Sharing the roads with cyclists

Blog post posted on 03/02/22 |

As part of changes to The Highway Code, introduced on 29th January 2022, drivers of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision now bear the greatest responsibility. This new hierarchy of road users (illustrated below) sees cyclists ranked second alongside horse riders, so IAM RoadSmart is on hand to offer expert advice on how best to share the road with cyclists – whilst keeping yourself and others safe.

Hierarchy of Road Users - Highway Code (3)Richard Gladman, Head of Driving and Riding Standards at IAM RoadSmart, has compiled his top tips on how to keep cyclists safe – especially as more people will be dusting off their helmets and heading out for a bike ride as warmer and drier weather approaches.

  1. Leave plenty of room

    A new rule in The Highway Code instructs all drivers and riders travelling at speeds of up to 30mph should leave at least 1.5m, or 5ft, when overtaking cyclists, and they should leave more space at higher speeds. It’s always worth leaving more room than necessary between you and the cyclist as you never know when you’ll have to stop. Give them space and treat 1.5 metres as a minimum.

  2. Look above and beyond

    If you need to overtake a cyclist, always look beyond them to develop your ability to get past. Keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres width and two or three car lengths behind them means an overtake must be well judged. Remember, the closer you are, the more nervous the cyclist(s) will be which may result in them becoming unbalanced.

  3. Groups of cyclists

    Cyclists are perfectly legal to cycle side by side on most roads in the UK, obviously some common sense needs to be used to work out if and when cyclists need to single out to let cars overtake but on the majority of UK roads cycling 2 abreast is allowed. Usually, a group of cyclists will shout forward that a car is waiting ("Car Up") and if the road is too narrow for the car to pass the group safely while they are two abreast, they should single out.

    Drivers should be careful when overtaking groups of cyclists and ensure you can see well ahead before attempting an overtake. If cyclists are in single file, bear in mind how long you will need to overtake them, and how far ahead the road needs to be clear, as you will not be able to filter in and out. Bear in mind that cyclists may need to move suddenly to avoid obstacles such as potholes and puddles (Highway Code rule 213). Remember, it’s important to be patient.

  4. Being inclusive on our roads

    Since the pandemic began in 2020, the Government has encouraged people to use different means of transport rather than public transport. This has meant more people have had a taste of the cycling life so we will experience all types of cyclists. They may include those who have just started out, families, people who have not been on a bike for years and more experienced cyclists so as motorists, we need to ensure we share the road and adapt our driving to keep vulnerable road users safe.

  5. Take your time and know the rules

    When cyclists are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise. Drivers should take extra care when entering roundabouts to make sure they do not cut across cyclists.

    Don’t lose your temper waiting for a cyclist on the road. Acting irrationally leads to unnecessary road rage and accidents that could be easy avoided.

  6. Cyclists may take centre of lane

    Another new rule in The Highway Code is that cyclists should make themselves as visible as possible by riding in the centre of lanes on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions. As part of this new rule, they should also keep at least 0.5m from the kerb side on busy roads and should leave 1m when passing a parked car.

  7. Dutch Reach

After parking, check for other road users by opening your door using the Dutch Reach method (illustrated below); check your mirrors and reach across with your left hand. This encourages you to look over your shoulder and check your blind spot to see if it is safe to open the door.
Dutch Reach

Richard said: “With only a matter of weeks left of winter and more people taking up cycling as part of their daily routine, sharing the road safely is the key to ensuring we all get to enjoy the great outdoors.  

“Cyclists don’t have a safety shell of metal, seatbelts and airbags around them so the onus has to be on the driver to look out for the most vulnerable on our roads. Since The Highway Code was updated in January 2022, its vital drivers are aware of the new rules of the road. Giving them a bit more time and a lot more space will make life easier for all of us."