Actually, cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast…
To the frustration of bikers everywhere, coming up behind two slow cyclists riding two abreast, taking up all of the lane, is becoming more common.
It’s tempting to yell, ‘Single file only! It’s the law!’ at them. But if you did, you’d be in the wrong. Nearly all of the time.
What’s the law say then?
Many drivers and riders assume the Highway Code dictates cyclists must always ride in a single line.
However, the closest the Highway Code gets is Rule 66, which states that cyclists:
“…should never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”
The key word here is ‘should’. Under the Highway Code, when a rule is a ‘must’ or ‘must not’, it is a legal requirement. For example, Rule 64, ‘You MUST not ride on the pavement’ means it is against the law to do so.
In fact, to emphasise the fact it is the law, the words must and must not are always capitalised in the actual Highway Code text.
When the guidance is ‘should’ or ’should not’ it’s exactly that, guidance. “Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, it itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under Traffic Acts to establish liability.” Liability, not guilt.
So they don’t have to ride single file even on narrow or busy roads because there is no legal requirement saying that they MUST. And if you notice, under interpretation, there’s certainly no law saying that have to stick to two abreast, either, it’s only advisory.
Is two abreast safer?
The reason the Code encourages group cycling two abreast is actually quite simple and it works in the biker’s favour: It takes less time to overtake a slow moving group when they are two abreast compared to riding in a drawn-out single line.
As always, you should leave plenty of room between you and the cyclists before performing an overtake (as much as a car, so you’ll need the whole of the adjoining/opposite lane to perform a safe overtake).
And when they’re in the middle of the road…?
The biker’s other major bugbear is the 10mph merchant who insists on ‘owning the road’ – something we are taught to do also, remember.
There’s no legal requirement or indeed advice within the Highway Code that maintains cyclists either MUST or even should ride in the middle of the road.
Depending on the situation, you could remind them of Rule 67: ‘You should be aware of traffic coming up behind you.’
But remember, just as it’s your right to remind them of the Highway Code’s advice, it’s their right to turn round and say, ‘There’s no law that says I have to stay near the kerb.’*
Use of cycle lanes isn’t compulsory, either.
All is not lost…
So, despite all this advice to cyclists on how they should use the road, there is one legal requirement in the Code that can be used to quickly extinguish any self-righteousness on their part:
Highway Code, Rules for Cyclists, Rule 68:
“You MUST NOT ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner.”
What constitutes ‘inconsiderate’ can often be open to interpretation. But if a group of cyclists purposefully blocked a lane, riding at 15 mph, and there was not reasonable opportunity to safely overtake using other or oncoming lanes, then we’d argue that’s a definite case of being bloody inconsiderate.
Glad we cleared that up…
Get yourself sorted:
Only fall back on ‘inconsiderate’ if you have to. Better still, just bide your time for a few minutes, don’t get into any argument, pass safely and get on with your ride. You can always give them a squeeze of smelly exhaust as you go by (no, no, no… we can’t say that! [Ed]).
* We say ‘remind’, but how many cyclists have actually read the Highway Code…