Comment & Analysis: Here’s just six examples: of where cyclists doing normal, lawful and usually safe things are misinterpreted as breaking the law.
(1) Not using “perfectly good” cycle lanes
This is a common one the crops up both online and as texts into radio shows.
There’s no law mandating the use of cycle lanes. There was one and it was repealed because cycle routes aren’t up to scratch for their use to be mandatory and there’s many reasons to avoid them temporarily or otherwise.
The reasons for not using a cycle lane vary, including — the cycle route is rubbishy designed, it has glass on it, illegal parking, a cyclist is turning right and there’s no provision for that on the cycle track, or it’s not suitable for a group of cyclists on a club cycle etc.
Regardless of the reason, you’ll often be told that it was a “perfectly good” cycle lanes — when you ask where this cycle route is, it’s usually quickly clear that the cycle lane in question isn’t that good at all.
(2) Not using a bell
There’s a requirement to have a bell on a non-racing bicycle, but it’s up to the judgment of person cycling to use it depending on the circumstances.
Bell use is more like a fine art than a science is like. And using a bell on a shared path is like forcing Marmite on pedestrians and other cyclists around you — some will love it and some will hate it.
Bell use is really a classic example of you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
(3) Filtering in slow-moving traffic
Filtering past slow-moving traffic is generally perfectly normal, safe and legal. The law was even changed to clarify that cyclists are allowed to overtake on the left as long as they don’t do so when they reasonably that a driver won’t make the turn first.
Caution is needed when filtering but, no, bicycles — and motorcycles — aren’t just small cars. And nobody should expect people cycle to always stop at the back of a line of cars.
(4) Cycling the middle of the lane
Also known as cycling in the “middle of the road” or “taking the primary position”— this is allowed and even was added to the Rules of the Road for clarity.
When someone calls the middle of a lane the “middle of the road” it shows they have a perception issue, but the same people will often deny there’s a good reason to cycle like this.
Another name for this practice is “taking the lane” and there’s many reasons for it, including avoiding car doors of along parked cars, cycling around something blocking a cycle lane while wanting to avoid have a motorist close pass you, or trying to avoid someone overtaking you on a blind bend or blind hill.
The thing you’re cycling out to avoid can often not be seen by a motorist, including a pot hole or broken glass, or a child who might be about to run out. Also see: Why I cycle in the middle of the road and I hate it.
(5) Cycling on shared paths
Cycling paths shared with walking and cycling if often fairly clear, as with the photo above.
In other situation, especially, where there’s short sections of shared paths at junctions cyclists sometimes get accused of being wrong for cycling there. This isn’t as common as the other examples but it happens.
(6) Not wearing high-vis and helmets
There’s no law around the use of high-vis and helmets — you can think that there should be or think that they are a good idea but there’s still no law mandating their use.
A former head of the Road Safety Authority even had to remind politicians looking for mandatory high-vis that “This is not a police state”.
There’s never ending debates over the effectiveness of high-vis and helmets, but even if you think they are effective mandating their use is messy, and likely to be ineffective and/or a huge waste of policing resources.
Wearing helmets and high-vis is not law and unlikely to become law. Anybody feeling the need to push the idea would spend their time better by instead focusing on one of the many measures proven to be more effective from lower speeds to safer infrastructure or more camera enforcement.