References to cycling in the Highway Code:
Rule 212 states that 'When passing motorcyclists and pedal cyclists, give them plenty of room'.
Rule 213 explains that 'Motorcyclists and pedal cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room'.
Rule 163 says 'Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so” and motorists should “give motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car'. They give the following photo as an illustration:
Rule 163 says 'you should', and not 'you must'. The introduction explains that 'should or should not' (similar to 'do or do not') denote an 'advisory' Rule. It is not law. These ‘Rules’ can be mentioned in court in any proceedings under the Road Traffic Act (RTA) to establish liability (i.e. level of culpability). The term 'plenty of room' is, fundamentally, a matter of opinion.
Rule 165 states 'you must not overtake if you would have to cross or straddle double white lines with a solid nearest to you'.
Rule 129 says 'you may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear to pass, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse, or road maintenance vehicle if they are travelling at 10mph or less'.
- RTA 1985 (S16) + Traffic Signs Regulations 2002 reg. 10 &26
The majority of cyclists will travel quicker than 10mph. Judging relative speed is difficult. This law may even encourage unsafe overtakes by motorists being impatient to pass before or immediately after a length of solid white centre lines.
There is no definition of what constitutes 'plenty of room', although the accompanying photo is greater than 1.5metres.
The Road Traffic Act 1985 has no mention of causing injury to cyclists or other vulnerable road users.
Drivers may be sentenced for the following:
Causing Death by Dangerous Driving
Causing Serious Bodily Harm by Dangerous Driving
Causing Death By Careless or Inconsiderate Driving
Causing Serious Bodily Harm by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving
Careless or Inconsiderate Driving
The Highway Code however is clear that more vigilance is required around vulnerable road users. By implication, a motorist who causes injury to a cyclist is more negligent and therefore more culpable than in an incident involving another motorist.
The second sentence of the Highway Code (after saying 'the Code is essential reading for everyone') is 'The most vulnerable road users are Pedestrians, particularly children, older or disabled people, Pedal Cyclists, Motorcyclists and Horse riders'. However, current legislation fails to protect them.
For the purposes of the law, bicycles are 'carriages' (as a consequence of the Taylor v Goodwin judgment in 1879) and must be ridden on a road, i.e. a ‘carriageway’. It has not been legal to ride on a ‘footway’ in the UK since the passing of the Highway Act (Section 72) 1835.
The Road Traffic Act, IOM, 1985 – Section 72 defines:
Carriageway – ‘a way in a highway over which public have a right of way for the passage of vehicles’
Footway – ‘a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway for the use of pedestrians’
A bicycle is a vehicle according to the UN's 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. The same convention considers that the person controlling a bicycle, whether riding or not, is an operator. The UK is a signatory of this convention but the Isle of Man is not.
However, the Manx Highway Code repeatedly refers to bicycles as vehicles. For example, introducing Rules for Pedal Cycles (Rules 59 to 82) it states: ‘These rules are in addition to those in the following sections, which apply to all vehicles (except the motorway section)’. The Highway Code defines the ‘no vehicles’ sign as meaning ‘no vehicles except bicycles being pushed’ - this implicitly defines a bicycle as a vehicle.
Therefore, all the rules of the road apply equally to cyclists and tension is felt when motorists see cyclists flouting traffic lights or cycling in the dark without lights.
In addition, Annex 1 of the Manx Highway Code says you MUST
Ensure your brakes are efficient
At night use front and rear lights and have a red rear reflector
If I can bicycle, I bicycle
- David Attenborough