Using cycle lanes
Cycle Lanes - do you have to use them?
Published by London Cyclist, June/July 2006.
“I sometimes get shouted at by taxi drivers and bus drivers for not using the bike lanes. My understanding is that there’s nothing compulsory about these: is this right?”. This question was recently posted to a cycling e-group. Anecdotal evidence suggests that intimidation by motorists – especially bus drivers – of cyclists who don’t use bike lanes is on the rise. David Dansky of Cycle Training UK explains that cyclists should evaluate whether a lane is safe before they use it and explains how. Solicitor and cyclist Mark Bowman looks at what the law says and provides an example of a case that came to Court.
What the law says
There is no law, in either statutory or case form requiring cyclists to use cycle lanes as opposed to the main carriageway (or other forms of cycle facilities).
If a road user challenges you
If, in cycling outside of a cycle lane, you are politely (or otherwise) told by road users that you are breaking the law, you can state with authority that you are not. If you wish to complain about the way you have been spoken to by a bus driver, you should contact TfL on 7222 5600 or, to complain about a licensed taxi driver, ring 0845 602 7000.
The Highway Code
Rule 49 of the Highway Code states, “Cycle lanes. These are marked by a white lane (which may be broken) along the carriageway. Keep within the lane wherever possible.”
Rule 47 further states that cyclists should, “use cycle routes where practicable.”
Unfortunately we are all, all too aware that cycle lanes are often an afterthought and designed with economy rather than cyclists’ safety in mind. Therefore many people choose to cycle outside of cycle lanes, and they do so legally.
If a crash comes to Court
While it is not illegal to cycle along the carriageway, if you are involved in a crash, you may, depending on the circumstances, leave yourself open to a finding of contributory negligence, i.e. that you did not take reasonable care of yourself and contributed to your injury. A Defendant will argue that in avoiding a ‘perfectly acceptable’ cycle facility and cycling along the carriageway, you failed to take reasonable care of yourself.
An example from case law
Witness the case of Dann v. Brackman where the Claimant (D) cycled along the nearside of a major route in Southampton, close to the dividing line with a slip road. The Defendant driver (B), drove at 40mph along the slip road into the back of the Claimant’s bicycle.
It was found that D had ignored two signs guiding him onto a cycle path which would have avoided crossing the slip road. Counsel advised that a Judge would have found if D knew, or ought to have known, that he was exposing himself to the risk of being hit by a vehicle merging from the slip road, whose driver was wrongly, but perhaps understandably, concentrating on traffic behind D.
D’s case was settled out of Court with a 20% reduction in damages for contributory negligence. The Court subsequently approved this award. This latter step was necessary due to D having sustained brain damage and his resulting inability to manage his own affairs.
Where this leaves us
The position for cyclists is therefore far from satisfactory – do we risk using poorly maintained and dangerously designed cycle facilities or risk having our damages reduced for not using them?
With safety being of paramount importance, any responsible cyclist will cycle where she or he feels most safe. If this involves ignoring poorly maintained cycle facilities, cyclists will, in the event of a crash, due to the nature of the applicable law, leave themselves open to potential reductions in damages. These can be avoided or at least minimised with the aid of specialist legal representation.
Defining the terminology
There is no legal definition but they are usually situated adjacent to main roads. Designed purely for cyclists. There are two subsections:
Mandatory - Delineated by solid white lines. Cyclists are not obliged to use the lane but drivers of other vehicles (with the exception of emergency services vehicles, as well as taxis and buses in some cases) must avoid using or parking in the cycle lane at any time;
Advisory – Delineated by broke white lines. Other vehicles must not use the cycle lane or park in it unless doing so is unavoidable.
Defined in the Highways Act as “a way over which the Public have the following, but no other, rights of way, that is to say, a right of way on pedal cycles with or without a right of way on foot.”
There is no legal definition but the team usually refers to an area dedicated to cyclists no a footway. There are two subsections:
Shared use - These are designed for use by both pedestrians and cyclists, with no segregation.
Segregated - These are marked with a designated area for cyclists. Cyclists much not use the area that is designated for pedestrians.
There is no legal definition but these are routes considered useful for (though not exclusive to) cyclists, e.g. the National Cycle Network.