Essential Highway Code Rules for Cyclists
The Highway Code contains a number of rules that specifically apply to cyclists. They are found in sections 59 to 82 and include general cycle safety provisions as well as specific rules relating to road junctions, roundabouts and crossings.
Any cyclist who wishes to ride safely and responsibly must ride in accordance with the rules. Failing to do so can amount to a criminal offence in some cases.
The following is a summary of the rules:
General cycle safety provisions
Rule 59: Clothing
Section 59 explains the type of clothing and helmets that cyclists should wear in order to make them visible to other road users. Specifically, you will need:
- A correctly sized helmet that conforms to current regulations
- Fitted clothing that will not get tangled in the chain or wheel of your bicycle
- Light-coloured clothing that will help other road users spot you in daylight and poor light
- Reflective clothing or accessories (helmet strip, sash, ankle bands) in the dark.
Rule 60: Visibility
Bicycles must be fitted with white front lights, red rear lights, amber pedal reflectors and a red rear reflector. After dark, cyclists must have their front and rear lights lit. Driving at night without lights is a criminal offence under the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989.
Rule 61: Cycle lanes and facilities
Use dedicated cycle lanes, toucan crossings and cycle boxes wherever possible since these facilities are designed to keep you safer.
Rule 62 - 65: Cycle tracks, cycle lanes, bus lanes and pavements
- When using an unsegregated pedestrian/cycle track, you must keep to the side intended for cyclists. Exercise care when passing pedestrians and stop where necessary.
- You don't have to use marked cycle lanes but they can make your journey safer. Keep in the lane where practicable and clearly signal to other road users before pulling out.
- Cyclists must not cycle on the pavement. This is a legal requirement.
- Cyclists may ride on bus lanes where permitted on signs. When the bus is at a stop, it is prohibited to pass between the bus and the kerb.
Rule 66 and 67: Handling the bicycle
These sections contain some common-sense rules for riding safely. For example, cyclists should keep both hands on the handlebars except when changing gear or signalling, and keep both feet on the pedals. The Code urges cyclists to take care when pulling away from the kerb, turning corners, passing parked cars, overtaking and navigating traffic calming measures.
Cyclists should not ride more than two abreast and ride only single file on narrow or busy roads.
Section 68: Illegal actions
Cyclists must not:
- Carry a passenger unless the cycle has been designed to carry one
- Hold onto a moving vehicle or trailer
- Ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner
- Ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine.
Section 69: Traffic signs
Cyclist must obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals.
Section 70: Parking
When parking, you should use cycle stands wherever possible and avoid leaving your bike where it would cause a hazard or obstruction to others.
Section 71: Red lights
You must not cross the stop line when traffic lights are red.
In addition to the general cycling safety provisions, the Highway Code contains specific rules relevant to cyclists in certain road situations. These include:
Road junctions - Rules 72 to 65
Roundabouts - Rules 76 to 78
Crossing the road - Rules 79 to 82
Looking after your bicycle - Annex 1 of the Highway Code
Is the Highway Code law?
The Highway Code is not in itself law, although many of the provisions are based on a legal requirement. Where this is the case, the Highway Code will use the words "must" or "must not" and will also mention the original law that gave rise to the Highway Code rule.
For example, Rule 69 of the Highway Code states:- "You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals. Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD reg 10(1)."
A cyclist who disobeys these rules could be prosecuted for breaking the law which created the Highway Code rule. Even if the rule is not law, breaking the rule could be construed as riding carelessly or inconsiderately, and the cyclist may be prosecuted or receive an on-the-spot fine.
The Highway Code recognises that cyclists are at a higher risk than other road users. By following the rules, you can reduce the risk of accident to yourself and others and ensure that all road users are protected.