Dame Sarah Storey has asked people to respond to the Government’s Highway Code consultation to request greater clarity on riding two abreast. She is critical of proposed new wording which would tell cyclists they should, “ride in single file when drivers wish to overtake and it is safe to let them do so.”
The Government launched a consultation on changes to the Highway Code in July, with the proposed alteration to Rule 66 among the most striking from a cyclist’s perspective.
The current wording of Rule 66 of the Highway Code says that while cycling, “You should … never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”
The proposed new wording would say that, “You should … ride in single file when drivers wish to overtake and it is safe to let them do so. When riding in larger groups on narrow lanes, it is sometimes safer to ride two abreast.”
Storey, who is British Cycling’s Policy Advocate, said: “The intention of the proposal is to make it clear that riding two abreast is not just legal but it’s also safer and more convenient for all road users – and that includes drivers as well. However, our concern is that the proposed wording doesn’t achieve that goal and the existing ambiguity around this issue remains.”
Expanding on some of the reasons why cyclists ride two abreast, she continued: “If you think about a situation where you might be riding with your child, as I do on a regular basis, you want to make sure that you have your child on the left of you so that if somebody is passing too quickly or closely you are offering them some protection. In this situation we don’t believe that a parent should ever feel compelled to ‘single out’.
“Similarly, if you’re out on the road in a group, if you’re in single file there’s a much longer line of cyclists for a driver to pass. On the road it might not be possible to do this safely while maintaining a safe distance from the group, particularly if there’s a bend ahead or a traffic island. If you’re riding two abreast, it makes it much easier for the driver to overtake safely and they’ll also have better visibility of what is coming towards them.”
British Cycling, Cycling UK and other organisations have put forward alternative wording for Rule 66 which they believe provides greater clarity on how drivers should interact with groups riding two abreast.
“You should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in small or large groups. You can ride two abreast and it is often safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Be aware of drivers behind you, allowing them to overtake (e.g. by moving into single file) when you feel it is safe to let them do so.”
Storey concluded: “We know that this issue is a longstanding subject of debate between motorists and people on bikes, with unnecessary hostility often directed to those out cycling, usually in the form of dangerous overtaking.
“Through the consultation we have the opportunity to clear up the confusion once and for all, and it’s absolutely vital that the Government hears the experiences of thousands of people who would benefit from this change.”