The legal world for cyclists is full of change. Who has right of way? Is helmet use compulsory? What’s happening with cycle lanes and pavements? These are just some of the questions that come to mind.
The biking debate du jour is around the Government’s major shake-up of The Highway Code, which aims to improve roads for cyclists.
There is a myriad of myths, stemming from the confusion surrounding cycling and the law. Here are our top six myths. Let’s debunk some of them…
Myth 1: Cyclists can pedal on pavements
In general, cyclists are not permitted to pedal on pavements. Rule 64 Of the Highways Act 1835 clearly states: “You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.”
If police spot a cyclist flouting this law, they can be fined a £50 fixed penalty notice, and the maximum court fine is £500.
But what about children – surely it isn’t safe for youngsters to cycle on roads? Surprisingly, the rule applies to all cyclists, and doesn’t make any exceptions for children. Of course, children under the age of 10 are below the age of criminal responsibility, which means they are unlikely to be prosecuted or fined.
However, in 1999 when fixed penalty notices came into play, the then-Home Office Minister Paul Boateng noted that “Chief Police Officers who are responsible for enforcement acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people are afraid to cycle on the road [and] sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”
Myth 2: Cycling two abreast isn’t permitted
Cyclists are not required to ride in single file at all times – Rule 66 of The Highway Code states that cyclists “should never cycle more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”
So technically, cyclists have just as much right to take up a full lane as motorists – something that at times provokes outrage. Derbyshire Police said, “You will often see cyclists riding side-by-side, and you, as a driver, may think they’re being selfish by doing so.
“But the fact is the cyclist is actually reducing the risk of having an accident; it’s the safest way for them to cycle, particularly if there’s a blind bend, a narrowing of the road, a high risk junction, pinch point or traffic lights ahead.”
Myth 3: Bike lights aren’t compulsory
Rule 60 states that at night, it is compulsory to have a white front light and a red rear light on your bike in times of darkness, i.e. between sunset and sunrise. Cycling UK emphasises that cycling at sunset when it isn’t yet dark isn’t a valid excuse. A red rear reflector must be fitted too, along with amber pedal reflectors.
Cycle lighting regulations now permit flashing lights, as long as they flash between 60 and 240 times per minute. “Extra” lights such as a head torch cannot be used instead of the legally required lights, only as an added safety measurement.
Bott and Co’s Operations Manager Ann McLoughlin says, “At this time of year, in low light and while commuting, a really good set of bike lights is important, both front and rear.”
Cyclists from Bott and Co all practice what they preach, making themselves easily seen by all road users by investing in high-vis clothing too – while this isn’t the law, it’s definitely advisable.
Myth 4: There is no such thing as furious cycling
What is furious cycling? Believe it or not, this is an official term, and punishable by law – cyclists can be sentenced to up to two years in prison if their furious cycling causes an injury.
This refers back to legislation all the way back in 1861 – it applies to drivers of vehicles or carriages that cause bodily harm due to wanton or furious driving.
If you cycle “furiously” but do not cause injury, you cannot be prosecuted but could be fined up to £1000 under the 1847 Town and Police Clauses Act.
Myth 5: Cyclists can run a red light
Cyclists must never get ahead of themselves and cross a red light – you could receive a fixed penalty notice fine.
Similarly, going through an amber traffic light is an offence. However, if you think you’re so close to the stop line that stopping suddenly at an amber light could cause a collision, it is at your discretion whether to pass or not.
Myth 6: Cyclists can’t be punished for being drunk at the handlebars
It is forbidden to appear inebriated through either alcohol or drugs while cycling, and the fine if you are caught is up to £1000. You won’t be breathalysed if police officers decide you look too unfit to ride, and there is no blood alcohol or other legal limits, the judgement is based purely on whether you look capable of controlling your bike.
Penalty points cannot be added to your driving license for behaviour while cycling, although it’s important to remember that the court does have the authority under the Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing Act) 2000 to ban anybody from driving, without imposing penalty points for offences, including those committed in cycling.
Bott and Co has been gaining justice for victims of cycling accidents for more than seventeen years. Claimants are treated with respect and empathy by the firm’s team of experts, many of whom are part of Bott and Co’s dedicated cycling team.