Urban Cycling

Where Should Cyclists Ride on the Road? Where to Cycle Safely

This post may contain affiliate links, which help to keep Discerning Cyclist rolling. Learn more.

The Short Answer

Cyclists are legally allowed to ride on any road in the UK, except for motorways. They should ride on the left-hand side of the road and can use bus lanes in many cities. While designated bike paths are ideal, some are unsuitable, leading cyclists to use the road. However, cyclists should avoid riding on pavements and motorways.

While out riding your bike, it can be a little confusing to know if you should be riding on the road or on a designated bike path (if you are lucky enough to find one). 

Over the years, more and more tension has started to build among different road users in terms of who has a right to use the roads and unfortunately this has led to many rage-fuelled incidents which you will undoubtedly have seen on videos across the internet. 

But what actually are the rules for cyclists when it comes to using the road?

Where Can Cyclists Ride on the Road (Legally)?

Where cyclists can ride legally will of course be dependent on the country you chose to ride in, therefore it’s best practice to check the local laws wherever you are. However in the UK the rules are clear thanks to The Highway Code set out by the British Government.

Cycling is legal on any road in the UK as long as it isn’t a motorway. This does mean that technically cyclists can ride on a dual carriageway, although I would advise against it for your own safety, but legally speaking, it’s perfectly fine.

Therefore, although there are rules that cyclists using the road still need to keep to, they have a right to use the vast majority of roads, as well as cars and horses. Therefore we all need to be mindful and aware of one another. 

In many cities across the country, cyclists can also use the vast majority of the bus lanes, this will be made clear by the signage. This is a great way to whizz past standstill traffic! But remember not to pass the bus on the left hand side, next to the kerb as people will be getting on and off of the bus. 

SOURCE: Canva.com

Where Are Cyclists Supposed to Ride?

Cyclists are arguably supposed to ride on a designated bike path, however, some in the UK are unsuitable: often littered with oblivious pedestrians (and dogs off the lead) that wander into the bike path in the way of oncoming cyclists. 

Therefore fitting your bike with a bell and being aware, keeping to your bike lane, is best practice when using a bike lane that is next to a path, or shared by pedestrians. 

Therefore it’s forgiven that a lot of cyclists have to make a B-line for the road to avoid unnecessary accidents with pedestrians. But if there are proper protected bike lanes on offer, do use them. They are great and definitely something we should all utilise, especially as they help to keep cyclists safe. 

Do Cyclists Have to Keep to the Left (in the UK)?

Cyclists in the UK should ride on the left hand side of the road. No, we are not in Europe, so if you are riding on the road, keep to the left, in the same way that cars and other road users have to.

This is of course important to remember in terms of your own safety: riding on the right hand side of the road is a really bad idea and could certainly lead to unfortunate outcomes. Something no one wants, so please keep safe.

Where Should Cyclists Ride on the Road?

Where cyclists should ride is dependent on the situation. According to rule 72 of The Highway Code, you should ride in the middle of the road when: 

  • on quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely
  • in slower-moving traffic – when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely, move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake
  • at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you

The other road positioning that is advised is to keep to the left hand side of the road while traveling along busy roads where faster vehicles want to overtake. The Highway Code recommends riding at least 0.5m from the kerb edge. 

SOURCE: PIXABAY.com

Cycling Position on Road [RECOMMENDED] 

When cycling on the road the position you should adopt is the rules set out by The Highway Code. Riding in the middle of the road is when safe to do so and on quiet roads is perfectly fine.

Whereas when on dual carriageways and during busier times of the day, keeping more to the left but ensuring at least 0.5m of space between yourself and kerb is great advice.

Moreover, if you enjoy riding with friends, the new revised rules set out by The Highway Code is that cyclists can ride two abreast when it’s safe to do so. Which makes a lot of sense given less distance is needed to travel to overtake two single file cyclists than two riders, two abreast. 

Where Are Cyclists NOT Allowed to Ride? 

Cyclists are ot allowed to ride on the motorway for very obvious reasons. The traffic is much too fast and therefore very dangerous, so it’s really important to follow this law for yours, as well as drivers, safety. 

With this being said, if you ever somehow manage to take a wrong turn and find yourself on the roundabout heading towards a motorway, read the signs to take you back to legal roads. 
Interestingly, cyclists are also not allowed to ride on the pavement according to rule 64 of The Highway Code. Therefore if you are thinking of doing so, please don’t, instead, keep to the road and designated bike paths.

Ride in style

Join our weeky newsletter to get early access to our latest discoveries.

Related reads