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 recent 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.
Test yourself, fellow cyclists, and drivers you know on the following rules.
The most important rule for cyclists
Rule 73 could save your life: long vehicles are biggest danger to cyclists in urban areas. In full, the rule reads. “Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you. They may have to move over to the right before turning left. Wait until they have completed the manoeuvre because the rear wheels come very close to the kerb while turning. Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb.”
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.” The final bullet point of rule 163, illustrated by an unambiguous picture, says: “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.
Other key rules
Rule 59 says: “You should… wear a cycle helmet”. 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 facilities, says: “Use of these facilities is not compulsory”.
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 should… never ride more than two abreast”. It doesn’t say MUST NOT, so three abreast isn’t actually against the law. Rather, two abreast is specifically endorsed.
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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