Cycle lanes – to use or not to use?

Cycling Lanes

Solicitors in our specialist cycle team are often asked about whether cyclists are legally obliged to use cycle lanes. With the start of the new Spring season, now seems like a good opportunity to review the legal advice on this sometimes hot topic.

The Highway Code, at Rules 61 – 65, states that the use of cycle lanes is not compulsory but they can be used when safe to do so to make a journey safer.

While there is no speed limit applicable to cyclists, some cycle lanes may specify one and if it does, this should be complied with.

If there is no speed limit specified then the general consensus is that cycle lanes are appropriate for those cycling at a speed less than 18mph. It is for each cyclist to determine the safest option open to them. 

Types of cycle lanes in Scotland:

There are two types of cycle lane – mandatory and advisory.

Mandatory cycle lanes

These are for the use of cyclists if they chose to do so and are marked with a solid white line. Motorists must not drive in a mandatory cycle lane, nor may they park in it. It is an offence to do so.

Advisory cycle lanes

On the other hand, an advisory cycle lane is for the use of cyclists if they chose to do so and motorists are advised not to drive or park in it, but it is not an offence to do so. These lanes are marked with a white dashed line.

Highway Code Guidance for Cycle Lanes

Guidance can be found in the relevant passages in the Highway Code for cyclists on the appropriate use of cycle lanes.

Rule 61: Cycle Routes and Other Facilities

Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.

Rule 62: Cycle Tracks

These are normally located away from the road, but may occasionally be found alongside footpaths or pavements. Cyclists and pedestrians may be segregated or they may share the same space (unsegregated).

When using segregated tracks:

  • You MUST keep to the side intended for cyclists as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath.
  • Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room.
  • Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary.
  • Take care near road junctions as you may have difficulty seeing other road users, who might not notice you.

Rule 63: Cycle Lanes

These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140).

When using a cycle lane:

  • Keep within the lane when practicable.
  • Check before pulling out of a cycle lane that it is safe to do so.
  • Signal your intention clearly to other road users when leaving cycle lane.

Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.

Rule 65: Bus Lanes

Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs. General advice includes:

  • Watch out for people getting on or off a bus.
  • Be very careful when overtaking a bus or leaving a bus lane as you will be entering a busier traffic flow.
  • Do not pass between the kerb and a bus when it is at a stop.

The legal bit:

There is no law in Scotland requiring cyclists to use cycle lanes.

However if you are involved in a road traffic accident, the other side may (dependant upon the circumstances) put forward an argument that because you decided not to use a cycle lane - that was available for your safety - you are at least partly to blame for an accident.

Case in point: Dann v Brackman

This argument was put forward in the case of Dann v Brackman where the cyclist cycled on the nearside of a major road, close to the dividing line with a slip road. The driver drove along the slip road and into the back of the pursuer’s bicycle.

The case was settled out of court with a 20% reduction in damages for contributory negligence on the part of the cyclist. It was found that the cyclist had ignored signs guiding him onto a cycle lane/pathway which would have avoided crossing the slip road. 

The cycling infrastructure in Scotland is varied and while some areas have safe and accessible cycle lanes which make a journey safer, not all areas do. Some cyclists are left with no choice but to cycle out with a cycle lane. 

If you need expert legal advice having suffered injury and other losses when riding your bike, contact our cycling team at Digby Brown who will be happy to help you. You can call us on 0333 200 5925 or fill in a short enquiry form and we will be in touch.