Cyclists win with new UK highway code

Freedom of choice between roads and cycle paths


Cyclists in the UK have won an important victory in their fight for equal rights to the road.


The increase in the number of dedicated cycle routes in the country has seen the emergence of an attitude that cyclists shouldn’t be on main roads at all. After the Government announced plans to revise the Highway Code, which governs road use in the country, campaigners seized the chance to get the issue cleared up once and for all.

The new Highway Code now makes it clear that cyclists do not have to use specially marked routes or advance stop lines and should use their own judgement rather than slavishly sticking to “their” paths.

There are many reasons why many experienced cyclists steer clear of cycle paths. Some routes stop and start erratically, which can put cyclists in danger. They can also force cyclists to share a dedicated section of the road with buses, and taxis, not always natural bedfellows. Cycle routes can also be poorly maintained, and in far worse condition than the highway. Not only does this make for an uncomfortable ride, but it also makes the surface completely unsuitable for high spec road bikes.

The CTC, the UK’s largest cycling organisation, which campaigned for the extra wording, announced the victory on its website, saying, “We had to battle the well meaning but flawed perspective that comes from local as well as national government that cycle facilities are essentially safety features.

“The concept that experienced cyclists regard the road as the safest place to be was counter-intuitive to some officials and Ministers. The wording now makes it clear beyond all doubt that cyclists are not obliged to use cycle facilities where it would be unsafe to do so. This is highly significant and very welcome.”

The new Highway Code now states: “Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so.

“When using a cycle lane, keep within the lane when practicable. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.”


The UK is not the only country where cyclists have been bullied off the road in the past. In the United States there have been reports of motorists shouting at cyclists to get off the highway – because they don’t know they’re allowed on it.