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February 07, 2022 4 min read

New highway code changes have recently come into effect in England, Scotland and Wales. The new rules have brought with them plenty of interesting discussion across social media over the past days, as well as some confusion from elements of the media about what the rules actually entail. If you’re unsure of the exact details of the highway code changes, CyclingUK have put together an informative overview of the new rules, while this article from the Guardian highlights some of the common misconceptions around the changes


These changes come shortly after Chris Boardman was appointed head of the newly established Active Travel England, which has been established to encourage more people to cycle and walk. As such, given the current focus on the safety of cycling out on the roads, we’ve put together some important points to keep the roads safe for cyclists. 


It’s Not “Us vs Them”

It can be easy in today’s environment to get drawn into an “us vs them” mentality, whether you’re a cyclist or a driver. It's important to remember that all cyclists and drivers are human, and for the most part any mistakes made are usually unintentional or non-malicious. Respect, consideration and understanding make the roads a safer and more pleasant space for all. 

 


Avoid Parking in Bike Lanes 

Drivers parked in bike lanes is a particularly strong gripe of many cyclists, occurring frequently in areas with smaller bike lanes that lack separation from the road. It is important to check where you have parked or pulled in, as just because no cyclists are using the lane at that precise moment does not mean the bike lanes are not in use. 

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Leave Cyclists Extra Space

Close passes are amongst the most unnerving things that you can encounter when cycling, yet unfortunately these incidents are all too frequent. In our See.Sense Report Dublin Analysis, 44% of all user reports were in regards to close passes. According to most recent version of the Highway Code, drivers should leave at least 1.5m of space when overtaking at speeds of up to 30mph, and more when overtaking at higher speeds. Although an overtake may be physically possible, this does not mean it is always safe or right to do so.

Close passes are especially frustrating in urban areas, where a driver ‘rushes to queue’ - overtaking a cyclist only to inevitably stop seconds later at the next junction, traffic lights or queue of traffic, consequently saving themselves no time but unnecessarily putting the cyclist at risk. 


Bike Lanes Are Not Always Usable

Every cyclist hopes for more cycle infrastructure to be put in place, and in an ideal world cars and bikes would never be sharing the same section of tarmac, yet it simply isn’t realistic as a cyclist to stick solely to bike lanes. Many bike lanes are not fit for purpose due to potholes, broken glass and other issues. Some bike lanes are blocked by obstructions, while others simply don't take you to the place you need to go. Some poorly designed bike lanes - a narrow strip on the side of a fast road with no separation - can even be a danger to cyclists as they encourage close passes. 

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Primary Road Positioning is Safer 

Cyclist’s are not cycling in the middle of the road out of a desire to inconvenience your journey. In fact, cycling in the primary or secondary position is usually safer than cycling close to the edge of the road. Cycling in the gutter can encourage drivers to overtake at inappropriate times and can result in close passes. This is now enshrined in the highway code following the recent changes, which advise cyclists to ride in the primary position on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings.”

 

 

Cyclists Are Not the Cause of Delays 

Although for some drivers it can be frustrating being slowed down by a cyclist, they aren’t the cause of traffic delays. In fact, by choosing to cycle instead of drive, they’re actually reducing traffic and congestion. Being slowed down for a few seconds by a cyclist is significantly less of a delay than sitting in large queues of traffic. 

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Filtering Through Traffic is Legal

In a similar regard, it can annoy some drivers seeing cyclists filter past in traffic, especially if they had just recently been slowed down while driving behind the cyclist. Filtering through traffic is perfectly legal, and in many junctions you’ll see ASLs (Advanced Stop Lines) for the sole purpose of enabling cyclists to sit ahead of the traffic behind them.  

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Riding Two Abreast is Legal

This is another common grievance for some motorists, but again it is completely legal. While cyclists should be mindful of holding drivers up unnecessarily, riding in groups is usually safer, especially on narrow country roads or when accompanying children or less experienced cyclists. This has always been standard advice, but it is now enshrined in the highway code following the recent changes. 

 

Everyone's Human

Ultimately, it's important to remember that it isn't an “us vs them” situation, and that you should treat everyone on the roads with respect. All cyclists and drivers are just human, and getting drawn into divisive stereotypes about one group or the other is unconstructive! 



Conal McLaughlin
Conal McLaughlin