Motorists should know the law about cyclists

motoorist cyclist

This would have to be the definitive site for bikes in the UK:

Being a motorist for far more of my life than I’ve been a cyclist, I have every sympathy for hard-pressed motorists having to put up with the lycra mob. I’d like to assure motorists that there are law-abiding cyclists who do not wish to incur your wrath.

Then there are the idiots, of course.

Further, methinks there should be some sort of test, maybe based on this page but that opens a can of worms for cyclists who’ve enjoyed freedom from govt molestation for so long.  Best not to bring govt in.

Cyclists, if they’re to use the roads, MUST know the road law pertaining to them and it can be found on the linked page.

However, do motorists actually know this law as it pertains to them?  somehow I doubt it. Here’s a little selection:

#  For a start, there is a difference between a footpath and a footway – the law differs on each for cyclists.  Safest way is that if no one is about, it’s one thing but if someone appears, e.g. a pedestrian, then get off and walk the bike.

Signs telling cyclists to dismount tend to be irksome. There are none telling motorists to get out of their cars, for instance. The signs are usually to be found where cycle paths end or there’s a crossing of a road. You are not committing an offence if you ignore such signs as they are advisory only. That said, they may be placed in a location where there may be a significant increase in the risk of danger to yourself or other users of the highway so perhaps treat them as warning signs rather than instructions.

By and large the signs which you cannot dismiss are those which are surrounded by a red circle: these are signs warning of mandatory instructions. Think of the circle as an ‘O’, where ‘O’ stands for ‘order.’

#  Things like lights, chains, pillion seats, etc. – all are governed by common sense. Have a bell on your handlebar.

#  Highway Code:

Expert witness John Franklin, author of Cyclecraft, published by The Stationery Office, has three articles on cycling and the law here.

#  Riding under the influence:

The Licensing Act 1872 makes it an offence to be drunk in charge of a bicycle (or any other vehicle or carriage, or cattle) on a highway or in a public place but this old law also forbids any public drunkenness – even in a pub – so is clearly never enforced.

In law a bicycle is defined as a carriage for use on the highway but cyclists are not in charge of ‘mechanically propelled’ vehicles so, in law, do not have to adhere to exactly the same rules as motorists, including ‘drink drive’ rules.

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.

You can not get endorsements on your UK driving licence for a ‘drink cycling’ offence. However, according to Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 the courts have the power to disqualify a cyclist from driving a car for any offence.

#  Speeding:

It’s an in-joke in cycling that cyclists can’t be booked for speeding (see below) but can be fined for “pedalling furiously.” Many cyclists list being cited for “cycling furiously” as one of their life ambitions. Professor David S. Wall, Head of the University of Leeds Law School, a one-time professor of criminal justice, once listed his hobby as: Cycling (Furiously).

There’s no specific offence of “furious cycling”, but as reported by Cambridge Cycling Campaign in 2007, fast-moving cyclists can sometimes be nabbed for “riding furiously”, an offence under the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act. This mentions (under section 28) it is an offence for “Every person who rides or drives furiously any horse or carriage, or drives furiously any cattle.”

So, don’t go herding cows on your bike as you’ll be committing an offence twice over…

However, cyclists – and not just Victorian ones – can be convicted for “wanton and furious driving”.

#  Obstructing motorists:

In August 2006, a new legal peril appeared. A district judge fined a cyclist for using a road in Telford when the cyclist could have used the less-direct, slower and dirtier cycle-path nearby.

The decision by the district judge didn’t set an official precedent but could still have been used by some as “proof” that cyclists must use cycle lanes, not roads, a prospect that has long been challenged by theCTC and other cycle campaign groups. As widely expected, the Telford decision was overturned (in February 2007).

According to this advice issued by the Department of Transport, cyclists likely to be riding 18mph or faster should use roads not cycle-paths.

#  And now the big one – the right to the roads:

The majority of adult cyclists own cars. Hence they pay Vehicle Excise Duty, known, inaccurately, as ‘road tax’. Winston Churchill started to abolish this tax in 1926.

He didn’t want motorists to think a token payment gave them “ownership” of the road. It was an ex-tax by 1937.

‘Road tax’ doesn’t pay for the roads anyway, general and local taxation does that so even those cyclists without cars still pay for roads. The Road Fund (1910-37) only ever paid for the maintenance of a few ‘national’ roads, never local ones.

Paying car tax gives no “right to the road” for motorists (or car-owning cyclists). There’s much more on this subject on, a campaign to put the record straight on ‘road tax’.

Having said that the motorists don’t own the bloody road, it’s a foolish lycrabound idiot who wishes to try this out. My approach to this is the same as my little boat against an oceangoing vessel of 1000 tons.  I might have the right under certain circumstances but I’d be an idiot to try it.

4 comments for “Motorists should know the law about cyclists

  1. October 12, 2015 at 11:24 pm
  2. Errol
    October 13, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I make every effort to give cyclists plenty of room. They don’t extend the same courtesy though. All too often cyclists sit in the opposite lane, expecting free passage down the road, or they sit on your pssenger side, ignoring that your indicators are on then blaming *you* for turning.

    Then there’s the fellow who cycles on the pavement. On the wrong side of the road. A child with a parent I can live with. An adult on their own? No, a bell is not to make me move out of your way.

    Motor cyclists are pretty much the same. Often worse as they think they’ve a given right to use the opposite lane to skip traffic – ignoring oncoming traffic. I won’t get started on poppers pootling along at 30mph in a 40 limit sitting in the middle of the road. Kids – get out of the way. You’re causing a hazard.

  3. October 17, 2015 at 7:07 am

    It’s the 99% of bad cyclists that give the others a bad name… 😉

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