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Drivers 'urged to be aware that cyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side'
26 October 2020, 10:23 | Updated: 26 October 2020, 16:48
Drivers are being urged to be aware that cyclists can ride two abreast on narrow roads in a proposed revision of the Highway Code to improve safety.
The new rule would advise cyclists to ride side-by-side, advising to switch to single file only “if you consider it safer to allow drivers to overtake”.
It would remove existing ambiguity which tells cyclists to “ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and round bends,” which can encourage drivers to pass them dangerously.
The proposed new version of Rule 66 would say: “You can ride two abreast and it is often safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Switch to single file if you consider it safer to allow drivers to overtake.”
Peter Walker, Political Correspondent for The Guardian and author of Bike Nation, told LBC today that cycling groups are not trying to change the rules, but to “make them better known.”
#ICYMI 🔎 @DameSarahStorey has called for amendments to the #HighwayCode to make it clear that riding two abreast is not just legal, but it’s also safer and more convenient for all road users 👍— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) October 24, 2020
Read more 📄 https://t.co/Cao5EuYVM8
Respond 🗣 https://t.co/YCeoxuXuOc pic.twitter.com/HkbLOdb8kE
He said when cyclists ride in single file, there is "a temptation often for drivers to try and squeeze past, like on narrow bends where there’s not the space."
Mr Walker told Nick Ferrari: “At the moment, the rules are that cyclists are allowed to ride side-by-side if they want.
“The rule says you should ride no more than two abreast and it says you shouldn’t do it where it’s not safe and if you’re going round a corner.
“I think what Cycling UK and British Cycling are trying to do is not to change the rules, just to make it better known.
“You sometimes have that thing where, for example, if you have a group of club riders out on a Sunday morning, if they’re going down a long, straight road, it’s actually easier for drivers to go past them if they’re riding side-by-side.
“For example, if you had a group of ten, rather than having to overtake a ten-long group, you have to overtake just a five-long group, which is quicker.”
He added: “The other reason is, if you’re riding one abreast, there is a temptation often for drivers to try and squeeze past, like on narrow bends where there’s not the space, and particularly on country roads they will overtake, say on a blind bend, because they think it’s only one person.
“The argument is, and this is something which is already in the rules, you should overtake a cyclist, even a single cyclist, the way you would a car.
“So you’d go all the way to the other side of the road and give them enough room.”
Asked by Nick what motorists should do if the other side of the road is busy, Mr Walker said: “Well in which case you need to wait, and that’s what the Highway Code actually already says now, so no-one is saying that the law should be changed.
“Because there is a bit of a mix-up with this, because people think that if cyclists are riding two abreast, they’re breaking the law, which they’re not.”
British Cycling’s 2019 State of Cycling report found that 87% of British Cycling members are close passed at least once a week.
Dame Sarah Storey, their Policy Advocate, is calling for more clarity in the Code, and said cycling two abreast "makes it much easier for the driver to overtake safely."
She said: “The intention of the proposal is to make it clear that riding two abreast is not just legal but it’s also safer and more convenient for all road users – and that includes drivers as well.
"However, our concern is that the proposed wording doesn’t achieve that goal and the existing ambiguity around this issue remains.
“If you think about a situation where you might be riding with your child, as I do on a regular basis, you want to make sure that you have your child on the left of you so that if somebody is passing too quickly or closely you are offering them some protection. In this situation we don’t believe that a parent should ever feel compelled to ‘single out’.
“Similarly, if you’re out on the road in a group, if you’re in single file there’s a much longer line of cyclists for a driver to pass. On the road it might not be possible to do this safely while maintaining a safe distance from the group, particularly if there’s a bend ahead or a traffic island.
"If you’re riding two abreast, it makes it much easier for the driver to overtake safely and they’ll also have better visibility of what is coming towards them.
“We know that this issue is a longstanding subject of debate between motorists and people on bikes, with unnecessary hostility often directed to those out cycling, usually in the form of dangerous overtaking.
"Through the consultation we have the opportunity to clear up the confusion once and for all, and it’s absolutely vital that the Government hears the experiences of thousands of people who would benefit from this change."
A consultation on the proposed change ends on Tuesday.