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August 2011

Cyclists' rights on the road

Bicycles are considered by law to be ‘carriages’ and their riders therefore have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of any motorised vehicle.

Although cyclists are more vulnerable on the road, like any other driver they must obey traffic signs, stop at red lights and give way when required.

All of the Highway Code that applies to 'all vehicles', applies to cyclists. There are also additional sections which apply only to cyclists. (Sections 59-71).

Cycling on the pavement

Cyclists have no rights to cycle on the pavement, defined by the law as ‘footways’ (pavements by the side of a carriageway) in towns and cities.

Section 329(1) of the Highways Act 1980 defines a “footway” as “a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only”.

Cycling on footways is prohibited by law and is punishable. According to the Department for Transport, the maximum fine for cycling on a pavement from the courts is £500. However, it is usually enforced by way of the Fixed Penalty Notice which carries a £30 fine.

The law on pavement use applies to all cyclists, irrespective of age. However, if a child is under the age of criminal responsibility they cannot be prosecuted.

Cycling under the influence

It is an offence under the Licensing Act 1872 to be drunk in charge of a bicycle on a highway or in a public place.

Section 30 Road Traffic Act 1988 says: “It is an offence for a person to ride a cycle on a road or other public place when unfit to ride through drink or drugs – that is to say – is under the influence of a drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle”.

Although prohibited by law, bicycles are not ‘mechanically propelled’ and cyclists are therefore not subject to the same drink drive rules as motorists. The fines and penalties are different.

If you cycle while intoxicated, you endanger yourself and possibly others by your actions. This can result in a fine of up to £2500.

Cycling while using a mobile phone

Using a mobile phone whilst driving a motor vehicle is illegal, but this law does not apply to cyclists.

It is not advisable to use a mobile phone while cycling as you may be putting yourself and others at risk, but by doing so you are not breaking the law.

Cycling two abreast

According to the Highway Code cyclists should never ride more than two abreast, and on narrow or busy roads, or when travelling around bends cyclists should be in single file.

The Highway Code is not legally binding; it provides factual information and guidance to all road users to follow.

Cycling past stationary traffic

There are no legal binding rules on how cyclists should pass stationary traffic. All cyclists should comply with the general rules of the road.

Extra care will always be needed in the proximity of larger vehicles.

In return, Section 162 of the Highway Code advises motorists to “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as they would when overtaking a car.”

Dangerous, careless or furious cycling

Cyclists can be prosecuted for a number of criminal offences if they ride in a dangerous way. These include:

Dangerous Cycling - riding a bike in a way which falls far below the standard that would be expected of a careful and competent rider, in a way that would pose a danger to other people or their property. If convicted, the rider could face up to a £2,500 fine.

Careless and Inconsiderate Cycling - riding a bike on the road without reasonable consideration for other road users. If convicted, the rider could face up to a £1,000 fine.

Furious Cycling - riding a bike “furiously” so as to endanger other road users. If convicted, the rider could face up to a £200 fine.

Cycle races

It is legal to hold a bike race on an open road; however the organiser of the race must have sought permission from the police and comply with any conditions they impose.  All the normal rules of the road and the Highway Code will still apply during the race and the riders will be breaking the law if they ride on the wrong side of the road or ignore other traffic signs.

Traffic does not have to stop at the request of a bike race marshal.

Bike Accident Compensation Claim Advice

If you or someone you know has suffered a cycling injury, telephone us now for accurate compensation claim advice.

There are strict time limits in place to make any personal injury claim. For further information, contact us or visit our Questions Answered page.

Thompsons Solicitors are experts in all personal injury matters and have a specialist Serious Injury Team to deal with claims involving serious injuries. We will be able to advise you whether or not you have a valid claim for compensation. Our specialist personal injury solicitors and lawyers will be happy to talk you through the process of making a claim in plain English and will be happy to answer any questions or queries you may have. Telephone us now on 08000 224 224 or complete one of our online personal injury compensation claim forms.