”

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security either…

Most cycle lanes are just paint on the road – nothing more. White paint won’t save you from a careless or drunk/drugged motorist. If in doubt, find a safer route.


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Find out more from Coles Miller trainee legal executive Gary Plumb at our Bournemouth office, 01202 355697.

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