Cycling on the road is a part of any eco-friendly lifestyle. However, maintaining safety on the road while cycling can be difficult. Even though there are a number of laws in place designed to keep both cyclists and motorists in check on the road, more than 100 cyclers are killed in the UK every year. In fact, you’re fifteen times more likely to get in an accident if you cycle on the road than if you drive in a car.

How, then, do you effectively balance a sustainable lifestyle with the need to stay safe? Drivers and cyclists can co-exist on English roadways – it’s just a matter of both sides taking greater care and paying attention to their surroundings.

cyclist on the road

Cars and bicycles - a disparity awareness

First and foremost, there is a distinction difference between the mass of a car and the mass of a bike. This, of course, means that bikes take up less room on the road than cars do, but it also means that when a bike and car come into contact with one another, the bike – and its cyclist – are going to lose.

As such, motorists go to some extremes in order to avoid injuring their less-protected road partners and can be injured as a result. Spatial awareness could help bicyclists and motorists alike better understand how to work together on the road and to avoid each other in dangerous or uncomfortable situations.

Cyclists’ safety is three-foot long

A number of international communities have proposed, in light of this size disparity, a 3-foot rule. Legislation of this kind would offer cyclists a three-meter diameter in which they could operate on the road. That is to say, motorists would not be allowed to come within three feet of a road-bound cyclist in any direction. 

In the United States, the campaign to institute a three-meter rule came from Joe Mizereck. While the United Kingdom has yet to institute legislation of this sort, it’s been proven that rules of this kind create a spatial awareness for both cyclists and motorists that can lessen the number of accidents that take place between the two parties on the road.


It’s worth noting that the proposal of a three-meter rule places neither cyclists nor motorists at fault for the number of accidents that the UK sees over the course of a calendar year. The quest for road safety isn’t about blame but rather about promoting greater safety on the UK roads.

Cyclist legalities

With that in mind, what are the different laws that cyclists already have to abide by while cycling in the UK?

The Road Traffic Act of 1991 imposed dangerous and careless driving offences onto cyclists who behaved recklessly on the road. These offences, partnered with their significant fines, were designed to encourage increased levels of cyclist safety, as the NHTSA declared that any cyclist over the age of ten had the responsibility to act as though they were another vehicle on the road. 

Cycling carelessly is now described as cycling without reasonable care or consideration for other cyclists or motorists on the road.

Cycling furiously – and any injuries caused as a result – can result in two years imprisonment along with significant fines. If no one is injured but a cyclist is still accused of furious cycling, that individual cannot be prosecuted but can be fined. 

Public parks, however, remain spaces in which anyone found violating the speed limit, be it via car or on a bike, can be prosecuted without hesitation.

a man on a bike

General safety on the road

On a less legislative note, cyclists in the UK are also required to protect themselves from motorists with the following equipment:

  • Bike lights
  • Two functioning brakes
  • A bike bell
  • A helmet
  • Arm signals to better communicate directional intent to other roadway companions

Note that neither wearing a helmet while biking nor having a bell equip to your bike are considered mandatory by the British government, but they’re both pretty good decisions if you want to keep yourself safe on the road.

The benefit of legislative knowledge

While listing the rules that cyclists have to follow on the road may seem biased, knowledge of the legislation in place designed to protect cyclists from motorists is important for both parties. For cyclists, this legislation represents the effort of the country to protect them from reckless urges. 

By understanding that weaving in and out of traffic could result in a fine as well as injury, even the most ambitious of cyclists may find themselves discouraged from undertaking the challenge.

bicycle on a street

Likewise, motorists can develop a better understanding of how cyclists have been taught to communicate their intentions to drivers in vehicles. Furthermore, motorists can approach cyclists with greater care on the road. 

In car-friendly cities where sidewalks are frequently crowded and bike lanes are easily overtaken, motorists need to be aware of the people they share the road with. Otherwise they risk contributing to the cycling-related death that the UK reports on a yearly basis.

So, you don’t have to compromise sustainability in order to drive safely on the road. However, motorists and cyclists alike need to be aware of the legislation proposed and in place that’s designed to keep both parties safer while moving from one place to another. Awareness is the first step, after all, towards a change that will keep everyone a little safer.