Q. Are cyclists allowed to ride two abreast on public roads?

A. Yes. Rule 66 of the Highway Code states that cyclists should never ride more than two abreast and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding around bends. It is perfectly legal for cyclists to ride side by side on most roads. It may however be sensible to cycle in single file on narrow roads or where a car is attempting to overtake.

Q. Do I have to ride in a designated cycling lane when one is available rather than on the road?

A. No. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend upon your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.

Q. Do I have to wear high visibility clothing when cycling?

A. It is not a requirement that you must wear high visibility clothing however if you are intending to cycle on public roads this could well be sensible as such clothing could help other drivers see you and avoid an accident. It can be beneficial to wear high visibility clothing even during the daylight hours as well as at night time. High visibility clothing can help other road users to see you in all lighting conditions. You should also try to avoid wearing any lose or baggy clothes which may get tangled up within the moving parts of your bicycle or which may obscure any cycling lights at night time.

Q. How should a cyclist pass stationary traffic?

A. Unfortunately the law does not provide a clear answer to this question. There are no specific legal rules on how, as a cyclist, you must pass other traffic. You will commit an offence if you do not comply with the general rules of the road which apply to all road users (for example if you cross a solid white line in the middle of the road whilst overtaking).

The Highway Code recommends that you overtake on the offside (i.e. towards the centre of the road) when it is safe and legal, but also suggests that cyclists can undertake on the nearside (i.e. closest to the kerb) if you are in a queue and are moving faster than the traffic to your right.

Your main concern as a cyclist however is more likely to be what is the safest way for you to pass stationary traffic.  A lot of cyclists take the view that undertaking traffic on the nearside is the more dangerous option as it puts you in a position where you cannot easily be seen and the drivers of vehicles do not expect bicycles to ‘undertake’ them.  You also run the risk of a passenger in a vehicle opening their door into your path.

The safest option is usually to remain in your position in queue of traffic, especially when your speed is similar to that of the traffic around you.  If you feel confident to do so, and if it is safe to do so without breaking the rules of the road, passing on the outside of cars, where drivers are more likely to see you, is perhaps the safer option.

Every cyclist must of course use their own discretion and only ride in a certain manner if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.

Q. What lights and reflectors must be fitted to my bicycle at night?

A. It is illegal to cycle on public roads after dark without certain lights and reflectors fitted to your bicycle.  The lights and reflectors must be clean and in proper working order.  Your lights must be switched on if cycling between sunset and sunrise.

When riding at night, you must have the following fitted:-

  • Front lamp – this must show a white light.  If capable of emitting a steady light then it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard.  If this is a flashing light then it must emit 1 candela.  The front light must be positioned no more than 1.5 meters from the ground. Whilst helmet mounted lights can be great to help a cyclist see where they are going, your bicycle must also be fitted with a secondary light conforming to these requirements otherwise you may be breaking the law and could also be jeopardising your own safety.
  • Rear lamp – this must show a red light.  Again it can either show a solid red light or a flashing light.  If it shows a solid light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648 or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard.  If capable of emitting only a flashing list it must again emit at least 1 candela.
  • Rear reflector – this is required.  It must be coloured red and marked as complying with BS6102/2 (or equivalent).
  • Pedal reflectors – these must be amber in colour, marked as meeting BS6102/2 (or equivalent) and positioned so that one is visible to the front and another to the rear of each pedal.

There are some minor exceptions to the above requirements.  Bicycles manufactured before October 1990 can have any kind of white front lamp fitted as long as it is visible from a reasonable distance.  Bicycles manufactured prior to October 1985 don’t need to have pedal reflectors.

Q. When must my bicycle's lights be switched on?

A. If you are cycling on the road during the hours of darkness your bicycles lights must be switched on.  The hours of darkness are legally defined as from one half hour after sunset to one half hour before sunrise.  The same period also applies to motor vehicles which must also have their lights switched on during this time.

Q. Do I have to switch my bicycle's lights on if I am riding in fog or adverse weather?

A. Strangely, cyclists are not legally obliged to switch on their lights when conditions of seriously reduced visibility occur in the daytime.  This is due to an unusual loophole in the law which only requires lights that are “required to be fitted” to be switched on during adverse weather.  As bicycles are not “required to be fitted” with lights during daytime hours there can be no legal requirement for you to switch them on.

Having said this, it is clearly very sensible to switch on your lights in such conditions and in fact many cyclists choose to have their lights illuminated at all times of day and night to help increase their visibility to other road users.  If you are involved in an accident during adverse weather and your bike is fitted with lights which you have not switched on then you may be held to be partly at fault for the accident.

Q. How far away from the kerb should I ride?

A. Despite what some motorists will shout at cyclists, there are no rules that you must stick to the kerb and in fact this may often be the least safe position for you to take as it may encourage motorists to try to “squeeze” their vehicles past you when there isn’t really sufficient room for them to do so.  Also by riding so close to the kerb you will likely encounter drains, broken and eroded edges of the tarmac, and debris which may have been “swept” to the side of the road by passing vehicles.

By cycling further out in the flow of traffic you will position yourself directly in a motorist’s field of vision rather than being on the periphery of their vision which you would be by hugging the kerb.  It is also less likely that motorists will try to squeeze past you without there being sufficient room.

If you are able to keep up with the flow of the traffic around you, such as when riding around a town, it may be safest to position yourself within that traffic.  In other situations however, such as if you can’t keep up with the traffic around you, or if there is little other traffic around you and the road is quiet, then you may feel safer riding closer to the kerb (but not necessarily “hugging” it ).  You must not jeopardise your safety.  Position your bicycle where you feel safest.  If a motorist shouts at you then at least you know they have seen you!

Q. Can I use a mobile phone whilst cycling?

A. Using a hand held mobile phone whilst cycling is not illegal as such however you could commit an offence of “careless riding” or “riding without due care and consideration”.  We would strongly advise against ever riding whilst using a phone for obvious safety reasons.

Also, technically, if you are riding an electrically assisted pedal cycle in law that cycle is viewed as a “motor vehicle” so using a handheld mobile phone whilst riding one of these bicycles is illegal.

Q. Can I listen to music through earphones whilst cycling?

A. Yes, but it may not be very safe. It is not illegal to listen to music via ear phones whilst cycling on public roads.  Listening to music may however distract you from what is going on around you and may also prevent you from being able to hear the approach of other vehicles and thus jeopardise your own safety.

Q: Do I have to wear a helmet whilst riding my bike?

A: At present it is not a legal requirement to wear a cycle helmet in England and Wales. It is really your choice whether to wear a helmet and there is still much debate as to how much protection a cycle helmet really offers.

Q: My bicycle was my transport to work but was damaged in an accident. How should I get to work?

A: Alongside any claim for personal injury arising from a cycling accident you can also claim for damage to your bike, helmet and any other property or cycling equipment which may have been damaged in the accident.

Your solicitor can seek to recover an “interim payment” from the responsible party’s insurer. An interim payment is a part payment of compensation paid before the conclusion of your claim. This can cover the cost of any repairs or the cost of replacing your bike. Until such a payment can be obtained (or until you have recovered sufficiently from your injuries to be able to return to cycling) our solicitors can offer advice as to your alternative options.

Q: How long after a cycling accident do I have to bring a claim for personal injury or damage to my bicycle?

A: For adults over the age of 18 a claim for personal injury must be brought within 3 years from the accident date. For children below the age of 18 at the time of the accident their claim for personal injury must be brought before their 21st birthday.

If you are claiming for property damage only (meaning that there is no claim for personal injury) then an adult’s claim must be brought within 6 years of the date of loss and a child’s claim must be brought before their 24th birthday. Only in extremely exceptional circumstances can a claim be brought after these dates and it is always best that you bring a claim as soon as possible after the accident in order to assist in any investigations.

Q: I wasn’t wearing a cycling helmet. Can I still bring a claim for compensation?

A: Yes. At present it is not a legal requirement to wear a cycle helmet in England and Wales. It is really your choice whether to wear a helmet and there is still debate as to how much protection a cycling helmet really offers.

It depends very much on what injuries you suffer as to whether or not wearing a helmet will impact upon the amount of compensation you receive – if you break your leg clearly wearing a cycling helmet would have made no difference! Even if you do suffer an injury that a cycling helmet may have prevented or reduced then, at worst, the amount of compensation which you receive may be reduced. A claim would not be ruled out entirely. You should always seek specialist legal advice.

Q: I came off my bike in a country lane at speed when my front wheel went into a pothole, can I claim compensation?

A: Potentially, yes. Most public roads are the responsibility of either the relevant Local Authority or the Highways Agency who have a duty to maintain the road and repair any dangerous defects (including potholes) which may arise. The issue of whether the pothole was “dangerous” will depend very much upon the individual circumstances however as a general rule height change of 40mm or more on a road and 20mm or more on a footpath will generally be considered “dangerous” and in need of repair.

The Local Authority or Highways Agency may have a defence if they can prove that they had in place a reasonable system of inspecting and repairing the road. This is because it is accepted that Local Authorities cannot be aware of every pothole as soon as it appears. If they can prove that they have a system where they are periodically inspecting the roads, and if the pothole responsible for your accident was not present at the time of their last inspection, then potentially they may have a defence to your claim. You should however seek specialist legal advice to consider the circumstances of your accident in more detail.

Q: A lorry overtook me whilst I was on my bike and caught me knocking me off and I was injured, however it didn’t stop and none of the witnesses got the registration number, can I claim?

A: Yes. It sounds as though you have been involved in a “hit and run” incident in which case you may be able to pursue a claim via the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). The MIB was set up in 1946 and is funded by motor insurers. It is responsible for compensating victims of accidents caused by uninsured and untraced drivers. You must ensure that you report your accident to the police as soon as possible and certainly within no more than 14 days from the accident date. The police may be able to make enquiries to attempt to locate the driver responsible but ultimately if this does not prove possible then, once your claim is submitted to the MIB, they will investigate and may be able to compensate you for your injuries.

You should seek legal advice before submitting a claim to the MIB.

Q: I was rear-ended whilst riding my bike at night in the town centre but the motorist said he was not to blame as I did not have a rear light working at the time, is he right or can I still claim?

A: The rules about the use of lights and reflectors on bicycles at night are complex. You are required to have at least one illuminated front light which is white or yellow and at least one rear light which is red. The lights must be illuminated but can be flashing. You also need to have a rear reflector fitted to your bicycle which must be red in colour.

You also have to have two pedal reflectors on each pedal, one facing the front and one facing the rear, which must be amber in colour. In your case, as it appears that you were not using any lights, then your actions could be criticised however this does not mean that you are unable to pursue a claim. As another driver has driven into the back of your bicycle then he is probably at fault for failing to see you and to stop in time. You may find however that any compensation which you are awarded is reduced to reflect your own actions in failing to have lights fitted.

Therefore you could still pursue a claim.

Q: Me and a pal were riding two abreast on our bikes when a van overtook us, colliding with my pal, who fell into me and we were both injured, can either of us claim?

A: The Highway Code states that cyclists should never ride more than two abreast. Cyclists are road users in the same way as the driver of any other vehicle. There are no rules which say that cyclists must not ride two abreast however you may find that if doing so causes an obstruction and drivers may take more of a risk to overtake you. Having said this, if you are knocked from your bicycle by a motorist overtaking, or in your case if your friend is hit by a motorist and knocked into you, then it is likely that the motorist has been negligent in carrying out a dangerous manoeuvre when it was unsafe to do so. Both you and your friend may be able to bring claims for compensation. You should seek specialist advice.

Q: Can I still claim for compensation when the driver who caused by bike accident does not have insurance or has not been traced?

A: Yes. Cyclists involved in a bike accident with an insured or hit and run driver can claim compensation from the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB). The MIB was set up to compensate victims of such accidents. The accident must however have occurred in the last 3 years and must have been reported to the police within 14 days.

Q: My bike was damaged in an accident, am I entitled to the cost of buying a new one?

A: Yes. If your bike was damaged as a consequence of an accident which was not your fault then you are entitled to seek compensation for either the cost of the repairs or, if it cannot be repaired economically, the cost of replacement with either the same or a similar model.

Ordinarily your bike will need to be inspected by a suitably qualified mechanic who will prepare a brief report setting out the extent of any damage and required repairs. The mechanic will ideally have an industry standard qualification (such as Cytech) to ensure that they are suitability qualified to comment upon the extent of any damage and safety critical repairs. Often modern bicycles, particularly those with carbon fibre frames or forks, cannot be safely repaired and are often deemed beyond repair automatically as a result of having being involved in a collision.

Once evidence is available to confirm the cost of any repairs or replacement you can then seek an interim payment from the responsible party’s insurers.