Road Rules for Cyclists and What You Need on a Bike

Cycle Paths
The road rules say you should use one if it is available. Note this does not mean you must use one. The web-based advice does not make this clear. So, for example, if you are commuting or road training on a bike, and find it easier to stay on the road, you are legally allowed to do so.

Riding on Footpaths
No, you can’t. Unless you’re a postie, or delivering leaflets, or where a shared path is designated – some footpaths are dual-use, and will (or should) have a cycle symbol on a pole or on the ground. There are increasing numbers of these around the country. They are not always well sign-posted, so it pays to check with the local council, cycling advocacy group or cycle club for a guide as to where they are.

Note that pedestrians do not necessarily expect cyclists, even if it is clear that they should. It is good manners, and will generate more support from pedestrians for cyclists, if you do not speed past them, or too close to them. Remember how annoyed you feel when motor vehicles do that to you on the road. If you have a bell, use it. But not an air-horn. Scares the daylights out them.

This would be where traffic is heavy, fast, or both, and it would be safer to use a footpath. It would particularly apply to, say, kids biking down to the shops or the park; or commuters avoiding snarled traffic. Most observe that the police seem to accept such behaviour, as from a police viewpoint it is better to have cyclists out of harms way. And motorists probably prefer it, too. They add that the main thing is to be VERY courteous to pedestrians when doing this, as it is primarily their space. Much of this is common sense. And they should explain to children to watch out for cars coming in and out of driveways…

Cycle lanes
A few things have been made clear about cycle lanes:
          Vehicles cannot park on cycle lanes, unless specifically marked otherwise. This means it is no longer legal to have a designated cycle lane that also allows car-parking. You are now officially allowed to glare at the owners, and ring the local council to complain. (See below for more on making complaints).
          Lanes must comply with regulations. For example, there needs to be a cycling symbol, or a bus lane symbol (which means cyclists and motorcyclists are allowed to use the lane).

Bus Lanes
You can ride on bus lanes, as noted above, but not if it says Bus Only.

You can have a flashing rear red light at night, and that is sufficient.
However, while you can have a flashing front light (white or amber), you must also have a steady (non-flashing) light.

You have to wear one on the road. But a few comments:
  • It’s absolutely pointless having one that does not fit. Ask your bike shop to make sure it does so. And do it up.
  • Helmets won’t stop you being hurt. They can reduce the severity of injuries in many types of accident, particularly at lower speeds  and are invaluable if you are doing things like mountain-biking, Skulls and trees don’t mix. But do NOT rely on them to keep you safe, especially from motor vehicles. Equally or more important is to ensure such things as your brakes work and your tyres are in good condition (bald tyres won’t stop you in a hurry, and you will get more flats). Get your bike serviced regularly, or learn to do it yourself. Improve your riding skills, be aware of changing road conditions, and wear reflective or bright clothing to ensure others see you. And wear a helmet.

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