Up here in Yorkshire there is a wonderful myriad of quiet country lanes to cycle on. Generally, I try to seek out these smaller country lanes because they give you time to enjoy the scenery without the distraction of hearing cars whiz past. At some times of the year, these small country lanes are almost deserted and meeting a car is something of a rarity. On the other hand, at the height of summer a small increase in traffic can mean you have to deal with cars coming down or waiting to go past you.
Meeting car on single lane
As you might expect you have a different range of motorists to contend with. Some will patiently wait, others will barely slow down giving you only inches as they squeeze past. However, my observation is that generally people driving on small country lanes are encouraged to driver much more slowly and considerately because of the nature of the roads. Because the road is narrow, drivers are forced into a different mentality to being on a wide open road.
Like any road, the small country lanes can occasionally have their hair-raising moments, but it is usually worth it for the relative peace of cycling on quiet roads.
On this stretch of road, bicycles are almost as frequent as cars.
Tips for Cycling on Country Lanes
Tip for meeting horses – say hello. Horses are less intimidated if they hear a sound. photo – Nidderdale in July
- Overall, quiet country lanes are some of best places to cycle. If ever cycling can be idyllic it is on quiet deserted country lanes where you have time to admire scenery and feel away from busy roads.
- Although it might seem claustrophobic, generally it feels safer than on busy roads. Of course feeling is safe is different from actually being safe. But, at least, if there are accidents they will be at lower speed than on other roads and therefore less likely to be serious.
- Take care going round corners, especially if blind.
- Again it is a good rule of thumb to ride in a good position from left. This gives you more time and space to move in if needed, and also it helps you to see around corners quicker.
- A little bit of harmony between cyclists and motorists is good. Sometimes I get inspired to pull over to allow cars to go past. Partly it is because I want to do a motorist a favour, partly because I want to feel unpressurised by a driver behind.
- Be prepared to meet the unexpected, and enjoy the sight!
- They are not places for chain gangs and interval training.
- Acknowledge drivers who slow down and help you go past (although it is does sometimes feel ironic trying to squeeze through small gaps whilst also trying to wave to drivers.
- Remember cycling two abreast is perfectly legal, though if cars are waiting behind it is polite to return to single file to let them past.
Potential Problems on Country Lanes
- Quite often I’ve let cars past me only to then get stuck behind them because they get caught up themselves.
- Little room for manoeuvre meaning you are forced into hedge.
- Going too quickly around corners and being unprepared for meeting oncoming vehicles.
- Road surface is often rubbish.
- In winter cow manure and mud can be lethal for making you slip off.
Some of best memories of cycling have been on country lanes (especially around Yorkshire and Lake District) I wouldn’t use them for interval training, but when I want to slip into ‘tourist’ mode. If you’re willing to be a little patient at times, motorists will sometimes, at least reciprocate. There’s not much you can do if other cars squeeze too quickly by at small gaps.
By the way, unless stated, most of these photos were taken on back road from Ilkley to Bolton Abbey. It is one of the busier ‘back roads’ some are much quieter.