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With governments worldwide encouraging the public to walk or cycle, there’s never been a more popular time to start road cycling. But don’t just jump on your bike; there are some things you need to know first.
The Highway Code for Cyclists
Not just for drivers, the Highway Code applies to all road users, from car drivers to pedestrians to cyclists.
It is well worth getting hold of an up-to-date copy of the Highway Code and rereading the cyclists’ section. It will inform you of your rights, as well as what the law requires of you.
Routes, Tracks, and Lanes
Some roads are designed with cyclists in mind, and although it isn’t always compulsory to use cycle lanes or advanced stop lines, it is much safer for you if you do.
Pay attention to road signage, and ensure you keep to the correct side of any segregated tracks shared by cyclists and pedestrians.
If a track is labelled as pedestrian-only, you cannot use it.
Cyclists can use most bus lanes but always check for signage or road markings that differ.
Crossings and Roundabouts
The only road crossing you can cycle across is a toucan crossing. These work much like pelican crossings, where there is a button to push to stop the traffic. You can identify a toucan crossing by the bicycle light that accompanies the usual green or red man.
On all other crossings, you must dismount.
On roundabouts, cyclists may keep to the left for safety, no matter what direction you are heading in.
Be especially careful on roundabouts due to traffic volume, and always consider long or large vehicles that may need extra space to turn. These vehicles also have different or more prominent blind spots, so allow plenty of room for drivers to see you.
Safety Gear and Night Cycling
British law specifies that you must wear an adequately certified cycle helmet, light-coloured or fluorescent clothing, and at night reflective accessories.
You are also required to wear clothing that will not become tangled in your bike, or otherwise obstruct your bicycle. It is not a legal requirement to wear fluorescent gear in daylight but is recommended for safety.
If you are cycling at night you must wear reflective gear, and you must have front and rear lights lit.
If you are cycling around dusk, you must have lights fitted to your bike and working, even if it is still daylight. You must also have a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors. You can also add a front lamp if you are cycling in an area with no street lighting.
White front reflectors and spoke reflectors are also available, but these are not compulsory.
You cannot carry anything that may impede your bike or alter the balance of weight. If you have items to carry, ensure they are held securely in an adequately fitted pannier bag. It is best never to hang anything off your handlebars while cycling on the road.
Passengers, Pedestrians, and Road Furniture
Unless your bike is designed for a passenger, you should not carry one.
It would be best if you keep a careful eye out for pedestrians and you should cycle on the road, not the pavement, as long as it is safe to do so.
You must not cycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including any medications that may cause drowsiness.
You must obey all traffic signs and stop-lights. When parking, you must use cycle racks where possible. Each borough has its own rules about where you can legally lock a bike, and where you can’t. If in doubt, check with your local council before taking a risk.
The Bottom Line
Cycling is a fantastic way to get from A to B; it’s green, it’s excellent exercise, and it spares the strain on public transport. Remember to put safety first, follow all relevant guidelines, and enjoy a safe and legal road cycle.