Is it safe to cycle on UK roads? - interested in people's opinions

I watched the recent BBC Panorama programme 'Road Rage: Cars V Bikes'. As a result I am very seriously considering getting rid of my bicycle. Perhaps it sounds a bit naive but this programme has given me a whole new perspective on cycling. I have been a cyclist for many years. I fall into the category of somebody who cycles out of a need. I got rid of my car mainly due to not wanting to contribute to climate change ,although cost and lifestyle were also factors.I have regularly used my bike for long trips of fifteen to twenty mile treks through the countryside for special excursions but I usually use it to do necessary local trips of about five miles each way and for going shopping using my panniers. I definitely do not fall into the category of the lycra clad weekenders (in fact I don't own any lycra).When I cycle I am very happy to take my time.I'm quite happy pootling along quite close the edge of the road usually, I can look out and see if there are drains and potholes and slow down accordingly or safely cycle round them.(I did used to drive for many years so I do have an understanding of the roads as a driver by the way) I don't know if I am missing something ,but I've never really understood it when I see that a cyclist will cycle really far over towards the middle of the road. I know that I have a friend who tells me about how when they are cycling they will position the bike further over to prevent a car from passing them etc because they have judged the situation as dangerous. To me this seems a big aggressive ,it's like he is 'making the decision' for how he wants the car driver to act and trying to control how things unfold on the road ,rather than letting the person driving do the driving and fitting in accordingly (obviously if there was something that was definitely dangerous one should take appropriate action rather than putting one's safety in jeopardy) I can sort of understand how motorists get wound up when cyclists behave like this ,I do think driving makes people stressed anyway, I see no reason for cyclists ever cycling two or more abreast in the road ,there's nothing wrong with falling back and cycling single file at the edge of the road ,they can have a chat later on in the pub! I can understand this annoys motorists,it used to really,really annoy me when I used to drive! I feel like I have never really encountered much aggression from car drivers and most drivers seem to be careful to drive around me safely,although,the other day a car drove past me ,so,so closely that his car more or less brushed my leg ,I'm sure he did it on purpose ,and it left me terrified ,it was dreadful! I hadn't done anything at all to provoke and I was right on the edge of the road (as usual) I assume the driver resented me for no other reason than because I was on a busy road near to a complicated junciton and I was an annoyance !! So ,anyway,seeing the Panorama programme and the film footage of the cycling accidents ,it's made me realise that every time I am at a junction or a roundabout I am relying on a driver driving safely and making sure he looks properly or looks up and sees me,if I am on a bicycle I have got no protection and I am at the mercy of people driving safely ,I could be killed or severely injured ,if I am severely injured ,would I even be compensated? The programme makes it seem as though motorists get away without much action taken towards them if they hit a cyclist. The programme said that two cyclists are killed each week in the UK.It feels as though the roads have got more chaotic and dangerous lately and people seem to tear around in their cars and break the rules more than ever.


  • baser999
    baser999 Posts: 1,134 Forumite
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    It was an interesting watch as it also featured ‘idiot cyclists’ jumping red lights, going straight across junctions etc - these are the ones that irritate the motorist and give all cyclists a bad name. I was amused in particular to watch the reporter claiming that quite legally he was allowed to cycle down the centre of his lane and that motorists are required to allow 5ft when overtaking. He then promptly pointed the driver who crossed double white lines to pass him; how was he supposed to get past otherwise, or was he expected to wait until the double white lines had ended? Had he not been in the centre of the lane, there’d have been no problem. 
    I have no issue with cyclists being on the road, but they need to be as mindful of the motorist as we are expected to be of them. No cycling two-a-breast, using hand signals, obeying traffic signals . . .
  • Yes, I saw that bit ,I thought the same,I'm mystified as to why cyclists go so far out into the road unless there's a good reason to do so ,and then he took umbrage that the motorist hadn't passed him safely.
  • unforeseen
    unforeseen Posts: 7,279 Forumite
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    There are lots of 2 lane roads where it is physically impossible to have 5ft clearance if the cyclist is in the middle of his lane. 
  • Norman_Castle
    Norman_Castle Posts: 11,871 Forumite
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    edited 4 November 2022 at 8:47PM
    baser999 said:
     I was amused in particular to watch the reporter claiming that quite legally he was allowed to cycle down the centre of his lane and that motorists are required to allow 5ft when overtaking. He then promptly pointed the driver who crossed double white lines to pass him; how was he supposed to get past otherwise, or was he expected to wait until the double white lines had ended? Had he not been in the centre of the lane, there’d have been no problem. 

    You can cross solid white lines to pass if the cyclist is riding at 10mph or less.
    Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.
    Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 26

    If they are travelling faster than that or there is no safe opportunity then yes, you have to wait until the solid line has ended. Claiming there would have been "no problem" if the cyclist wasn't in the centre of the lane assumes there was enough room to pass without crossing the unbroken line and allowing a 5 foot space between the vehicle and cyclist if the cyclist had been closer to the kerb. Was there?

  • Yorkie006
    Yorkie006 Posts: 203 Forumite
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    Depends on where you cycle. If you ride on dual carriage way with 70mph speed limit, it may not be to safe as you will be by far the slowest moving one and my attempt to overtake unsafely. If you're riding on 40mph roads, it should be fine. Do not ride too close to the kerb, it just encourages driver to squeeze past you. I always ride about a foot or two from the yellow line to avoid any drain covers, loose gravel etc. Drivers still have a chance to overtake but usually need to slow down a bit (depending on oncoming traffic).
    Been cycling on roads for almost 20 years and only had 1 accident (was hit head on by a guy pulling out of a parallel parking space in the wrong direction and therefore unable to see past a van parked directly in front of him). 
    It helps to plan ahead and avoid/go round dangerous roundabouts/junction. Sometimes it may be easier/safer to get off the bike and walk past the dangerous stretch and get back on the road later on. Also, use cycle lanes/paths and bus lanes if possible.
  • mjm3346
    mjm3346 Posts: 46,889 Forumite
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    "Is it safe to cycle on UK roads? - interested in people's opinions"

    Depends on the roads - lots of country lanes with very little traffic round here that I am happy to walk/cycle along but I avoid the main A road which is simply unpleasant to be on regardless of any increased risk from other traffic.
  • Merlin139
    Merlin139 Posts: 6,853 Forumite
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    For me not as safe as they were a couple of decades ago.

    I ride my Bike into town and back which is around 4 miles there and back. I used to ride about 1 foot from the curb but now I ride about 3 feet from the curb. 

    Main reason for this is that 1 foot from the curb I kept getting punchers. Now I don't. Where a "Cycle lane" is marked it's towards the right side of that. Most people will pass safely now the law has changed. Only time I move across the road towards the centre is when I am looking to turn right. Try to move across within 10 meters of junction. Look round before hand and stick my arm out horizontally. 

    Whatever I am riding or driving, be it a Bike, Motorbike, Car or Truck I am always looking for the unexpected.

    Part of the problem is that many people are in too much of a hurry and don't concentrate enough. I have caught up with Cars at junctions when I've been on my bike and people who have come too close have admitted they did not see me! Strange as if I am on my bike I wear a High Viz jacket! 

    I have now added a camera to my Cycle helmet and attached one to my seat post. Not had anyone come too close since I attached the cameras. Hopefully I will never have to submit any footage to the police. 

    3.795 kWp Solar PV System. Capital of the Wolds

  • olgadapolga
    olgadapolga Posts: 2,273 Forumite
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    It shouldn't be a case of "cars vs bikes".

    If everyone abided by the Highway Code and showed a little restraint, patience and courtesy towards others then maybe there wouldn't be an issue.

    I say this as both a driver and keen cyclist (I cycle alone usually). I've also been hit by a drunk/drugged driver and ended up with multiple injuries (including a permanent head injury that affects me on a daily basis). I don't bear the driver any ill-will, even though it took me a long time to go back to cycling on the roads afterwards, I just hope that lessons were learned and the driver managed to get his addictions under control so that it doesn't happen again.

    I ride miles on the roads. Up to the point of the accident, I'd covered 12,000 miles in the previous two years and I've done a few thousand since. Mainly roads away from towns but some of them get quite busy.
  • MalMonroe
    MalMonroe Posts: 5,783 Forumite
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    No. I don't think it's safe at all. The main problem is that nobody has a second chance. You - or any other road user -could make one tiny mistake and it could be fatal.

    I'm a motorist and take my responsibilities on the road very seriously. If I have to wait for cyclists to do whatever they want to do, then so be it. If I have to wait for horses and riders - however long (and sometimes it's quite long as I live in the countryside) then I wait. Too many motorists seem to think that they have the right to be impatient and that they take priority over all other road users, and that just isn't the case.

    The highway code for cyclists is full of 'you shoulds' rather than 'you musts' - even helmet-wearing is optional. And even though it can be irritating for we motorists when cyclists ride two or more abreast, it's perfectly legal for them to do so. I'd rather wait than overtake. Sometimes motorists behind don't like it and decide to lean on their hooter but I won't overtake cyclists - or anyone else for that matter - if I deem it to be unsafe.

    Over my many years of driving I have realised that motorists are usually at fault, even when they aren't. I have often felt 'road rage' because of the silly things some motorists do (and get away with) but now I have to think of my blood pressure so try to be cool and not get het up since that could end badly. And it doesn't change anything.

    In a car, though, I do feel there's a modicum of safety - I'm in a cocoon of sorts - something which cyclists and motorcyclists lack. They get knocked off their cycles, they are on the ground. They bounce, they hit cars, trees, walls, you name it.

    I guess I do feel more strongly about the danger of bikes - be they push or motor - since my friend's son was killed a couple of years ago by a lorry driver who made a wrong move. My friend's son - aged 43 - didn't even see the lorry that hit him, it shouldn't have been there. The lorry driver, safe in his big vehicle, wasn't even injured. The inquest was heartbreaking, particularly as somehow, even though the motorcyclist was deemed to have done everything right, it was ruled an accident. The poor lad never had a chance, someone else made a mistake and he died as a result. Any cyclist - push or motor - would have died in that situation.

    And that is why I say a firm NO, it's not safe. Maybe on quiet country roads but certainly not in busy cities. 

    My opinion obviously but it's something I feel very strongly about. I have always thought that riding bikes of any description on our roads was a dangerous endeavour. Now I'm totally convinced.
    Please note - taken from the Forum Rules and amended for my own personal use (with thanks) : It is up to you to investigate, check, double-check and check yet again before you make any decisions or take any action based on any information you glean from any of my posts. Although I do carry out careful research before posting and never intend to mislead or supply out-of-date or incorrect information, please do not rely 100% on what you are reading. Verify everything in order to protect yourself as you are responsible for any action you consequently take.
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