Sharing the Road

Cyclists in a group

As more and more people take up cycling for sport, for fun, and for health, there has been an explosion in the numbers of riders who join a club and take part in group rides.

Cyclists need to ensure that they stay safe and follow the highway code; drivers need to be aware of what cyclists are doing, and know how to deal with them. Everyone needs to ensure they work together to stay safe and to share the road harmoniously.

The points will be covered in more detail below, but the key points are:

  • Cyclists are allowed to cycle 2 abreast, and this actually helps to keep them safe. Cyclists should allow drivers the opportunity to overtake
  • Drivers need to ensure that they give cyclists a wide berth when overtaking
  • Be aware that cyclists will need to avoid obstacles at the edge of the road
  • The Highway Code and the law apply to all road users - don't jump red lights!

The Highway Code says

  • Rule 66 says that cyclists "should: never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends"
  • Rule 163 says that drivers "should: give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car"
  • Rule 213 states: "Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make."

This is guidance, not law, but is very good practice.

Riding Side-By-Side

Cyclists usually ride side by side when they are out in a group: it is more social and actually takes up less road space. A driver wanting to overtake will need to make sure that they take the same precautions as they would when overtaking a slower vehicle, a tractor, for instance. After all, a group of cyclists is a similar size to a tractor.

If the cyclists were to ride single file all the time it would actually be far harder to overtake them safely - drivers would either attempt to squeeze their vehicles past in the face of oncoming vehicles or have to spend far longer on the wrong side of the road.

If drivers attempt to squeeze past, they will usually not allow much clearance between themselves and the riders.

By riding in a 2-wide group, drivers are required to make a positive overtake rather than squeeze past. It can happen more quickly and more safely.

Following a group of cyclists

This can be quite frustrating: you have somewhere to go and  you want to get there!  We all share the road, everyone has equal rights to it. There needs to be "some give and take".

Drivers: wait behind - not too close - and the group will often indicate when the oncoming carriageway is clear for you to overtake. Check before you go, though!  Sometimes the group will move into single file to allow you to get past.  Their priority is keeping themselves safe, though, so if they don't wave you through or move to single file, you must overtake them just as you would any vehicle.

Cyclists: be aware that you are forming a comparatively slowly moving group and that this may hold up other road users!  Give the following traffic a chance to get past - after all it will make for a far more relaxing ride.  Just as we all hope that the tractor will pull in and let us past, consider this as an option for yourselves. If there hasn't been a good overtaking opportunity, pull over and let the following traffic past.

Remember - if someone lets you past, or waits behind patiently for the safe opportunity to overtake to materialise - it is ALWAYS a nice gesture to give them a wave and a smile to say "Thanks"!  Next time they will be even more likely to work with you to help everyone enjoy the journey.

Unexpected Movement

Thin wheels don't like hitting obstacles!

Cars can fairly easily cope with potholes, gravel,  puddles, and drain covers; Cyclists find these things far more challenging!

A group of cyclists will be communicating with each other to warn of hazards. They don't want to ride through puddles that might hide a pothole, or anything that would make them skid or puncture a tyre. Through hand signals or just shouting, the front cyclists will let the rear riders know what is ahead.

For drivers, it may seem like cyclists are suddenly swerving and riding erratically. Admittedly, that is sometimes the case - we all have off-days! - but in general it is for legitimate reasons.

This obviously increases the issues around overtaking.  Keeping the widest overtaking distance is paramount. Get fully onto the opposite carriage way!

Cyclists, ensure that your back marker keeps you informed of vehicles that are following you. If there is a car about to overtake, you don't really want to be pulling out to pass an obstacle - and if you see an obstacle in the distance you may wish to ask the back marker to politely hold the following vehicles back.

Back marker - check behind, get eye contact with drivers, then pull into a "hogging" position (National Standards Cycling refers to this as the "Primary Position". This will then allow the riders in front to safely manoeuvre to avoid the obstacle.

Once the obstacle has been passed, pull back in, wave "thanks" to the driver and look to let them past. It's only polite!

If the road you are on has a significant number of obstacles beside the verge/kerb, you should adopt a more "hogging" (primary) position as standard. If you do this, ensure that you allow plenty of passing opportunities for drivers.

Following the Rules

Particularly in towns, there are many rules that all road users need to be aware of. As a driver and a cyclist, you are expected to abide by them - and you are doubtless annoyed when other road users flout them!

Traffic Lights

All road users MUST stop at red lights. There have been arguments put forward that 'jumping the lights makes it safer' but the simple rule is: DON'T!

Cyclists: at traffic lights, get into the "hogging" position, claim the road. Cyclist will generally get away from lights more quickly that cars, and once through the hazard, they will move back into a road sharing position.

A good safety precaution for riders is to ensure that they don't ride up the inside/left of vehicles. Passengers can leap out without looking, drivers may not see riders and may squeeze them into the kerb.

NEVER go up the inside of large vehicles.

Drivers: Give the cyclists a chance to clear the junction before overtaking, please. This gives reduced stress all round, and increased safety. Don't pull alongside a cyclist, even if they are tucked into the edge of the road. They may wobble, swerve or pull out into your way. If you hold back you will help to keep them safe. They may not notice, but you will have been very helpful!

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