The Highway Code contains vital information, advice, and road traffic law. Yet most of us haven’t looked at it in years.
Many of the rules in the Highway Code are legal requirements. Where the words MUST or MUST NOT are used, the rule is law. Disobeying is a criminal offence. The other rules, which aren’t legally binding, can nevertheless be used as evidence to establish liability in court proceedings. So you might think that all road users would know the Highway Code inside out. But you’d be wrong.
According to a survey by insurer Admiral MultiCover, only one in ten of us has read the code in the last three years and nearly half of us haven’t read it in the last 20. Even if you once knew it by heart, the Highway Code is subject to revision. It changes – most recently in January 2022.
Test yourself, fellow cyclists, and drivers you know on the following rules.
The most important rules for cyclists
Rules 67 and 74 could save your life. Long vehicles are biggest danger to cyclists in urban areas, and these rules refer to them. The key part of rule 67 reads: “when cycling on the road, only pass to the left of large vehicles when they are stationary or slow moving and you should proceed with caution as the driver may not be able to see you. Be particularly careful on the approach to junctions or where a large vehicle could change lanes to the left.” Rule 74 says: “When approaching a junction on the left, watch out for vehicles turning in front of you, out of or into the side road… Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left.”
The most important rule for drivers
Rule 163. Close passes are dangerous, intimidating, and dissuade many would-be cyclists from ever getting on a bike (again). The rule begins: “Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so.” It goes on to say: “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”, along with a photo showing exactly that. As of January 2022, it now also says: “As a guide leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds”; and “You should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.”
Other key rules
Rule 59 says: “You should wear a cycle helmet that conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened.” Note the wording. Whatever you think about cycle helmets (we’re not arguing about the pros and cons here), wearing one is not a legal requirement. The word MUST is not used.
Rule 60 deals with cycle lighting. As well as a white front and red rear light, your bike MUST have a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors for use at night.
Rule 61, talking about cycle routes and other infrastructure, says: “Use facilities such as cycle lanes and tracks, advanced stop lines and toucan crossings where they make your journey safer and easier… Cyclists may exercise their judgement and are not obliged to use them.”
Cycling on pavements is prohibited by law (Rule 64). You could be fined up to £500! Note that there’s a difference between a pavement and a footpath.
Rule 66 says: “You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Be aware of drivers behind you and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so.”
There’s more on road positionng in Rule 72. This now specifically endorses riding in the centre of a lane (note: not the middle of the road) in certain circumstances. It says: “Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations
- on quiet roads or streets…
- in slower-moving traffic…
- at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you”
Insurance for cyclists
Most drivers in the Admiral survey thought that cyclists should have compulsory third-party insurance. While this isn’t a legal requirement, it’s something that many cyclists do have, either through their home and contents insurance (check the small print) or through membership of a cycling organisation such as British Cycling or Cycling UK.
It can also be obtained through specialist insurers such as Bikmo, where Cyclescheme customers can get exclusive discounts.
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