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"Check the Highway Code": Police officer claims cyclist shouldn't ride "in the middle of the road"

City of London Police officer told the cyclist "you shouldn't be cycling along in the middle of the road [...] there's a cycle lane [...] I know the Highway Code"...

Over the weekend we reported how Greater Manchester Police apologised and promised all officers would be made aware of Highway Code rules after a video surfaced showing a "shocking level of ignorance" from one officer who told a cyclist he had to ride single file next to the kerb.

Well, the video prompted another reader to send us their recent frustrating police encounter, this time with an officer from the City of London force who told him he should not be riding in the "middle of the road".

"When you get back, check the Highway Code," the road.cc reader told the officer, who responded... "I know the Highway Code"...

The reader said it was a "disappointing interaction", but stressed the only aim of sharing the footage is to highlight the "scale of the challenge that cyclists face in public understanding of what is not only perfectly normal and legal cycling, but what is in fact recommended in the Highway Code as good practice and to be safe on the roads."

"I'm not in any kind of righteous steaming fury here — this is just someone who thinks they know the Highway Code but doesn't, it isn't the end of times," he said.

"I've blurred their face because it's not really important who the individual is, and because we all make errors in our jobs that we wouldn't necessarily want to define us."

In response to questions about if he had reported the incident to City of London Police, the reader told us: "I'm really not interested in doing that, or singling out an individual here for what I would perceive to be an institutional gap.

"I'm far more interested in knowing what, if any, systems the police force has in place for ensuring officers who go out on the road are aware of and promote public understanding of the very valuable guidance in the recently clarified Highway Code.

"If anything is going to change in public attitudes on the road, the police forces really have to lead the way and be positive champions for the hierarchy of road users."

What does the Highway Code say?

Rule 61 of the Highway Code:

Use facilities such as cycle lanes and tracks, advanced stop lines and toucan crossings where they make your journey safer and easier. This will depend on your experience and skills and the situation at the time. While such facilities are provided for reasons of safety, cyclists may exercise their judgement and are not obliged to use them.

Pointing out the danger of crossing the junction by bike, the road.cc reader explained there was "almost no motor traffic on the road, and certainly none preventing me from reaching the advance stop box — so using it would not make my journey any easier or safer."  

City of London police officer tells cyclist he shouldn't ride in the "middle of the road" (credit: Velodrone/YouTube)
City of London police officer tells cyclist he shouldn't ride in the "middle of the road" (credit: Velodrone/YouTube)

He continued: "On the contrary, with pavements busy with pedestrians who may step out at any point, several traffic islands on the approach to the junction — and at one point a pedestrian walking down the middle of the road towards me — the safest position is absolutely to be centre of the lane."

"You shouldn't be cycling in the middle of the road"

Contrary to what the officer said, Rule 213 of the Highway Code is as follows:

On narrow sections of road, on quiet roads or streets, at road junctions and in slower-moving traffic, cyclists may sometimes ride in the centre of the lane, rather than towards the side of the road. It can be safer for groups of cyclists to ride two abreast in these situations. Allow them to do so for their own safety, to ensure they can see and be seen.

Rule 72 adds:

 Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible [...] at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you.

"I was on the approach to a large and complex junction with a dual set of traffic lights on the approach," the cyclist explained. "There is considerable risk to cyclists from motor vehicles wanting to turn off to one of the side roads while they go straight ahead or to an opposing turn off.

"There is almost no conceivable situation in which it would be more appropriate to be in the centre of the lane on the approach and in the advance stop box for when the light goes green. 

"Unfortunately this officer, rather than knowing or recognising any of this, is determined that he 'knows' that the Highway Code says 'I should be in the bike lane'.

> Why don't cyclists stick to the left of the lane?

"This is a common misconception by the general public, and one which contributes often to cyclists receiving verbal abuse and even 'punishment passes' or other deliberately dangerous road behaviour when they are in fact acting entirely in keeping with Highway Code recommendations for their own safety.

"I'll be the first to admit that some of the recommendations are counter-intuitive. Believe me, they are counter-intuitive to many cyclists too — but they are thoroughly researched and proven to be the best way to stay safe, especially at and on the approach to large and complex junctions with a history of cyclist fatalities.  

"The police should absolutely be at the forefront of communicating and demonstrating to the public that they understand this — and, dare I say, not confusing lines from tabloid agitators with what the Highway Code actually says."

road.cc contacted City of London Police for comment and to raise the cyclist's wish for wider education on the Highway Code within the police force, but did not get a response at the time of publishing this story.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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83 comments

Avatar
Holts | 1 year ago
0 likes

He wasn't wrong though that's how it should be , equally riding several abreast , should also be a legal obligation for cycle lanes to be used rather than the road when available.

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chrisonabike replied to Holts | 1 year ago
5 likes

I'm not quite sure what you mean eg. who's "he" - if it's the copper he was quite wrong. Cycling side by side is legal too.

Why do you think cycle lanes should have to be used? That might be reasonable in The Netherlands but you might notice a
few differences there. They have (I believe) legal minimums for design standards of cycle infrastructure. Those are not only half a century ahead of the UK, but are actually as meaningful as UK Road design standards. Compare with the UK - stick up a sign with a bike on it or paint a line to make a lane more than the width of a tyre, or just ignore the "guidance" and make up any rubbish you like - voila, a UK cycling faculty!

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Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
6 likes

Don't engage!

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chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
2 likes

* Deletes message saying "I'm puzzled why your uncle, being a Nigerian prince, would need my account details..." *

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andystow replied to Holts | 1 year ago
11 likes
Holts wrote:

He wasn't wrong though that's how it should be , equally riding several abreast , should also be a legal obligation for cycle lanes to be used rather than the road when available.

Can we agree that drivers should not take A roads when there's a viable motorway route to their destination, nor B roads when there's a viable A road?

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brooksby replied to andystow | 1 year ago
7 likes

My commute is along the side of an A road (a small one, but a busy commuter route) which does from the M5 motorway into Bristol city centre.

Commuters could stay on the M5, go around the city using M5 the M4 then M32 (you know - the roads they built for motorists) or even go one junction further north and come off and into the city along a much bigger A road (the A4 Portway) but they don't; they use 'my' road instead.

And yes, I have pointed that out to some bloke who shouted at me for not using the cycle path...

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ktache replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
3 likes

I can't wait for the wonderfully maintained A roads, that run parallel to motorways to become motor vehicleless.

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brooksby replied to ktache | 1 year ago
2 likes
ktache wrote:

I can't wait for the wonderfully maintained A roads, that run parallel to motorways to become motor vehicleless.

Or at least private motor vehicle less (maybe allow buses?).

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Hirsute replied to Holts | 1 year ago
7 likes

And a legal obligation on local authorities to have a tow truck available 24/7 to keep those lanes free from drivers who park in them and even drive in them.

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wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like

The problem with this particular mega-volume 'music' is that it's played from Hueys in 'nam in Apocalypse Now as a warning to the 'gooks' that they're about to be napalmed, blown to smithereens...etc

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Velo-drone replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
2 likes

Hannibal Lecter bites off someone's face, beats another to death and then crucifies him to the backing of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata provides the soundtrack to some appalling torture in Misery.

I'm sure we could concoct a pretty comprehensive list of all sorts of horrendous things that have been set to classical music ... but not sure really what that would signify.

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hawkinspeter replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
0 likes
Velo-drone wrote:

Hannibal Lecter bites off someone's face, beats another to death and then crucifies him to the backing of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata provides the soundtrack to some appalling torture in Misery.

I'm sure we could concoct a pretty comprehensive list of all sorts of horrendous things that have been set to classical music ... but not sure really what that would signify.

Clockwork Orange had some notable scenes too

 

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NOtotheEU replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
0 likes

Post deleted

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squired | 1 year ago
11 likes

Given that the light was red anyway it doesnt really matter where the cyclist was, as he wasn't holding anyone up.  What I did notice though was that on the green light from the right a couple of vehicles headed through the junction despite Bank being closed to everything apart from buses and cycles.  I'm betting the policeman didn't stop them to say they shouldn't be going through the junction.

One thing I'm not sure about, does the restriction on vehicles exclude the police too?  I could understand an exemption for emergencies, but should they be driving through at other times?

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Velo-drone replied to squired | 1 year ago
4 likes

Would have to look up the regs to see if they excepted emergency vehicles as well as buses.

I wouldn't be surprised if they did, and I don't really have any problem with that.

But as much better as the junction is since the change, it's still dangerous. I still regularly get buses & other vehicles turning right from Poultry cutting across me almost every time I come back across the junction from Cornhill.

If I didn't take centre lane at this point, I would definitely be vulnerable to left turning traffic.

Also, and this is almost without exception, once that light goes green there's a mass of pedestrians crossing (against the red pedestrian crossing light) from both sides of the junction at the next set of lights.

I'm not overly bothered by this, I just make sure I ring the bell a few times on the approach and don't pelt it through and mostly they deign to make a gap (exactly the same on the other side going to to Cornhill)

However, staying to the left, as many suggest that cyclists should do here is a really bad idea. Even if those crossing stop for you to come through the green light, there's frequently someone sweeping through behind the nearest of the crowd who doesn't see you, hasn't realised why they've stopped and is too preoccupied with their important phone call to take a look at the road.

At least in the centre of the lane you've a reasonable chance of their not stepping right in front of your wheel before you see them ..

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bikeman01 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Regardless of that officers ignorance, why is he riding in that position anyway? He cant be taking the lane to turn right because it's a no right turn at that junction.

Maybe he's turning right at the next junction? Nope not that either.

Sure he comes up with lots of justification for his dawdling road position but others are able to use the bike lane. Clearly he has an extremely acute danger threshold which the others dont have....  

..or maybe, compounded his choice of music at that volume, the guy is just riding like that to make some point. Riders like him who deliberately antagonise others give us all a bad name.

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STiG911 replied to bikeman01 | 1 year ago
11 likes

Riiiiiight. He's riding in that position solely to antagonise others. Of course.

Never mind that the speed limit in that entire area is 20mph.

Or that traffic at that junction and the roads leading into and out of it is restricted to buses and cyclists for most of the day.

Solely to antagonise.

Idiot.

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Velo-drone replied to bikeman01 | 1 year ago
12 likes

Not sure how much cycling you do, given that terrible analysis.

The left hand side of the road here channels you into the flow of any traffic joining from the road on the right as well as merging you into the path of the traffic joining from Cheapside where I've just come from. It's really a terrible place to be. Even if I used it, e.g. due to waiting traffic at the light, I'd definitely then position further out in the AST for safety.

At the following lights there are four exits for bicycles and three for road traffic (5 & 4 respectively if you count Mansion House Place, but I'll let that go as hardly anyone goes down there)

Anyway, point is - you absolutely should be taking the lane at these lights, whatever way you're going.

As for 'dawdling' .... the light is RED! No-one needs to be zooming up to that light. I've slowed down because I can actually move through faster if I keep rolling but don't fully stop.

But yeah, sure, it's just to antagonise ... 🙄

Avatar
ktache replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
6 likes

" As for 'dawdling' .... the light is RED! No-one needs to be zooming up to that light. I've slowed down because I can actually move through faster if I keep rolling but don't fully stop. But yeah, sure, it's just to antagonise ... 🙄"

For our motorcentic culture this is almost impossible to understand. To not accelerate until needing to brake???

You roll until the lights start to change then push those pedals, if you really know the lights then you can try and judge it perfectly.

Even with electric and hybrid motor vehicles with regenerative braking this is inefficient, let alone gas guzzlers. 

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Capercaillie replied to ktache | 1 year ago
6 likes
ktache wrote:

<>
You roll until the lights start to change then push those pedals, if you really know the lights then you can try and judge it perfectly.

Even with electric and hybrid motor vehicles with regenerative braking this is inefficient, let alone gas guzzlers. 

My driving instructor told me that 30 years ago.
He said “You wouldn't race to the lights on your bike. Don't do it in the car“.
I hope people are still being taught that. It's even more important now with climate change and the cost of fuel.

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Awavey replied to Capercaillie | 1 year ago
3 likes

Well I'd agree...but IME unless I up the pace towards a red light, the vehicle behind me will attempt to pass, regardless of their own ability to actually pass in the time,space or distance, I'm a cyclist so they MGIF.

I had it just yesterday approaching a traffic queue at a red light, I'm in prime as we start slowing leaving myself braking space,but this damn old man in a Range rover starts an overtake towards braking traffic, gets alongside me and just decides to steer left back towards me to force me out of the way or we crash, it's only that the road slightly widened there to accommodate a left turn lane I didnt get stuffed into a kerb

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NOtotheEU replied to ktache | 1 year ago
8 likes
ktache wrote:

For our motorcentic culture this is almost impossible to understand. To not accelerate until needing to brake???

This mystifies me every time I'm a passenger in a car too, surely you want to arrive at the lights as they turn green?

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chrisonabike replied to NOtotheEU | 1 year ago
7 likes

But the cyclist / slower driver might get to the red lights first...

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HoarseMann replied to bikeman01 | 1 year ago
11 likes
bikeman01 wrote:

but others are able to use the bike lane.

It's not really a bike lane, it's a feeder lane for the Advanced Stop Line.

Bear in mind these ASLs are there for the benefit of cyclists, to enable them to get to the ASL box ahead of queuing traffic, not so that motor vehicles can make a pointless overtake.

Avatar
Velo-drone replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
5 likes
HoarseMann wrote:

It's not really a bike lane, it's a feeder lane for the Advanced Stop Line.

Bear in mind these ASLs are there for the benefit of cyclists, to enable them to get to the ASL box ahead of queuing traffic, not so that motor vehicles can make a pointless overtake.

Absolutely correct.  Also bear in mind that the road there has been further altered since that photo was taken - where the road expands to the left after the ASL box in this picture, it now narrows in to the right, feeding cyclists from that lane into the flow of traffic from behind as well as the flow of traffic from the road merging from the right.  

Hence why, even if you were to need to use the lane to access the ASL box, you should position centre lane in the box to avoid being crushed.  Similarly, the only way to safely cross Bank junction on a bike - even now, in the much safer environment, is to be as primary as possible for the exit you are taking. 

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HoarseMann replied to Velo-drone | 1 year ago
3 likes

Let's hope that police officer goes and has a read of rule 73, which basically says take the lane or get off and walk...

Rule 73
Junctions.

Position yourself in the centre of your chosen lane, where you feel able to do this safely, to make yourself as visible as possible and to avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous. If you do not feel safe to proceed in this way, you may prefer to dismount and wheel your bike across the junction.

Avatar
Muddy Ford replied to bikeman01 | 1 year ago
5 likes
bikeman01 wrote:

Regardless of that officers ignorance, why is he riding in that position anyway? He cant be taking the lane to turn right because it's a no right turn at that junction.

Maybe he's turning right at the next junction? Nope not that either.

Sure he comes up with lots of justification for his dawdling road position but others are able to use the bike lane. Clearly he has an extremely acute danger threshold which the others dont have....  

..or maybe, compounded his choice of music at that volume, the guy is just riding like that to make some point. Riders like him who deliberately antagonise others give us all a bad name.

Is your monicker intended to be ironic, in that you don't actually ride a bike? That would make sense given your complete lack of understanding that a rider's objective to keep themselves safe is greater than any objective to not hinder the progress of a following vehicle. You seem more concerned with not upsetting drivers for fear of retribution against the cycling 'Borg'. Can I be Locutus?  

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the little onion | 1 year ago
7 likes

Instiututionally anti-cyclist

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HarrogateSpa | 1 year ago
3 likes

The backing track on the video makes for an horrific listening experience.

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Rendel Harris replied to HarrogateSpa | 1 year ago
9 likes

Sadly it's not a backing track, the cyclist obviously has speakers on his bike (the last bit of interaction with the driver is about that). While in no way detracting from the fact that the officer was entirely in the wrong, I find that so antisocial (and yes I hate loud car stereos too).

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