Rules on Using Cycle Lanes

There is often a perception amongst motorists (and in Youtube video below NY police) that cyclists are legally obliged to stay in the cycle lane. On a few occasions, some motorists have suggested I move off road into some kind of cycle path (usually shared use on pavement)

The UK Highway code states:

63 Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer. Multi-lane carriageways (133-143)

mandatory lane

A really wide mandatory cycle lane in Oxford

For Car users:

Cycle lanes. These are shown by road markings and signs. You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply. Multilane Carriageways

Mandatory cycle lanes seem quite rare, unless they are on double yellow lines.

How Often is Practicable to Use Cycle Lanes?

not always..



There is actually a cycle path to the left. It is as the bottom of a fast descent. I never use it, and the road has been narrowed.


I have had the odd motorist remonstrate for not using shared use cycle paths. The main reason is I usually don’t think it’s safe to use certain shared use cycle paths

  • it’s dangerous for the cyclists because there are so many junctions to negotiate.
  • It’s not pleasant for pedestrians to have to share narrow pavements with cyclists.

Therefore in this case, I tend to ride in road. See: Bad cycle paths

Shared use cycle paths can have their place, especially for cyclists not confident cycling in the road and who like to cycle slowly. But, since I tend to be cycling relatively quick I tend to avoid them. I do fear the day when cyclists are not allowed to use roads, but only use shared cycle lanes at a ‘pedestrian pace’.

1 Metre Rule


Recently, I posted about the suggested one metre rule in the best position on the road for cyclists The interesting thing is that it is the same government site, which suggest cyclists cycle 1 metre from edge of road. But, if we follow that advice it means ignoring narrow cycle paths.

Another feature of cycle paths is that some feel it can encourage motorists (and coach drivers in above pic) to actually pass closer to cyclists because it is like a lane.

Are Cycle Paths Ever Any Good?

cycle path<br /> I'm glad the law allows us to take the most practical solution. It is good to allow a degree of pragmatism and common sense rather than be rule bound. I'm not opposed to cycle paths, they can be good and they can encourage cycling. The kind of <a href=

Cycle path featured above definitely creates a safe environment for cycling. Also the physical barrier makes parking a van in cycle path quite difficult (though it still happens!)


Different types of cycle lanes in the UK


9 Responses to Rules on Using Cycle Lanes

  1. Lewis September 5, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    I wrote a complaint to a bus company (stipulating, in the same section of the highway code mentioned above, that use of cycle paths and lanes is NOT COMPULSORY) when a bus driver shouted at me out of his window, while I overtook him at a bus stop, to “Use the cycle lane”. Which was a shared use path full of school kids. To me, shared use paths are pointless and potentially dangerous. I can’t get any speed on them because of crossing junctions and for fear of hurting pedestrians. I was pleased with the response from the bus company, but I doubt that the driver has changed his attitude.

  2. Debs August 1, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Personally I think shared cycle lanes are quite dangerous. Where I commute, the cycle lanes are mixture of on-road and shared pavement – it becomes shared about 1/2 a mile from the local school and trying to weave your way through hundreds of kids walking to school and the youngsters who cycle at full pelt but seem intent on having their heads down, so they have no idea of what’s going on in front them is interesting to say the least.

    Pedestrians without fail will always walk in the cycle path, even though it’s painted red, has huge bl**dy bikes painted on it and is actually narrower than the pavement part. I’ve noticed as well that about 80-90% of pedestrians (on my commute anyway) are listening to their Ipods so I can ring my bell, shout at the top of my lungs to my hearts content and they have no idea that I or frankly anyone else exists outside of their little music bubble!

    On one of my little weekend rides, which is all on shared cyclepaths, the local sports centre had coned off the cycle path for use by their ‘Fun Runners’. Now I’m always very impressed by people who run but personally thought this took the biscuit! It made for a fun ride trying to avoid dog walkers and their hounds (off leash), kids and people just trying to have a pleasant walk – not fair on either them or me really.

  3. Jonomc June 18, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    It really annoys me this argument about road tax (I mention this as it seems to be mentioned a lot in other columns). At home I have a large Mercedes and BMW sitting on the drive – I pay a higher rate than most for road tax on them because of their size. Yet I cycle into work every day (on the days I don’t I use the train). All told I probably average 15 miles a week driving.

    So here I am subsidising the other drivers – paying road tax and not using the car on the road – they should be thanking me – not pulling this dull old argument out. I don’t think I am very different from many cyclists except maybe the younger ones – really this argument is just too pathetic for words. As a side point I have to pay tax for schooling but send my kids to a private school – so once again I am paying for something and not using it – I am not complaining – but I get told by many I am elitist for wanting my children to enjoy school.

    Better stop now before I really get a grump on :)

  4. Tim June 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    On the subject of mandatory (solid line) and advisory (dashed line) lanes. What does “unavoidable”? This is a ridiculously vague term to use in highway guidance, which means advisory lanes are relatively pointless.

    As you say, where mandatory lanes do exist they’re often restricted to certain times, so they may as well not be there at other times. Also during the times they are in force, people can be let off for loading, or if they have a “good reason”.

    So most lanes may as well not exist. Nice pictures though. I took some in Manchester on my way home last night in case you’re interested:

  5. Lee June 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Cyclist are going to hate me for saying this……The old debate about the car tax, still most motorist believe it pays for the up keep of the road not tax duty. I always get the same issues thrown at me that I don’t pay for the up keep of the roads, well as a tax payer I do……anyway I would gladly pay a fee to cycle safe, no pot holes, a cycling infrastructure like in most of Europe. I lived in Germany and before I could drive on German roads I had to get a special military licence (BFG) British Forced Germany) The priority of road users are drummed into you and if your guilty of breaking the rules the courts would punish you hard. Pedestrians, cyclist, motor vehicles. In Germany the equivalent to turning left is turning right (drive on the right in Germany) any way if as a motorist in UK,and I was turning left I would have to check on my left for 1 pedestrians and 2 cyclist if either were going straight on I would wait until it was 100% clear before making my move, it would be illegal, it would even be illegal for a motor vehicle to cut in left and block the cyclist. How many time have you witnessed cars approaching traffic lights, roundabouts or junctions they know your there because they have just passed you, then move as close to the curb as possible so you cant go to the front. Really winds me up. My last moan is motor vehicles stopping in cycle boxes, I just go in front of them anyway. That’s it my moaning done lol

    • Tejvan June 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

      As a taxpayer I have no qualms about cyclists not paying a specific tax. see:

      Very interesting point about Germany ‘The priority of road users are drummed into you and if your guilty of breaking the rules the courts would punish you hard. Pedestrians, cyclist, motor vehicles.

      In UK it feels like over way around ‘he who is strongest (i.e most metal to protect) rules the road’

  6. Emily :) June 14, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    Hehe that video really gets the point across ;)
    were I am it is really rare to see a proper cycle lane I mean on the busy roads they somtimes have a white line about a foot from the edge,and cars are ALWAYS parking on them so it would be safer to just not have then.
    Emily :)

  7. botogol June 14, 2011 at 7:36 am #

    I’d like to see some proper research on cycle lanes: I am not at all sure they are safe, especially cycle lanes on pavements where my experience is that pedestrians frequently step/walk into the cycle lane without warning.
    Even on the road car behaviour is erratic. Last night I was in a cycle lane and a car passed me very close, stopped 15m ahead, NOT in the cycle lane and then the passenger door opened and a person got out… Oops. So the driver kind of noticed the cycle lane and kind of didn’t….


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