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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Monday 31 January 2022


You will have heard. There's a new highway code and there are some reports of cyclists behaving as though they now have total command over our highways. Let's get the legal record straight. What the code now says is this. 

Rule 72

Road positioning. When riding on the roads, there are two basic road positions you should adopt, depending on the situation.

1) Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations

  • on quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely
  • in slower-moving traffic - when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely, move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake
  • at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you

2) When riding on busy roads, with vehicles moving faster than you, allow them to overtake where it is safe to do so whilst keeping at least 0.5 metres away, and further where it is safer, from the kerb edge. Remember that traffic on most dual carriageways moves quickly. Take extra care crossing slip roads.

The message is clear. Do not make a nuisance of yourself.

And the code also says this.

Rule 66

You should

  • avoid any actions that could reduce your control of your cycle
  • be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups. You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Be aware of drivers behind you and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so
  • not ride close behind another vehicle in case it stops suddenly
  • not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain
  • be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians, and horse riders (see Rule H1). Let them know you are there when necessary, for example, by calling out or ringing your bell if you have one. It is recommended that a bell be fitted.
Failure to observe the Highway Code is not of itself an offence. But if there is a prosecution for a motoring offence or a civil claim for compensation after a road accident, the court will take into account that the Code was flouted in deciding whether the offence has been committed or the road user sued has been negligent. 

Let's take the example of a cyclist who stubbornly insists on riding in the centre of their lane on a long quiet and narrow road and so prevents a motorist behind - whether or not an emergency vehicle on call- from overtaking. The cyclist could not be prosecuted 'for failing to move over in contravention of the Highway Code'. But they could be prosecuted under section 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for 'cycling on a road without reasonable consideration for other road users' which is an offence. And if an accident ensued and there was a civil claim, the failure to move over could be reckoned by the court in deciding whether that contributed to the accident so as to render the cyclist liable to pay out compensation to the victim. 

I have previously looked at how the civil courts deal with allegations of negligence against cyclists. See

And yes, cyclists are required by law to comply with some speed limits and stop at red at traffic lights!

Happy motoring - and cycling.