Published: 27th November 2020
Our team at Serious Law LLP are recommended as a Top Tier firm by the Legal 500 and work exclusively with clients who have serious injuries. Over the last 30 years, we have dealt with some of the UK’s largest and most complex serious injury cases. Our work has given us great insight into the risks vulnerable road users face, such as cyclists, and the importance of road traffic laws and other safety measures on our roads. This informative article gives an insight into what to remember when you're out on your bike.
With the rise in popularity of cycling in the UK, there are many new road users who are using a bike as their main mode of transport. Of course, they now share the roads with other road users and more experienced cyclists. With that in mind, it is useful to have a refresh of certain road laws and requirements. In this article we take a look at the thing’s cyclists should remember when out on their bikes.
The Highway Code in itself is not a statement of the law but it must be obeyed while riding your bike on the road. Some of the Code’s rules are expressed as something a rider ‘must’ or ‘must not’ do and this reflects a mandatory legal requirement, whereas terms such as ‘should not’ and ‘should’ refer to more advice based rules.
The rules that are specific to cyclists are detailed in sections 59 to 82 of the highway code. The crucial ‘must’ and ‘must not’ parts of this include rules surrounding the requirement to use white and red lights when it is dark, riding on the cyclist’s section of segregated lanes, obeying all traffic signs and signals (including red lights), not carrying a passenger and not riding on pavements. The more advice based rules deal with signaling and a rider’s control of their bike, as well as what a rider should wear, i.e. appropriate clothing and a helmet when out on the road.
Although advised in the Highway Code, it is not the law to wear a helmet when cycling. You’re within your rights whether or not you choose to don a helmet but many studies have found compelling evidence that wearing a cycle helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury significantly.
Sometimes particular stretches of road can be incredibly busy and dangerous, especially at junctions. This can leave a rider feeling apprehensive and fearing for their safety. As a result, some tend to hop up onto the nearest pavement and avoid the danger. However, riding on pavements is an offence. That said, there’s nothing to stop a rider from dismounting and continuing on foot past the dangerous section.
One of the most well used phrases by motorists and one that leads to many instances of road rage between drivers and cyclists is ‘road tax’. However, there hasn’t actually been a road tax in the UK since 1937. What the argumentative car driver may be thinking of is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) which is enforced by the DVLA and is paid to the treasury who then distribute the funds to pay for a multitude of things including road improvements. Crucially VED is linked to vehicle emissions and, as the vast majority of cyclists are also drivers, they pay the VED tax as well.
Another question often heard by cyclists is “where is your bell?” Once again, this is a myth that can be quickly debunked. Bizarrely, there is a law that requires every new bike to be fitted with a bell when they are sold but there is no legal requirement for the rider to keep it on their bike. The Highway Code does advise consideration of other road/bridleway users but a rider warning of their approach in other ways should be enough. Once more, it is a question of preference, but using a bell may be the politest and most socially responsible form of signaling.
Although many motorists don’t like the practice, riding two abreast in a group is legal in the UK. It’s not only more sociable than riding in single file but is considered safer. What some drivers don’t realise is that this can actually help them too as they can overtake a bunch of riders quicker than if the group was in one long line. However, the Highway Code advises that a group should ride in single file when cycling round bends, on busy roads or when the road narrows.
Technically a cyclist cannot break the speed limit on public roads as they only apply to motor vehicles. However, this isn’t an invitation to try to trip a speed gun as you could get fined under separate legislation. If you ride dangerously and risk causing injury to other road users, you could be fined up to £2500 under section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
We wish all cyclists and other vulnerable road users safe travels. However, if you or any of your family or friends are involved in an accident on the roads and require legal assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can also be contacted on 0330 058 0377 for a free, confidential, conversation with an experienced serious injury solicitor. Alternatively, please send us your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll call you back or feel free to join the discussion.