Driving around cyclists

How cars and bikes should share the road

Whether you're a driver or a cyclist, it’s in the best interests of all road users for cars and bikes to get along.

The 2018 National Travel Survey found that:

  • 30% of people who hold a driving licence also cycle.
  • 85% of people aged 18+ who cycle also hold a driving licence.

Cycling can be the most convenient (and cheapest) way to get around but there’s long been friction between drivers and cyclists.

These tips should help things go a little more smoothly - and safely - for all.

Sharing the roads cycling

Advice for drivers

If you’re not one of the 31% of drivers who’s also a cyclist, think about riding a bicycle for some of your own journeys. It’ll help you understand the risks they face.

If you keep up to date with the Highway Code and follow its advice, you’ll be a safe driver around cyclists. 

How to drive around cyclists

Here’s some general advice for driving around cyclists:

  • Always drive carefully around them and give them lots of space. 
  • Allow cyclists extra room in wet weather as surfaces will be wet and slippery.
  • At night, dip your headlights for cyclists as you would for any other road user.
  • Make sure you can stop your car well within the distance you can see is clear. On country roads, you never know when there’ll be a cyclist (or horse rider or pedestrian) around the corner.
  • If you're not sure what a cyclist’s intention is, hold back. It’s safer than assuming wrongly.

Avoid committing a traffic offence
  • It’s a road traffic offence if you drive or park in a cycle lane marked with a solid white line.

How to overtake cyclists

Overtaking someone on a bicycle is often nerve-wracking for both cyclists and drivers. Go slow, allow them plenty of space and follow this advice:

  • Bikes may have to move out to avoid drains, potholes or debris on the road, so give them as much room as possible.
  • The Highway Code Rule 163 says to give cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would give overtaking a car.
  • Don't overtake a cyclist if you can see that the road ahead narrows – you could end up squeezing them off the road.
  • Highway Code rule 129 allows you to overtake a cyclist even if there’s a solid white line in the middle of the road, as long as they’re travelling at 10mph (16km/h) or less.
  • Cyclists often travel in groups or side-by-side. This makes it easier to spot them, and easier to overtake than if a group's strung out over a longer distance. Only overtake when it’s safe to do so and allow as much room as possible.

How to act around a cyclist at a junction

There are a few simple things you can do to keep cyclists safe at junctions:

  • Cyclists might be going faster than you think (could be over 20mph) so judge their speed carefully before pulling out in front of them at a junction.
  • Watch out for them on roundabouts – you still need to give way to cyclists approaching from the right.
  • If a cyclist's turning right, wait behind them in the same way as you would for a car, rather than squeezing past or getting impatient.
  • Don't drive into the 'advanced stop area' for cyclists at lights.
  • Expect cyclists in unexpected places – always check your mirrors before turning.

What to do when turning left by a cyclist

Sadly, cyclists are killed on the roads every year by vehicles turning left. 

A government report looked into how many cyclists were killed or seriously injured at t-junctions or staggered junctions between 2011-16. It found that 3,462 casualties were because the cyclist rode ahead while the other vehicle involved turned left or right.

Here’s how you can make sure you keep cyclists in mind:

  • Watch out for cyclists coming up on your nearside when turning left or moving over to the left.
  • Check your mirrors and blind spots carefully.
  • When turning left, allow any cyclist ahead of you to pass the junction.
  • Don’t overtake cyclists and then turn sharply across their front wheel.

Take care when parking

It’s not just when you’re driving that you should be mindful of cyclists. You can keep them and yourself safe when you park too.

  • When you park, check your door mirror and look behind you before opening the door to make sure you don't hit a cyclist. A technique called the Dutch Reach can help with this.
  • Don't park in cycle lanes – you could force a cyclist into a dangerous situation. Plus it’s a traffic offence to park in a cycle lane with a solid white line.

car driving alongside bike

Advice for cyclists

When bikes and cars share the road, both can help to keep the other safe and avoid a collision.

How to cycle on the road

The Highway Code has lots of advice which is good to keep up to date with. Here are some tips:

  • Pay attention to what’s going on around you and what other road users might do.
  • Ride assertively, away from the gutter. 
  • Wear bright clothing in the day and reflective clothing or accessories at night.
  • Use lights after dark - white at the front and red at the rear. You can be fined £50 if you don't have them.
  • Don’t use a mobile phone or earphones - it’ll distract you and you won’t hear the traffic around you.
  • Consider wearing a helmet.

How to cycle at junctions

At junctions, it’s best to make sure other road users can see you and that your intentions are clear.

  • Wait in front of other vehicles at traffic lights.
  • Use the advanced stop line for cyclists if there is one.
  • Don't ride through red traffic lights. You may be fined.
  • Use appropriate hand signals when making a left or right turn.

Some junctions have an advanced stop line for cyclists, which looks like a box marked with a bicycle icon just behind the traffic lights.

This helps cyclists to wait ahead of the other traffic so they can be seen clearly and can move off before other vehicles.

But if a junction doesn’t have this, cyclists might be tempted to go past the white line to get ahead of traffic. This could land you a Fixed Penalty Notice fine of between £50-£100, which could increase to £1,000 if your case is taken to court.

How to cycle around cars

Cars should be careful around bikes, as bicycles are more vulnerable. But there’s plenty that cyclists can do to be more aware of cars on the road too.

  • Be aware of the driver's blind spot when passing lorries and buses.
  • If you’re not sure an HGV can see you, it's often safer to hang back.
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers so that you know they’ve seen you.
  • Ride in a straight line past parked cars, rather than dodge between them.
  • Allow at least a full door's width in case the doors are suddenly opened.
  • If the road’s too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it’s better to ride in the middle of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking.

Published: 2 February 2017 | Updated: 17 February 2020 | Author: The AA