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What Does The Highway Code Say About Cycling

Updated on April 29, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer who ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Cycling Two Abreast- Can You Do It In The UK?

Can you cycling two abreast in the UK?
Can you cycling two abreast in the UK? | Source

What does the Highway Code really say about cycling?

Last weekend I was out training on a quiet, wide local road early Sunday morning with a riding buddy. We were riding on the flat at around 20 mph when a car pulled alongside us.

We heard what we think was the driver shouting out some form of profanity that I would rather not type which signified we were well accustomed to the act of 'pleasuring-oneself'. Before a female in the passenger seat shouted out to us that we should pay attention to what it says in the Highway Code.

For cyclists in the UK this seems to be a fairly regular occurrence. I have to admit I've almost ended up in pretty precarious situations when confronted by a motorist based on the way myself and team-mates or riding partners have been behaving while cycling.

As with any motorist I would personally recommend that any cyclist in the UK has their own copy of the Highway Code

How the Highway Code translates in a legal sense

The Highway Code is a set of enforced recommendations and requirements for driving in the UK. Some of it's content forms part of UK Law, however not all of it's content is legally binding.

If the Highway Code states you MUST do something this is the sections that are held down through the Law and subsequent enforcement.

If it states that you SHOULD do something the Highway Code is making a recommendation, however this is not legally binding and subject to potential prosecution however CAN be used in a court of law to establish a position of liability and therefore those recommendations should be followed.

Can you legally cycle two abreast in the UK?

Based on the Highway Code YOU SHOULD (66)

"never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends"

Stay cycling single file on narrow roads
Stay cycling single file on narrow roads | Source

Riding two abreast in the UK

One of the cycling behaviours that motorists seem to understand least is when cyclists ride alongside each other- whether they're just two riders out for a ride or a large group of forty-odd riders on a weekend training ride.

If you take the statement above into account as a cyclist it is possible to ride two abreast in the UK when the conditions are right to do so. Ironically the gross majority of issues we've experienced with motorists have been when we've been riding two abreast on what has been a relatively wide, quiet country road.

The reality of riding alongside other cyclists

As a road cyclist riding two-by two is a pretty common occurrence and something I've seen adopted to various degrees depending on the groups I've ridden with in the past. Certainly some groups are significantly more courteous of other motorists and inclined to ride single file on tighter sections however there is no real general rules throughout the cycling community.

There is also an argument made by cyclists that in certain circumstances riding two abreast can be safer than riding single file. In the cases of large groups of riders riding two abreast may actually present much less of an overtaking risk for motorists as the overtaking is done over a shorter period of time and must be done on a section of road where the driver has a significant amount of visibility to do so. By overtaking a long chain of riders who are riding single-file that driver has to travel effectively twice as far to make an overtaking manoeuvre which will also take twice as much time- thus adding an additional element of risk to the manoeuvre.

Stop Or Ride Through?

Have you ever deliberately rode through a red light on your bike? (Answers are anonymous)

See results

Can a cyclist ride through a red (stop) light in the UK?

This has to be the most idiotic question you could ever ask in terms of cycle safety: However day-in-day-out we all see cyclists riding through red stop lights. As a cyclist it is infuriating to see as these people are taking their life in their hands.

The Highway code actually states regarding this

"69. You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals"

It's quite simple- Red means red and the Highway code values it so highly that they also state

"71. You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic"

Can you be arrested for being drunk on a bicycle?

We all know someone that cycles to the local pub and then rides home but can you really be arrested in the UK for being drunk on a push bike?

The sad but true answer is yes. According to the Highway Code (68) You MUST NOT

"ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine."

So be aware if you stop off at the pub on your bicycle and keep the drinking to a minimum.


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    • capon profile image

      Tony Capon 4 years ago from Upminster, Essex, United Kingdom

      Red traffic lights. In theory I would say that there is never a good reason for riding through a red light. In the real road I know of one set of lights in Brentwood (right hand filter lane) which is activated/controlled by a vehicle detection device. Unfortunately, there is just not enough metal in a bike to activate the right filter lights. This is fine when there's other traffic around but would make for an uncomfortable night, when there isn't! Tony

    • Vacation Trip profile image

      Susan 4 years ago from India

      Interesting hub. I enjoyed reading it. Very well written. Thanks for sharing.