Understanding Cycle Law

Cycling in the UK has transformed massively over the years, with over 3.7 million cycles on the road.

For many of us, cycling has become an integral part of our daily routine, be it for transport to and from work, a passionate hobby, sport or all three. 

It’s an activity that has seen a boom in popularity over the past decade, thanks in no small part to events such as the London Olympic Games. The Games saw athletes such as Sir Chris Hoy, Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Laura Trott, Victoria Pendleton and Chris Froome become household names and sporting icons, helping to inspire a new generation of cyclists.

It should be the case that as cycling flourishes in Britain, cycle law develops appropriately around it, though this isn’t necessarily the case.

Unfortunately there are no defined set of cycling rules and law in any specific statute. The main sources of cycling law are:

Statutory law

The main act of parliament that deals with cycling is the Road Traffic Act 1988. This defines what constitutes dangerous cycling as well as careless or inconsiderate cycling. Also related is Highways Act 1980, which defines the duties of local authorities to keep cycle ways in a proper state of repair.

Common law

Common law is defined as decisions made by a judge, and runs alongside statutory law.

The Highway Code

First issued under section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1930, The Highway Code isn’t strictly law however serves as guidance and instruction for all road users, including cyclists. However, in recent years some aspects of The Highway Code have been made enforceable by law, including the recommendation to give cyclists a berth of at least 1.5 metres when passing them in a vehicle. 

By-laws and local provisions

On top of the above laws, local authorities may have their own specific rules for cyclists.

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