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Cyclists! Why do they ride in the middle of the road?

Cyclists! Why do they ride in the middle of the road?

Why do cyclists ride in the middle of the road?
Cyclists! Why do they ride in the middle of the road?

Why do cyclists ride in the middle of the road? Because they're allowed to: a poster from the Department for Transport advises "Cyclists. Ride central on narrow roads."

See those potholes? Not good for your suspension, are they? To cyclists, they're not just inconvenient they're lethal. The cyclist up ahead might be in the middle of the road for a few seconds in order to avoid a big gash in the ground. Cyclists are expert pothole - spotters. Use this inside knowledge to prevent costly damage to your car's suspension.

But, I hear you cry, cyclists block me even when the tarmac is butter-smooth. Take a look ahead. See any "islands", those refuges placed smack bang in the middle of the road, and placed there to protect pedestrians? Every keen cyclist knows that these islands can be death traps. Some motorists get a spurt on to overtake cyclists before these refuges, cutting in at the last second. Some cyclists, therefore, take what's called the "primary position". (Yes, there's an official Stationery Office name for the middle of-the-road manoeuvre This is cyclists' semaphore for "don't pass me just yet there's an obstacle ahead." Watch what cyclists do when they've passed the island: ninety-nine times out of a hundred they tuck back into the side of the road, and the motorist can then safely overtake. When a cyclist takes the "primary position" before such an upcoming obstacle it's not a mark of arrogance, it's a (risky) tactic to keep everyone safe.

Cyclists will also assume the primary position to avoid "dooring" by motorists opening their car doors without looking, or when about to turn right. Again, once safe to do so, cyclists return to the side of the road.

Not that a cyclist has to be a "gutter bunny," hugging the kerb. Cyclists, in law, operate "carriages", and have done since a court case in 1879. And, as operators of vehicles they have as much right to the whole lane as a motorist. Most of the time cyclists, quite sensibly, allow motorists to pass because that's the safest and nicest thing to do. But it's not a legal requirement. There's no such thing on the road as a "car lane." The only roads that motorists can call their own are motorways - the clue is in the name.

OK, so how about those cyclists who block the road by "riding two abreast". That's also perfectly legal. It's in the Highway Code. Remember, motorists - unless their cars concertina like Autobots from the Transformers movie - ride two abreast all the time, even when driving solo.

The Highway Code states that cyclists should not ride more than two abreast and should ride in single file on "narrow or busy roads and riding round bends." However, the Highway Code doesn't define what it means by "narrow" or "busy" or quite how rounded the curve has to be before it's considered a "bend." Club cyclists, who often ride in packs, will ride two abreast to chat, and will thin out when necessary, but two riders will often "take primary position" before bends. It should be reasonably obvious why. Far too many motorists take bends, even blind ones, fast, and cyclists do not want to be squished when an overtaking driver realises they've overcooked the corner and has to dive back in to avoid a head-on smash.

Cyclists often "block the road" in order to save their lives, and possibly yours, too.

Carlton Reid is the executive editor of He drives a Nissan Note "but not very often." He's writing a history book on motoring's cycling beginnings, Roads Were Not Built For Cars.

By Carlton Reid
Tue, 15 Apr 2014
Your CommentsBubble
Avatar 19/11/2014 11:51:48
Administrator Commented:
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Avatar 03/11/2014 18:41:31
@cyclemore sara Commented:
Its vehicle exise duty. As a cyclist I don't eat and ride, more sit at liggts playing with my phone more do I park illegally on red lines or double yellows while I "just nip in for a coffee" I don't damage the roads as a car would more do I cause pollution, I spot dangers in the roads and point them out to you moterists with my reactions to them. Further more I give you less congestion so you have more room to move (how many cars and vehicles do you see on the road which have one person in them, think of the emotions and the space that one person car takes up not to mention the damage to the road by so many one person vehicles cause. I'm a cycle courier I spend many many hours on the road on my bike, I can't begin to explain the I'll behaviour I experience towards me (well I could but shan't do so here) In being a cycle courier I take a white van off the road as I'm able to go down lanes that a van can't fit down and cycle tracks to get you your payment for a house, to get your jewelry valued at the assay office, transport many thousands if not thousands of pounds of documents to and from lawyers around my city, I keep businesses afloat too with the quick transport of documents.. Being a cyclist and working like I do has a lot of worth and benefit to society. All I ask is not to be abused and a little more understanding from motorists -no one wants to be abused especially at work.
Avatar 03/11/2014 14:22:08
Jack Churchett Commented:
Re Jack W comment that cyclists don't pay road tax: I pay road tax, I am a cyclist. Does that give me, the cyclist the same rights as me a driver? Should I display a tax disc on my back when my car is sitting on my drive? Hang on, that won't work. No tax discs now,and what about drivers approaching from the front?
Avatar 03/11/2014 13:58:20
Trev Norman Commented:
Road TAX is for emitions
Avatar 03/11/2014 12:26:26
Tony pryor Commented:
jack wiseman. Car owners don't pay road tax either. But they still use the roads. They pay a vehicle licence fee. It has nothing to do with road funding other than in the same way everyone's income tax is used for roads. In the UK I am unaware of any hypothecated taxes.
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