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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 22/08/2014 22:38:51
Bryan Stout Commented:
Most cyclists also own a car so have an understanding of driving/riding both forms of transport. However few motorists appreciate a cyclist's right to space on the road. For example the average motorist is convinced that riding two abreast is illegal. (Despite the fact that we have to learn the advice given in the Highway Code in order to pass our driving test). This misunderstanding results in many altercations when motorists incorrectly try to 'discipline' cyclists. This Motoring Co. UK article is rational and well considered. I hope more will follow to correct any misinformed attitudes which exist.
Avatar 22/08/2014 17:19:27
Jonathan Wickenden Commented:
if it's legal it's legal, but please if there's a bicycle lane running along side the road use that and don't cycle on the road, that's my main complaint
Avatar 22/08/2014 17:04:45
jon ONEILL Commented:
I cycle a lot and the amount of fools passing me on a hill and blind spot without giving any room for me is mind blowing, so I move to the middle of the road to slow them down so they don't kill me or someone in on coming traffic.
Avatar 21/08/2014 08:12:49
pointless discussion Commented:
I'm a cyclist and a passenger when it comes to cars. I see so many cyclist on the road who are either completely clueless or just behave like complete a'holes... In physics there is a law - for every action there is an opposite reaction, so if u ride with disregard of other road users, don't expect to be treated nicely. Why o why cyclists can have Full use of the road but don't have to undergo a training and get a licence??? I am not saying that drivers always behave the way they should, but there are so many more a'hole cyclist on the road. Maybe it is time to stop bugging the motorist and start educating cyclists???
Avatar 20/08/2014 22:46:26
Marvyn Anstey Commented:
Most cyclist are insured on their house insurance for public liability. My house insurance paid up for the complete repair to a car that I hit. Also covered my bike. Get bored of hearing the old comments of "you don't pay tax " And "your not insured".
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