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Here's what the law says and why you might sometimes prefer to give them a miss

You hear it all the time, especially on internet forums: cyclists should ride in the cycle lane. You might have had motorists yelling the same thing at you out on the road, or honking their horn (breaking Rule 112 of The Highway Code) and pointing at the cycle lane. What's the truth?

Let's see what The Highway Code has to say (remember that not all of the rules in The Highway Code are legal requirements).

Cycle lanes - 4.jpg

Here's Rule 63: "Cycle Lanes: these are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway. When using a cycle lane, keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer."

That's simple enough, then. Despite what people might claim – and how hard they type USING BLOCK CAPS – The Highway Code makes it clear that cyclists aren't obliged to use cycle lanes. 

Cycle lanes - 6.jpg

Surely, though, it's better all round for cyclists to make use of cycle lanes when they are provided? It helps us cyclists by giving us our own space and it allows motor vehicles to flow more freely, right?

Well, it's not always the best option.

What if the cycle lane is full of debris that could to cause a puncture? Cycle lanes are usually positioned on the far left of the road and the camber means that everything that lands on the main carriageway eventually ends up there... grit, stones, bits that have fallen out of skips, the lot.

We're not saying it's common but we've even seen glass from a road traffic incident being swept from the middle of the carriageway on to the cycle lane and left there, as if that means it has been cleared.

Some cycle lanes are dotted with slippery drain covers because of their positioning and they can be full of obstructions like bins left out to be emptied, temporary road signs and parked cars.

Rule 140 of The Highway Code says, "You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply."

There's a distinction in The Highway Code between 'Must/Must not' instructions which are legal requirements, and 'should/should not' and 'do/do not' rules which are advisory. That means that motorists are only advised not to park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line (which is most of them).

Cycle lanes - 8.jpg

Even if there's just the occasional parked car, you'll need to leave the cycle lane and perhaps move back into traffic that's travelling at a faster speed. You might feel safer staying out of the cycle lane completely.

Another reason for not using a cycle lane on the left of the road is that it isn't always convenient if you're soon going to turn right or need to be in the right lane. Staying in the cycle lane might leave you needing to cross multiple lanes of traffic.

You might also sometimes find traffic turning left across your path without noticing you. The risk of getting sideswiped is one of the most common objections to using some cycle lanes.

A recent study published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention found that, far from protecting cyclists, painted cycle lanes are likely to result in closer passes from motorists. If you've had similar experiences, you're perfectly entitled to skip the cycle lane.

Prince  of Wales Road, Norwich (via Norwich Cycling Campaign).PNG

There's also the fact that some cycle lanes are simply – what's the word? – crap. They're filled with obstacles – street signs, bollards, trees and the like – they're so narrow that it's impossible to overtake, and they end abruptly.

Some cycle routes impede progress by requiring cyclists to give way to side roads frequently and even to dismount at certain junctions. It's far easier and quicker to steer clear of many.

London Cycle Lane Trees

If you use a cycle lane you'll have to rejoin the rest of the traffic at some point. This is usually straightforward enough but sometimes the junction at the far end has been poorly designed so you might want to avoid it by not taking the cycle lane in the first place.

Cycle lanes - 7.jpg

You'll often hear complaints that cyclist don't use "perfectly good cycle paths". The issue is that a cycle path existing and a cycle path being perfectly good are two different things. They're sometimes footways that have been converted by having little blue shared-use signs added, they're full of pedestrians, they're narrow and poorly surfaced, they yield at every junction and they sometimes disappear entirely.

We've only pointed out the negative aspects of cycle lanes here, naturally, because we're explaining why cyclists don't always use them (and, of course, it's always easy to criticise). The truth is that many fulfil a purpose.

If you feel safer in a cycle lane, you think it's better for your purposes, or you reckon that, as a matter of courtesy, using one will help the flow of motor vehicles on the road, then go for it. Riding in a cycle lane is often the most sensible option but, despite what others might insist, it's completely up to you.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

47 comments

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Xena [131 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Most roads in the uk are not that wide , why the need to make them even smaller for sometimes just a few yards of cycling lanes that cost a lot of fucking money ,cyclists then have to merge back  on to the road, which can be dangerous, it’s just a  pointless waste of everything.   I could ride safely on the road when I was a young kid . It’s just common. sense . Why the fuck do we have to keep bending over backwards for a minority of people who seem justified in these so called  politically correct  ideas they have that in reality do fuck all for anyone . I mean that Chris bored man ( pun)  cross roads  on here a few weeks ago was just a shit show . If it’s clears and safe in front of you then ride if it’s not then stop .dont go up the inside ,squeeze through tiny gaps because if you get squished then  It’s your fault for doing such a stupid fucking move.   Stop at red lights go when they are green, slow down at crossings and junctions ,ride defensively,  make sure you can stop  in the space ahead . If your uncomfortable about a situation get the fuck off your bike and walk.  I have done that . We don’t need special roads ,kerbs markings ( people don’t understand them anyway ) .  Just keep things simple . Always some dick in the council somewhere who thinks he’s saving the world . Want to save cyclists life’s then tell them not to get on a bike if they are not capable of riding in traffic . Buy them a jet pack . 

 

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hawkinspeter [4287 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes
Xena wrote:

Most roads in the uk are not that wide , why the need to make them even smaller for sometimes just a few yards of cycling lanes that cost a lot of fucking money ,cyclists then have to merge back  on to the road, which can be dangerous, it’s just a  pointless waste of everything.   I could ride safely on the road when I was a young kid . It’s just common. sense . Why the fuck do we have to keep bending over backwards for a minority of people who seem justified in these so called  politically correct  ideas they have that in reality do fuck all for anyone . I mean that Chris bored man ( pun)  cross roads  on here a few weeks ago was just a shit show . If it’s clears and safe in front of you then ride if it’s not then stop .dont go up the inside ,squeeze through tiny gaps because if you get squished then  It’s your fault for doing such a stupid fucking move.   Stop at red lights go when they are green, slow down at crossings and junctions ,ride defensively,  make sure you can stop  in the space ahead . If your uncomfortable about a situation get the fuck off your bike and walk.  I have done that . We don’t need special roads ,kerbs markings ( people don’t understand them anyway ) .  Just keep things simple . Always some dick in the council somewhere who thinks he’s saving the world . Want to save cyclists life’s then tell them not to get on a bike if they are not capable of riding in traffic . Buy them a jet pack .

That would make more sense if collisions involving cyclists were predominantly the fault of cyclists. I agree about poorly thought out cycling lanes being a waste of money though.

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ktache [2234 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes

Xena, Moon landings, any thoughts?

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Xena [131 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes
ktache wrote:

Xena, Moon landings, any thoughts?

dont be a arsehole , instead of trying to be funny , go and take a look at any of the links I posted . Try looking at them and you will see they are the truth .  If not shut the fuck up or go take a look at one of my sub 4 kilo bikes I posted in the readers bikes section ,vid as well . 

You have absolutely no idea about what’s going on in the world ,your happy to suck up any bullshit you watch in the telly because it must be true .  If

 

Perhaps this might enlighten your brain    

https://youtu.be/LmfVs3WaE9Y      And this 

 https://youtu.be/sITmVizv6X4

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ktache [2234 posts] 1 month ago
5 likes

Any original thoughts or are you just going to parrot things you have been told on youtube?

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FluffyKittenofT... [2817 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes

Xena,

You have absolutely no idea about what's going on in the world, you're happy to suck up any bullshit American con-artsts (often backed by billionaires) you watch on you tube becuase it must be true.

 

Go learn some actual science, stop being a dupe of people who want to maniuplate you for their own profit.

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OldRidgeback [3243 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:
Rick_Rude wrote:

I went into town on my motorbike yesterday and found the cycle lane very useful to get front of the traffic lights. I don't think I've ever seen a cyclist use this section of them, I reckon the council just randomly placed them for a token gesture so they could say 'look we've done our bit for cycling'. They didn't even end it with an ASL at the lights either. 

Anyway 10/10 for motorcycling - would jump to front of queue again.  

Motorbike/scooter in a cycle lane or ASL is definitely in my top ten things that pi$$ me off, tbh.

Remember: that's the strip of road which is (supposed to be) ours, away from the motor vehicles.

I do filter to the front when I'm on my motorbike but I stay out of the ASLs, because they're not for motorbikes. I do get irritated with powered two wheeler riders who use ASLs. Twist and go scooter riders do seem to be the worst for using them, but then their riding skills are often horrendous too.

I've been told off by a van driver when on my motorbike for not using an ASL. He called over to me and told me to go into it and wouldn't listen when I told him it wasn't allowed. I don't know why he bohered. It wasn't as if me riding my sportsbike would hold up his Transit once the lights changed, but then people using four wheels rarely appreciate how much faster even  small motorcycle is away from the lights.

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ChrisB200SX [1074 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
Rick_Rude wrote:

I went into town on my motorbike yesterday and found the cycle lane very useful to get front of the traffic lights. I don't think I've ever seen a cyclist use this section of them, I reckon the council just randomly placed them for a token gesture so they could say 'look we've done our bit for cycling'. They didn't even end it with an ASL at the lights either. 

Anyway 10/10 for motorcycling - would jump to front of queue again.  

That's illegal by the way, filtering past the vehicle stopped at the white line at traffic lights.

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hirsute [1202 posts] 1 month ago
8 likes
Xena wrote:
ktache wrote:

Xena, Moon landings, any thoughts?

dont be a arsehole , instead of trying to be funny , go and take a look at any of the links I posted . Try looking at them and you will see they are the truth .  If not shut the fuck up or go take a look at one of my sub 4 kilo bikes I posted in the readers bikes section ,vid as well . 

You have absolutely no idea about what’s going on in the world ,your happy to suck up any bullshit you watch in the telly because it must be true . 

Whereas you stumble on some conspriracy nutjob page and lap it up without really understanding or questioning it.

Why so much swearing anyway? Do you think you will convince people of your argument?

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twelvestocks [5 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes

I don't generally use the ones that are a shared space with pedestrians unless the adjacent road is dangerous to cycle on. This is because it seems the only way to safely share space with pedestrians is to be travelling at their speed, and if I wanted to be travelling at walking pace I'd be walking! 

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Crippledbiker [99 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes
Xena wrote:

If your uncomfortable about a situation get the fuck off your bike and walk.  I have done that . We don’t need special roads ,kerbs markings ( people don’t understand them anyway ) .  Just keep things simple . Always some dick in the council somewhere who thinks he’s saving the world . Want to save cyclists life’s then tell them not to get on a bike if they are not capable of riding in traffic . Buy them a jet pack . 

 

And what about disabled cyclists, and cyclists on non-standard cycles?

Not everybody can dismount, and not providing for disabled and other more vulnerable cyclists is kinda a dick move.

If the road is unsafe, and there's no provision for me, I'm cycling on the pavement.

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ktache [2234 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes

It is always a pleasure to have your insights Crippledbiker.

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brooksby [5194 posts] 1 month ago
7 likes
Crippledbiker wrote:
Xena wrote:

If your uncomfortable about a situation get the fuck off your bike and walk.  I have done that . We don’t need special roads ,kerbs markings ( people don’t understand them anyway ) .  Just keep things simple . Always some dick in the council somewhere who thinks he’s saving the world . Want to save cyclists life’s then tell them not to get on a bike if they are not capable of riding in traffic . Buy them a jet pack . 

 

And what about disabled cyclists, and cyclists on non-standard cycles? Not everybody can dismount, and not providing for disabled and other more vulnerable cyclists is kinda a dick move. If the road is unsafe, and there's no provision for me, I'm cycling on the pavement.

I don't think Xena believes anyone's really disabled - they saw a video about it on Youtube...

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quiff [215 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:

Motorbike/scooter in a cycle lane or ASL is definitely in my top ten things that pi$$ me off, tbh.

Remember: that's the strip of road which is (supposed to be) ours, away from the motor vehicles.

Mungecrundle wrote:

Motorcyclists and scooter riders are also vulnerable road users and also have the right to filter. In some circumstances, getting to the head of the queue and pulling diagonally in front of the lead vehicle is a trick I learned from a Police rider. It is extremely dominant, gives you clear space, good visibility into the junction and prevents any thought of a drag race when the lights turn red and amber. In most scenarios the motorcycle will be off and away into clear space and safety without holding up the traffic in any way. ASLs are therefore a complete pain in the arse in this respect and reduce rider safety.

I get that motorised two wheelers are vulnerable too, and I'm much more tolerant of the odd infraction, but it does annoy me when I filter past a long line of cars to an ASL I know is there, only to find it already full of motorbikes and scooters - leaving me (the one without a motor) having to do said drag race / jostle for position with the cars behind.      

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Crippledbiker [99 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
ktache wrote:

It is always a pleasure to have your insights Crippledbiker.

Thank you - honestly, a lot of the stuff I say is pointing out the exact same thing. Over and over and over again.

It gets wearisome.

The notion that disabled cyclists might not be able to dismount is hardly extraordinary or revolutionary, given but a moment of thought and remembering that we bloody well exist.

Having said that, most posters here cotton on once it's been pointed out and keep it in mind. Now, if somebody could remind the pillocks who keep designing stuff we can't use, and those who keep trying to ban bikes from places...

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Mungecrundle [1610 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
Crippledbiker wrote:
ktache wrote:

It is always a pleasure to have your insights Crippledbiker.

Thank you - honestly, a lot of the stuff I say is pointing out the exact same thing. Over and over and over again. It gets wearisome. The notion that disabled cyclists might not be able to dismount is hardly extraordinary or revolutionary, given but a moment of thought and remembering that we bloody well exist. Having said that, most posters here cotton on once it's been pointed out and keep it in mind. Now, if somebody could remind the pillocks who keep designing stuff we can't use, and those who keep trying to ban bikes from places...

 

Tsk.. I remember the days when disabled people were grateful for a pat on the head, the offer of a "nice cup of tea" in a loud voice and a guide dog every now and again.

 

 

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biker phil [121 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

I had a run in with a Stagecoach bus driver recently,

https://road.cc/content/news/265532-near-miss-day-297-bus-driver-cuts-cy...

 

I reported this to the police who viewed the footage and said it wasn't worth pursuing as the driver could argue he was braking for the speed hump, even though he close passed me then swung in and slammed on, nearly taking me out. When I confronted him he kept telling me to use the cycle path.

Last week I had another close pass by another Stagecoach bus driver, who passed me inside a pinch point crossing place in the centre of the road. Again, when I caught up with him and confronted him, he kept telling me to use the cycle path. I am currently awaiting a response from Stagecoach. I think the police should act on this as it was clearly driving without due care, but have lost all faith in Lancashire Police. Even when I have complained to the police standards dept, they have not had the decency to reply.

 

Stagecoach drivers should be trained to ensure they are aware that cyclists do not have to use cycle paths. 

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