Can Cyclists Ride in the Middle of the Road? [DISCUSSION]

For motorists, it’s a nuisance. For cyclists, it’s common practice. Still, the “can cyclists really ride in the middle of the road?” debate is an age-old one. Is it safe? Is it legal? Should it be done, or is it just an accident waiting to happen?

We’re here to run you through the ins and outs of cycling in the middle of the road. We’ll talk through the why’s, the how’s, and all the rules you need to know. 

Why Do Cyclists Ride in the Middle of the Road?

Cyclists often ride in the middle of the road to avoid the rough and dangerous surfaces at the edge of the road. Usually, these edges are potholes galore. Riding over them can damage the bike, make a cyclist lose balance, or cause an injury. 

Can Cyclists Ride in the Middle of the Road? [LAWS]

Yes, they can. Cycling in the middle of the road isn’t illegal, and there’s nothing in the Highway Code that forbids it. It may be frustrating for motorists, but it’s often the safest option for riders.

Cycling in the middle of the road even has its own term. It’s dubbed the ‘primary position’ or ‘taking the line’. Although cyclists are usually encouraged to ride between 30cm to 1m from the curb, it’s not always possible. Roads can be too narrow, and there may be obstructions like parked cars in the way. 

It can even be a way for cyclists to signal to motorists that overtaking is not safe. According to the Highway Code, drivers must give cyclists and other road users as much space as they would give a car (around 1.5m).

When travelling on narrow roads or roads with islands, this isn’t possible. Even when it is, it can be incredibly dangerous. Cycling in the middle of the road in these situations can protect both parties.

Should Cyclists Ride in the Middle of the Road?

Although cycling in the middle of the road isn’t illegal (and it’s often the safest position for riders), it’s not always appropriate. If roads are too narrow or bendy, it can be a serious hazard. 

For example, if a road is a bit narrow but still wide enough for a car to safely overtake and adhere to the 1.5m rule, it is common courtesy to allow a bit more space for them to do so.

Cycling side by side should always be avoided in the primary position. Riding two abreast isn’t illegal, but the Highway Code stipulates that it shouldn’t be done on narrow and busy roads or when riding around bends.

Where Should Cyclists Be on the Road?

The highway code doesn’t prohibit cyclists from using a particular road position, so in theory, they could cycle anywhere. However, it does specify some general guidelines and rules that should be followed. For example, Rule 67 of the code states that cyclists should:

  • Cyclists should “look well ahead for obstructions in the road such as drains, pot-holes, and parked vehicles”. 
  • “Take care when overtaking”.
  • “Look all around before moving away from the kerb, turning, or manoeuvring, to make sure it is safe to do so. Give a clear signal to other road users what you intend to do”. 

If there are cycle lanes available on your journey, it may be safest to use them. However, it’s not compulsory. 

It’s also possible to use bus lanes (as long as the signage permits it), but cyclists should remain vigilant and keep an eye out for passengers getting on and off the bus and ride carefully through the heavier flows of traffic. 

Remember: whenever you’re out cycling, always take extra care when cycling amongst traffic. Wear a helmet, remain vigilant, and comply with the Highway Code.

Bethany Morris

Bethany Morris

Bethany is a freelance content writer and avid outdoor adventurer from West Sussex, England. She travels everywhere on two wheels and writes about anything from government policy to marketing and sports. You can see more of Bethany's work here

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