Do you know your Highway Code? Find out which laws you're entitled to when you're cycling on the road
We are a nation that fully embraces the bicycle. Studies from 2017 show that 14% of people cycle at least once a week, clocking a staggering 3.2 billion miles under our belts as more and more of us venture out on two wheels. But does everybody on the road really know what cyclists can and can't do? Are cyclists really given enough protection?
The benefits of opting for pedal-power when nipping around town are plentiful. Cost-effective, kind to the environment and a good dose of your weekly cardio, cycling has been a popular mode of transport since the late 19th century. Despite all of this, however, it seems that safety for the numbers of cyclists on our roads cannot always be guaranteed. It’s estimated that around 70% of collisions involving cyclists are down to driver error, so to combat this we’ve put together what the cyclists among us are entitled to by law, to help keep you safe when on the road.
Cyclists CAN use bus lanes
A common mistake many motorists make when driving is venturing into the bus lane. Those who have done, tend to fall victim to the all-seeing cameras that monitor these purpose-built lanes and can expect a fine through the post. Cars are prohibited to pass through bus lanes unless specified at a certain time.
Many of these lanes though do allow cyclists. Again, check any accompanying road signs for further information about which vehicles are allowed at certain times, but by and large, it is safe for bike-riders to do so. The benefit to cyclists using bus lanes is that you’re kept away from the main flow of traffic; reducing journey time and improving safety. It’s also clear that using a bus lane and the segregation that comes with them means that bicycle users ‘feel’ safer. However, it’s worth mentioning that with a larger vehicle such a bus, this means that there is a greater risk to your view getting obstructed at a junction.
In permitted areas, cyclists are well within their rights to use bus lanes / Image: John Cameron, Unsplash.
Cyclists CAN cycle in the centre of the lane
Something that often aggravates drivers is something referred to as ‘taking the lane’. Taking the lane is where a cyclist assumes a central position ahead of a line of traffic and away from the kerb. This may come as a surprise to many motorists, but it’s perfectly legal and even recommended by cycling groups in the UK as a means to being seen.
Potholes may be a real nuisance to drivers, with an estimated £2.8 billion spent annually to repair damaged motors caused by craters in the road. To bike users however, potholes represent something much more dangerous. Around 5,000 cyclists have said they’ve fallen victim to potholes on Britain’s roads, and when you factor in the lack of protection from a fall and oncoming traffic, any incident could be extremely serious. To counter this, you should have no qualms about manoeuvring your bike into the middle of the lane if the road you’re travelling on is of sub-standard condition.
By ‘taking the lane’, you also reduce the risk of being clattered by a rogue car door, or being pushed off the road by a car abruptly turning without indicating. You should take the lane only when necessary and keep in mind the conditions of the road you’re travelling on. Remember, motorists may give you grief for doing so, but according to the Highway Code, cyclists are entitled to as much room as any other vehicle on the road.
Recent proposals by the government may even see motorists offered cheaper insurance for improving their awareness of cyclists on the road, so it could be within drivers’ best interests to be ultra-observant.
Cyclists NEED protection from HGV’s
In almost twenty years, the bicycle is the only mode of transportation in London not to experience a drop in popularity. In fact, bike usage has risen by almost 300%, with the amount of cars driven in London more than halved in the same period.
The cycling revolution that has taken place in the capital certainly has its advantages, but it has sadly brought a fundamental flaw in our road use to the fore. In 2011, Heavy Good Vehicle’s (or HGV’s) made up for just 4% of all traffic in London, but accounted for 53% of all cyclist fatalities. In the last year, the number of HGV’s on Britain’s roads grew by 1.4% and with the increased number of large vehicles on the road comes the increased risk posed to cyclists.
With the increased congestion on London’s roads, being shared by HGV’s, cars and buses, there’s little afterthought for the capital’s cyclists. Often HGV’s don’t notice bike riders as they turn left across their path, or they misjudge how much effect the following side wind can have when overtaking a cyclist. Following the 16 deaths of cyclists in 2016 as a result of a collision with a HGV, legislation has been passed prohibiting around 35,000 lorries travelling through London at peak-times. The law, which has been referred to as the ‘Lorry Ban’, will come into place in 2020 and will effectively rate HGV’s on a star-scale with trucks with poor-visibility being banned completely.
This follows similar regulations that are already in place both in Paris and Dublin limiting the number of HGV’s allowed into their city centres. Dublin saw a 20% increase in the number of cyclists since implementing the ban and Paris had no recorded cyclist deaths in 2012.
Despite what some motorists may think, riding two abreast is perfectly fine / Image: Fat Lad at the Back, Unsplash.
Cyclists CAN ride two abreast
There are countless videos online – albeit not for the faint hearted – of motorists berating cyclists for riding in a pack. In fact, in a poll conducted of over 2,000 motorists, a whopping 54% of drivers stated that their biggest pet peeve was bike riders not riding single-file.
You might be surprised to know though, that there is no law prohibiting cyclists from doing just that. According to the Highway Code, bikers are permitted to ride two abreast, but no more than two. As well as cutting down on the probability of hordes of Tour de France style pelotons taking up Britain’s roadways, this rule can also play into the motorists’ hands. Overtaking two cyclists at a time can be safer and saves constantly weaving in-and-out to pass multiple riders.
If you’re at all concerned about your safety while out on your bike, it may be worth investing in cycleGuard’s Personal Injury cover. This optional policy can cover you for up to £25,000 dependent on the severity of your injuries, providing you are over 16 years of age. To see what else cycleGuard can offer you, take a look at our policy features here.