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What are the big rules for cycling in the UK?

I am from the United States (I like to call it Stati Uni for some reason) and I recently moved to England.

I like riding my bicycle on the trail but sometimes I have to ride on the road. I have seen other cyclists riding right smack dab in the middle of the lane like they are a car or on the sidewalk. What am I supposed to do? Ride in the lane, on the side of the lane, or on the sidewalk?

Also, someone told me that it is the law that you have to wear a helmet and a bright neon reflective jacket when cycling, and have an electric light on the back of the bicycle. Is this true? If so, is it a law? What is the penalty?

Help would be much appreciated. I am not good at choosing the “best answer” on this site so I’ll just pick the first good one I see. Thank you!

OK, just to clarify. In the US, the pavement is what UK refer to as the road, while we call the sidewalk the pavement.

First off, the general name for a cyclist who rides in the middle of the lane, although s/he is legally entitled to do so, is “Roadkill”. However, it is normal practice to ride on the far left of the road, next to the pavement, but clear (Where possible) of the drains.

It is not the law to wear a lid and hi vis jacket. If you are doing a lot of miles/speed the jacket will get too hot. You are better off with reflective strips. Look at cycle specific clothing. Also, you are definately advised to wear a lid. Again, not legislation, but advisable.

Night riding. Lights are law, both front and back, just the same as for any other road user. Failure to use them can result in a small fine, a sound telling off from your local boby, or the need for a roadsweeper and a doggie bag to take care of your remains. (Cat eye do a reasonable LED rear for about £12. A good starter hallogen system (Good for road and XC at night) would be the Electron NiMh 5W and 10W halogen duel system. Not a bad light set and goes for around £40 from Chainreaction. Also, the Cateye Tripple shot EL700 is going for about £100 at the moment. A good 20W LED with a 3 hr burn time.

As for off road. In the UK, you are allowed on any road except for a motorway. Sometimes the local council will provide cycle lanes. You are also allowed on byways, bridalways and towpaths. You are not allowed on the pavement. For further details on cycle routes try:


Failing that, buy a local ordenance survey map for your area. Bridalways etc. will be clearly marked.

Hope this helps.


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