DEBUNKING THE MYTHS – IS IT ILLEGAL TO CYCLE ON THE PAVEMENT?

Asian are cycling road bike in the morning

Cycling is a popular form of transport; whether you’re doing it as a form of exercise, heading out and about with the family, or cycling to work. But there can be some confusion when it comes to the rules surrounding cycling; often people are unclear about what’s legal and what’s not, and recently there have been some high-profile cases involving cyclists and pedestrians. So, we thought we’d look at the facts and debunk some of the myths.

IS IT ILLEGAL TO CYCLE ON THE PAVEMENT?

Yes, it is illegal to cycle on the pavement. Section 72 of The Highway Act 1835 states that it is prohibited for anyone to ‘ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers;’ Rule 64 of the Highway Code also states that you MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.

People choose to cycle on the pavement for lots of reasons; often it’s because of the sheer volume of traffic on the roads, or obstacles in the road such as parked cars , or because they have children with them. But it’s still against the law for children to cycle on the pavement. (Children under the age of 10 have no criminal responsibility, so can’t be prosecuted. In Scotland, criminal responsibility starts at 8, but this is under review).

CAN I PUSH MY BICYCLE ON THE PAVEMENT?

If you’re not riding your bike, and are pushing it, you’re classed as a pedestrian and should be on the pavement. Just remember to be considerate of other people, particularly those in wheelchairs or with pushchairs.

USING CYCLE LANES

Some pavements have dedicated cycle lanes which should be clearly indicated, they’re often marked with a bicycle symbol and a white line so that it’s clear which side is for pedestrians and which side is for cyclists. You are technically committing an offence if you move onto the pedestrian side, even to pass a pedestrian in the cycle lane.

This can be confusing as the law states that cyclists must stay in the cycle lane, but pedestrians are only ‘advised’ to use the pedestrian lane.

Handsome bearded professional male cyclist riding his racing bicycle in the morning together with his girlfriend, both wearing protective helmets and eyeglasses, sun shining through between them

TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE WHILE CYCLING

  • Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
  • Wear bright clothing so you can be seen, especially at night.
  • Find a good position in the road so that you’re not right at the edge near drain covers/potholes/rubbish and are visible to motorists.
  • Signal clearly – put your hand out on the side you’re turning.
  • Be aware of blind spots of larger vehicles.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • Can I carry passengers on my bicycle?

No. It’s illegal to have more than one person on a bicycle, unless it’s ‘constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person’.

  • Do I have to wear a helmet while cycling?

Rule 59 of the Highway Code states that you should wear a cycle helmet that conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and is securely fastened.

  • Do I have to have lights on my bicycle at night?

You must have front (white) and rear (red) lights that are clean and in full working order when cycling between sunset and sunrise. You should also have a red rear reflector, (and amber pedal reflectors if your bike was manufactured after 1/10/85). Lights need to be visible and not obscured by saddle bags etc. Head torches can be used as an additional light but can’t be used instead of a main front light.

  • Can I use a mobile phone whilst cycling?

While there isn’t a specific law against this, Rule 66 of the Highway Code states that ‘you should avoid any actions that could reduce your control of your cycle’, so this could be used as evidence against you if you’re involved in an accident. Rule 68 also says ‘You MUST NOT ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner’ and doing so carries a £1,000 fine.

red bike lane next to sidewalk

COMMON MYTHS

  • Flashing lights aren’t permitted – False.

These are now permitted as long as they flash between 60 and 240 times per minute, but steady front lights are recommended for cyclists riding in areas without street lighting.

  • Cyclists must use the cycle lanes available – False

It’s a common myth that cyclists must use cycle lanes on roads. Rule 61 of the Highway Code states that the use of cycle lanes can make your journey safer, but it depends on your experience and skills. But some cycle lanes are poorly maintained, badly designed, or just littered with glass so it also says ‘cyclists may exercise their judgement and are not obliged to use them’.

  • If you commit an offence on a bike, you can have the points added to your driving licence – False.

You can’t have your driving licence endorsed with penalty points from a cycling offence, however, The Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 gives courts the power to disqualify anyone from driving, without imposing penalty points, for any offence, including cycling offences.

  • You can’t be prosecuted for speeding on a bike – True.

This is something that has hit the headlines recently, and while speeding offences are specifically aimed at motor vehicles, there are exceptions. If you cause injury by cycling ‘furiously’ (i.e. too fast for the conditions) then you could face a prison sentence.

  • Cycling two abreast is illegal – False.

Rule 66 of the Highway Code states that you can ride two abreast.

  • Cyclists must keep to the left.

Cyclists can ride in the middle of the lane; it can often be safer if there are parked cars and a risk of car doors being opened without warning. It also means that drivers are less likely to overtake where there isn’t enough space.

  • The Highway Code is law – True AND false.

The Highway Code isn’t a statement of law, but some rules are ‘advisory’ some are ‘mandatory’, and it depends on the wording. Any rules that state you MUST or MUST NOT, are a legal requirement and breaching them may result in a fine or prosecution. Wording such as ‘should/should not’ and ‘do/do not’ mean it’s not a legal requirement, but if you don’t comply it could be used as evidence to establish liability should you be involved in an altercation or accident.


However careful you are about sticking to the rules, accidents can still happen, so you might want to think about insuring your bicycle. Our years of experience in cycle insurance mean that we’ve been able to put together a package of standard benefits to suit all kinds of cyclists, which you can then tweak with our optional benefits. Take a look at the website today for a quick and easy quote.

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