Cycling is a great way to enjoy some of Britain’s countryside, to get to work, and even helps you let off some steam in the process. Even as cycling becomes more and more popular, there is still an ignorance over what cyclists are allowed to do on our roads. So we have taken it on ourselves to tackle some of these popular cycling myths.
Wearing a helmet
Whether cyclists should wear a helmet is a common point of contention for many cyclists. There are those who elect to wear a helmet for safety reasons, and others who would be put off by the very idea.
The bottom line is that cyclists can decide whether or not they want to wear a helmet. The Highway Code states that cyclists should wear a helmet but makes no provision for mandatory headgear – so remains to be a recommendation to help you stay safe while cycling.
Riding on the pavement
We all know someone who thinks that cyclists should ride on the pavement, to the benefit of driver convenience.
However, not only is this dangerous for pedestrians but is prohibited by the Highway Code.
Where a cycle lane is available, cyclists should use it
“If a cycle lane exists, cyclists should use it.”
This is another common misconception. Cycle lanes exist to ease congestion and to make a cyclists journey safer. It is unlikely that a cyclists journey will be safer in the cycle lane if, for instance, there is a car parked or a road defect in the cycle lane. With this in mind, cyclists are free to cycle in the main carriageway if they wish to do so and if travelling in the cycle lane would compromise their safety.
However, depending on the behaviour of other road users and the condition of the cycle lane, the cycle lane would seem to be safer.
Single file everybody
On a weekend, you may often see a group of cyclists out for a weekend ride and it’s unlikely that they will be riding in single file.
Despite this inconvenience to other road users, cyclists are well within their right to cycle two abreast on the road and it is often safer to do so. Riding two abreast not only gives the cyclist a higher chance of being seen by drivers, but also reduces the driver’s time exposed to danger. When overtaking a group of cyclists it is less dangerous to pass by three car lengths (or three rows of two cyclists abreast) than it is to pass by six car lengths (six rows of one cyclist each).
The Highway Code encourages cyclists to ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding around bends and states that cyclists should never ride more than two abreast.
Road tax for cyclists?
Vehicle Excise Duty, or Road Tax as it is commonly referred to, is linked to vehicle emissions and aims to incentivise people to find cleaner ways of travelling. This money goes to the Treasury, where they spend it on a variety of things, such as education, welfare and the NHS. Against common belief, the money does not directly go into rebuilding and repairing our roads.
Put simply, all money collected from various forms of tax is collected by the Treasury. Provision for highway maintenance is taken from the overall Treasury income, regardless of the money’s origin. Cyclists are often motorists and so pay into the overall Treasury income in the same way as other road users.
Well what about those cyclists who aren’t also drivers? As Vehicle Excise Duty is effectively an emissions tax, the cyclist does not have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty for their bicycle quite simply because bicycles do not produce any emissions.
Insurance for cyclists?
In league with those who believe cyclists should pay road tax, are those who call for compulsory insurance.
Driving is a potentially dangerous activity and can cause substantial risk to people and property, as such, drivers must pay insurance to cover any damage they may cause and any potential claim. However, cycling is certainly not as dangerous to the public and so they do not have to pay mandatory insurance.
Furthermore, enforcement of mandatory cycle insurance would become an issue. One of the things that makes cars so insurable is that each car has an individual registration number by which to identify it. Bicycles have no such individual registration number, meaning that they could not be traced back to their owner if lost or involved in an accident. Therefore it would be difficult to enforce any mandatory insurance requirement for cyclists.
Home and contents insurance often covers bicycles which are damaged in accidents or stolen. This mean that cyclists don’t need insurance to repair their bicycle if it is damaged in an accident. So the idea that they should pay another insurance premium wouldn’t be viable. It would be the same as the owners of motor vehicles having to pay car insurance and then a separate insurance policy to cover it being a specific type of car.
If there were some way to insure bicycles, would we have to insure our children’s bikes? This too would be impractical and would only serve to put more people off cycling at such a fundamental stage in their lives.
Cyclists are more vulnerable to pollution
From the safety of a car it can be easy to think that cyclists would be more exposed to pollution, however, cyclists are at a lower risk of being exposed to air pollution. Static queues of traffic produce a stream of air pollution which is inhaled by the ventilation system of the cars behind. Whereas cyclists have the ability to use cycle lanes and integrate better with other modes of transport. There is also the added advantage that cyclists are out in the open and so the air to flow freely around them.