The Highway Code and Cyclists

Watching the antics of some cyclists on the road you could be forgiven for thinking that the Highway Code doesn’t apply to them. But it does, and those choosing to ignore it are not only putting themselves in danger but other road users and pedestrians.

The code doesn’t just specify how you should and shouldn’t behave; it also lays out a checklist to follow before you venture out. These involve commonsense items such as correct adjustment of both saddle and handlebars, ensuring that the chain is properly adjusted and oiled, and checking both tyre tread for signs of wear and the pressure as specified by the manufacturer. Another vitally important area is brake efficiency.

Current Industry Standards

Both reflective clothing and accessories are recommended, as well as a helmet that conforms to current industry standards. Remember that all these items are not listed in order to satisfy the government’s lust for bureaucracy, but for your own safety. For example, you would have thought that including in the code a specific rule not to ride under the influence of either drink or drugs was unnecessary. After all, what idiot is going to do such a reckless thing? Unfortunately, you would be surprised how many people seem to have little regard for either their own safety or that of others.

Other transgressions of the code include riding on the pavement and carrying a passenger without having had your bike specifically adapted for the purpose.

Every rule is equally important but the sections laying out road discipline and interacting with other traffic must be carefully studied before attempting to cycle on the highway. After all, if you’ve never encountered traffic lights while on two wheels, negotiated a bus lane, or understood the rules for tackling road junctions, either approaching from the left or right, then you must familiarise yourself with the various drills.

Signal and Manoeuvre

A good way to begin understanding how roads work is to take your copy of the code out on foot. Find a major road near you and walk along the pavement, observing how vehicles signal and manoeuvre. For specific situations such as traffic lights or junctions, spend as much time as you need studying the ebb and flow of the traffic and how the number and positioning of vehicles create different situations. Mentally put yourself in the saddle as you observe, thinking how you would deal with what you are observing. Of course, such situations change second by second on busy roads, and you are unlikely to encounter exactly the same one when you finally get in the saddle, but these observational exercises will at least mean you are not metaphorically riding blindfold into traffic.

Just as you are required to pay attention to motorists, so they, too, are required by the code to ensure that they behave properly in the presence of a cyclist or cyclists. However, never take it for granted that a motorist is going to act properly. Rather, ride defensively, giving cars extra time and extra room to avoid any potential problems.

The Highway Code exists for your own protection. Make sure you are familiar with it, and never assume you are too experienced to disregard it, otherwise you are surely riding for a fall.