Reminder to cyclists – what you need to remember on the road

Cyclist in cycle lane

As weather conditions improve and more people are cycling, we wanted to outline what cyclists should remember when out on the road.

An ideal starting point is the Highway Code and there’s certain rules aimed solely at cyclists – specifically Rule 59 to 82.

We’re not going to bombard you with all of them, just a few basics to help you cycle safely. 

Rules of the road for cyclists

Rule 59: Clothing

Ensure your helmet conforms to current safety regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened. Avoid the use of a second hand helmet, as you may not be aware of it’s crash history. The structural integrity of the helmet may have compromised without any visible signs. It therefore goes without saying, that your helmet should be replaced after any impact.

Not all helmets are equal. The British Standards Institution (BSI) BS EN 1078 is the standard code to look out for. It should be noted that a related standard BS EN 1080 was created for helmets worn by young children.

Light-coloured or fluorescent clothing should be worn during day light and poor lighting conditions and reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) should be worn in the dark. If commuting with a rucksack ensure it has reflective strips/ lights for greater visibility.

Not in the highway code, but often forgotten is the use of cycling gloves. Not only will these protect your skin if you come off your bike, but the wearing of weather appropriate cycling gloves will retain warmth in your hands, which will in turn retain responsiveness for braking and gear changing. 

Rule 60: Bike lights – to see, or to be seen

It is a requirement for you to have a white front light and rear red light illuminated between sunset and sunrise. Pulsating front and rear lights are permitted. Your front light should have 110 degree visibility, to ensure you are visible from different angles.

It is not only against the Highway code but highly dangerous to show a red light at the front or white light at the rear. It is not a legal requirement to have lights fitted and illuminated during reduced visibility conditions such as fog, however it is certainly very sensible and advisable to do so.

It is also good practice to have lights illuminated during daylight hours. A bright flash/blinking sequence red rear light during daylight hours will boost your visibility to other road users. A pulsating light may be more effective in drawing attention to yourself than a steady light during daylight. This can be particularly relevant in Scotland with our often unpredictable weather conditions and also in winter when you may have low winter sun. The sun never gets particularly high in the sky in late autumn/winter/early spring - just when you are likely to be commuting. 

Sunglasses are a simple way to cope with low sun whilst cycling. It might be worth investing in cycling glasses with wraparound coverage. This helps the eyes from watering in the wind. Wrap around glasses also protect your eyes from insects, dust and debris which may impede your vision, distract you and even cause a crash.

It should be noted that very dark sunglasses can obscure your vision when you move from strong sunlight directly into deep shadow and therefore may not be the most suitable. Lighter coloured lenses will usually reduce glare, without compromising your vision in deep shade.

Another tip to help deal with sun glare is to wear a peaked cycling cap under your cycling helmet. This will in turn act as a sun visor.

To optimise safety, it is good practice to try to make eye contact with drivers, to ensure that you have been seen. Communication with other road users is key.  

Rules 61 to 65: Where you can cycle

You should NEVER cycle on the pavement. If you do need to use a pavement then you should get off your bike and push until you return to the road or cycle path.

Designated cycle paths are often safe but are not compulsory – also, if you do use them then watch out for others like dog walkers or pedestrians and take care at junctions where cycle lanes crisscross.

Cyclists can use the majority of bus lanes as indicated on signs but please take care for buses entering traffic flows or of passengers getting off.

Filtering is permitted and can be useful way to get ahead of queuing traffic. Indeed, it can also improve traffic flow. Caution should be exercised when filtering past junctions, as vehicles travelling in the same direction may give way to oncoming traffic turning right, which may well be out of your line of sight and may not be aware of your presence. Avoid passing a bus, HGV or other long vehicle on the inside.

Attention should be taken when crossing tramlines. Not all tramlines are designed with the cyclist in mind. The road markings may be such that road users are being guided to travel at a shallow angle across tramlines. If you do need to cross tramlines, you show do so slowly and as close to a 90 degree angle as possible to avoid your wheel becoming trapped. 

Rule 69 and 71

As a road cyclist you are part of the traffic, so you must obey traffic signals and signs just like any other motorist. Advanced stop lines at lights allow vulnerable road users to get to the front to increase visibility.

Some cyclists stop at a red light then dismount and cross the road using pedestrian crossings before remounting at the other side – this is okay as it’s advised in Rule 79.

Tips on road positioning 

Your road position should not be too close to the kerb. The reason for this is twofold. It makes you more visible to drivers. In addition, riding in the gutter puts you at risk from slippery manhole covers and road debris (which can result in punctures and accidents). It also leaves you nowhere to go if a pothole appears in your path.

If you feel a driver is attempting to overtake when it is not safe to do so, it might be appropriate for you to move your road position to the centre of the lane (the primary position) to prevent an unsafe overtaking manoeuvre from the motorist. An example would be if you are approaching a traffic island where there would be insufficient space for a driver to safely overtake, you should move into the “primary position” to indicate this to the driver. 

Rules of the road for motorists

There are specific rules in the Highway Code that serves as a reminder for motorists to pay particular attention to other road users requiring extra care. 

It should come as no surprise that cyclist’s fall into this category and are classed as vulnerable road users.

Rules 211- 213: Advice for motorists about cyclists

Motorists should keep a proper look out for cyclists and allow cyclists time, space and plenty of room.

Although some of the guidance in these rules may seem obvious, we know all too well how not paying heed to these tips can have serious consequences for cyclists.

Learning the guidelines in the Highway Code should not just be for when you are trying to pass the driving test or indeed the Bikeability test.

All road users should follow the Highway Code and take time to remind themselves what their obligations are towards others.

Read more about the Highway Code’s advice to cyclists and to learn more about general safety, health, policy and events in your area visit Scottish Cycling.

Stay seen, stay safe, stay smart.