Road positioning for Cyclists – three things drivers need to know

I am writing this post for drivers. Specifically, I am writing this for you if you have ever been driving and been annoyed at a cyclist. Perhaps the cyclist pulled out in front of you, or perhaps the cyclist crossed a red light. Maybe they turned without signaling. Maybe it led to you thinking that cyclists should not be on the road, or that they should at least stay out of your way.

I would like to tell you that in a way you’re right. These are examples of bad cycling. I write a blog about cycling, and yes I would like to say that sometimes cyclists don’t ride safely or considerately on the road. But let me just take that a step further. Could it perhaps be the case that there are bad cyclists, but actually there are bad drivers too? Maybe…?

If you a driver, you must have had times when you’ve been annoyed at drivers too. Like the driver who turned without signaling, or kept their signal on so you had no idea what they wanted to do, or the driver who refused to move in a narrow road and you ended up reversing? And hey, what about the driver who cut you up or undertook you on the motorway?

Let’s start on the basis, then, that there are just bad road users, and good road users. And let’s just add to that that the rightful place of a cyclist in the UK is in most instances the road, and not the pavement (Highway Code Rule 64). So a cyclist on the road is just following the law.

With that in mind, I would like to highlight three things that all drivers need to know about cyclists. There are actually quite a few things that it would be useful for drivers to know about cyclists, but let’s just keep it simple and talk about the top three that could just make everyone’s journey a little easier and a little safer.

  1. Cycling in the middle of the road

    If a cyclist is in the middle of the road, most likely they are in that position to avoid cars passing them by too close, whether by overtaking or oncoming traffic passing by. Cyclists are not trying to annoy you when they do this. They are just keeping themselves and actually you- safe, because neither of you want an accident. Many a cyclist has experienced cars willing to take any small gap to pass by, which can be unsafe if it means the car is too close to them. Too close means any gap that is less than you would leave for a car (Highway Code Rule 163), which is around 1.5m. They are also probably trying to avoid the parked cars. Someone in those cars could open a door at any time. If a cyclist is in that ‘door zone’ at that time they could either crash into the door, or whilst swerving to avoid the door they could end up colliding with a moving car on the road whose path they enter. This is actually surprisingly common, and is why cyclists who know this don’t ride in the door zone.

  2. Overtaking or passing by a cyclist

    Having said that the safest position for a cyclist is sometimes in the middle of the road /Lane (usually called ‘primary position’), it is sadly the case that many cyclists don’t know this. It is quite common to see cyclists riding right up against the parked cars, or the kerb (which is also dangerous – think of all the drains, potholes and rubbish to be found along the kerb). So if they are not taking up as much space on the road, should you overtake them? The simple answer is, only if it’s safe to do so. That means that, as stated above, you can leave as much room as you would a car, which should be about 1.5m. If you can’t leave this distance, you should not overtake. If you do so, and the cyclist swerves out due to encountering any of the aforementioned hazards, there could be a nasty collision. And actually the overtaking car would be the one at fault, since it is that road user’s responsibility to make sure it is safe to overtake (Highway Code Rule 163).

  3. Turning left

    If you are turning left, check if there’s a cyclist in your rear view mirror or left hand blind spot. If there is one close, it would be safer for all parties if you slowed down or stopped and waited for them to pass you by before turning left, and in fact you are required to do so (Highway Code Rule 167). If a cyclist is turning left in front of you don’t assume you can overtake at that point (Highway Code Rule 167). This is because either they know that they should turn left in the ‘primary position’ I mentioned earlier in which case they might need to pull out to the right a little before turning left – or because if they’re not in primary position and they turn left, they might encounter an obstacle in the left hand road which causes them to swerve, possibly into your path. So let the cyclist complete their left turn and then carry on your journey to keep both yourself and the cyclist safe.

If you would like to see what safe and unsafe overtaking looks like then please just take a couple of minutes to watch this video (click here), it’ll help to visualise some of the information I’ve shared here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I hope it gives you food for thought on how to drive safely around cyclists. If you liked it please do share with others so we can all share the road together more safely.