Cycling – What’s legal, what’s not/What’s advisable, whats not

With so many people cycling during our present health lockdown even I as a regular/daily cyclist for a few years now have been checking what cyclists legally can and can’t do on our roads. Whilst Googling around on the subject I came across this very recent Chronicle newspaper article which I thought was both well written and informative:-

One thing some cyclists can easily forget or even deliberately disregard is that pedestrians are the most import thing on our roads, not cyclists or indeed vehicles. The other thing about some cyclists is that they don’t have bells on their bikes. How on earth are they to warn pedestrians, whom they are coming up on from behind, that they are there without a bell? I know some cyclists will think they are not cool with a bell on their bike but I can’t get my head around that rather daft excuse.

Also, because I’m a cyclist I find that non-cyclists seem to think I should be able to explain the deficiencies of other cyclists as if we are some kind of Borg Collective! (Star Trek fans will get this). Questions I’ve been asked:-

* Why don’t you cyclists use cycle lanes/tracks and keep off the road? (I do when they are available)
* Why don’t you cyclists have a bell on your bikes (I do)?
* Why don’t you cyclists carry insurance (I do), we vehicle drivers have to so you should too.
* Why don’t you stick to cycling outside of rush hours, you get in the way. (Do I really have to answer this?)

I could go on but you get my drift. Firstly, I am no more responsible for the behaviour of other cyclists than one vehicle driver is for another. Why on earth do some non-cyclists think cyclists are?

Cycle paths often end in the wrong/dangerous places as this one does.

And another thing, bad cyclists will invariably be bad drivers too. Most cyclists are also drivers of vehicles you know.

But what has really struck me in recent times is that cycling, outside of those who do it, seems to be quite unpopular. It’s as though some folks think it should be banned. In a bizarre and dangerous incident a while back a van driver overtook me just before a junction which I had signalled to turn left at. He then cut straight in front of me and turned left into the same road and slammed his brakes on. A more deliberate act of intimidation aimed at me I have never seen whilst cycling. Not only that he jumped out and told me to get off the road! I assume he wanted me to cycle illegally on the pavement (see the newspaper article linked above)? *

Yes I too get upset when I see adults riding bikes on pavements which have not been designated for cycling; it’s wrong and in my locality Merseyside or Lancashire Police should be challenging cyclists who do it. And yes I also deplore cyclists jumping red lights; they need catching a fining just like vehicle drivers who do it.**

I find cycling fun and it keeps me fit. What’s more it’s an environmentally friendly way of getting from A to B over short to medium distances. I try not to be a pain in the a**e to other road users and I hope the recent uptake in cycling will make bike riding a normal everyday thing which no longer requires explanation, apology or accusations.

* By the way does anyone have any stats from Merseyside and Lancashire for fines handed out for cycling on pavements? If you’ve read the linked article above you’ll have noted that between 2012/13 and 2017/18 only two people paid fines for cycling on pavements in the Northumbria Police area.

** Although in defence of the odd bit of pavement riding I can think of two places in my locality were cycle tracks start/end in daft/unsafe places all but forcing cyclists to use a short section of pavement.

Cycling safely – what are the issues?

Should all cyclists be made, by the law, to wear helmets like car drivers are made to wear seat belts? This link to the BBC web site discusses differing views on this issue:-

My own view is that for adults the jury is out on this question but for children the matter is very clear, they should always wear a helmet. I always wear one, preferably in a bright colour as it helps other road users see you as well as offering some protection in case of an accident or fall. I’ve just bought one with a detachable visor and rear flashing red LED. The visor is great as it means I can keep my specs on and have protection from the sun. Wish I’d bought one like this ages ago; the visor is useful in the rain too.

Why do some cyclists ride on pavements? I try not to do this unless it is to avoid a dangerous junction because the most important thing on the public highway is the pedestrian. Also, I find pavement riding hazardous. Bouncing up and down kerbs at junctions, vehicles and pedestrians exiting driveways obscured by hedges and fences. I know that some cyclists ride on pavements because they fear traffic on the road but to my mind it’s safer on the road for cyclists.

And what about potholes? They are probably the greathest danger to cyclists as avoiding them or indeed hitting them can put you in conflict with traffic. My way of dealing with them is to be looking 20 to 30 yards ahead and to be very wary of puddles as they can hide potholes. Best to cycle more slowly on poor roads or even to avoid such roads as I do with the likes of Bold Lane in Aughton.

And what about cycle paths? Great if they are reasonably well maintained and have logical starting and ending points BUT. One ‘but’ is that many are not well maintained and that encourages cyclists, particularly those who wish to travel at speed, not to use them. This in turn frustrates vehicle drivers who, if they are not cyclists themselves, can’t understand why the cyclist slowing them down is not on the adjacent cycle path. The other ‘but’ is that often cycle paths begin and end in odd or even unsafe places or because they run for just short stretches of routes and cyclists are on and off them like a yo-yo. Coming on and off cycle paths into traffic is dangerous and the UK has great deal more to do to make cycling much safer via the development and extension cycle paths/routes.

An example of poor cycling facilities is the A59 from Ormskirk to Switch Island. You have to get out of Ormskirk well into Aughton before there’s a cycle path and when you reach it there’s both a pavement and cycle path side by side. Trouble is the pavement is well overgrown and the cycle path is rutted. It then gets much better until you reach Robins Island where through Lydiate and Maghull there’s no cycle path/safe cycle route at all until you reach the last half mile coming out of Maghull towards Switch Island. Thankfully Sefton Council has an eye to doing something about this but its not going to happen quickly.

Why don’t some cyclists wear bright clothes all the time and/or use lights in the dark? I really don’t know, maybe they have a death wish or in the case of teenage lads its probably not cool to look safe so they would rather be at risk as their mates approve of that. For goodness sake unless you are nuts put on some bright day-glow clothes; it’s called being safe!

Do car drivers hate cyclists? Well some car drivers hate anything that stops them driving around like a crap Formula 1 driver. But just think who are the most important on the road? – 1 pedestrians, 2 cyclists, 3 buses, 4 everything else!

Why do cyclists run red lights? Because they are trying to get themselves killed? Because it makes them feel cool? Because like many vehicle drivers they are in too much of a hurry? Take your pick but as a cyclist and driver I have no sympathy with cyclists who jump red lights.

Cycle in the gutter you are in my way say angry car drivers? No cyclists don’t cycle in gutters because they are too dangerous! Dropped grids broken kerb stones etc. Most cyclists will cycle a couple of feet away from the kerb.

Why do cyclists take up too much room where the carriageway is narrow? Because if they try to make the passing possibilities greater mad drivers will try to push past them causing danger. I will usually make the gap impossible for a vehicle to pass me where the road is narrow such as at pedestrian refuge islands. Drivers need to pass cyclists with care leaving as much room as possible. I saw a warning sign on the Kirkstone Pass in Cumbria the other day saying drivers need to leave 1.5m of space when they pass a cyclist.

Why do cyclists sometimes cycle in packs side by side? Don’t know really, would never do it on a busy road myself as it causes congestion but I guess some cyclists can be just as inconsiderate as some drivers. Lets be honest inconsiderate drivers who also cycle are probably also inconsiderate cyclists.

I love cycling, I used to cycle miles when I was a young lad living in Rochdale with Nigel Collison. Then as I got older I fell out with cycling and only got back into it in my late 50’s. It’s great exercise and you actually see things rather than speeding past them in a vehicle. Cycling fits with my love of taking photographs too as I can stop pretty much where I want which clearly you can’t do in a car. Oh and its good for the environment and for local journeys much cheaper than using a car.

Go on give it a go, but please cycle safely.