Following the highway code while urban cycling

The Highway Code is not a statement of the law, but a combination of both advice and mandatory rules which apply to road users in the UK. The intention of the Highway Code is to establish a set of rules that keep all road users and pedestrians safe. The full list is available to read here: 

This guide will discuss just a few of the key rules and recommendations that are often enforced by the Police issuing a FPN (Fixed Penalty Notice). An FPN is issued as a fine that must be paid to avoid any further action.

In the Highway Code a rule is expressed using a ‘must’ or ‘must not’ do, these rules are a legal requirement imposed by legislation, breach of which is a criminal offence. Advice is expressed using ‘should / should not’, or ‘do / do not’. Advice doesn’t reflect any legal requirement.

Rules for Cycling at Night

One rule that is not followed to the letter, but upheld in spirit is Rule 60:

At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.”

Having the correct lights on a bike for road based night time cycling is an essential safety precaution and as it states MUST be fitted and working for safety. Cycling at night without adequate lighting on a bicycle can result in a FPN. All bikes in the UK are sold with the legal requirement of reflectors, however they are almost always removed soon after the sale. Most urban cyclists wear cycling specific shoes and high visibility clothing to ensure they are seen, and as such the increased visibility of reflective strips on the shoes and clothing complies with the spirit of the law, if not the letter of it.

Rules for Cycling on the Pavement

Rule 64 states:

You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement

Whilst this is rarely enforced, unless you are deemed to be a danger to others, it can be enforced with a FPN. It is important to note that this also includes areas marked as pedestrian on unsegregated (shared cycling and pedestrian) routes. Pedestrians are not required to keep to their marked lane.

Rules for Cycling Through Traffic Lights

It is a common misconception that cyclists are not required to stop at traffic lights. Rule 71 of the Highway Code states:

“You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic.”

Once again breach of this rule can result in a FPN being issued. Cycling can be a perfectly safe and enjoyable mode of transport, observing the rules and a little thought can be all it takes. Cyclists must understand the limitations of the vehicles they share the road with, the blind spots of cars, vans and HGVs for example.

City Cycling Guides:

Read our other guides for cyclists who commonly journey through cities:

What clothing should I wear while cycling in the city?

What are the Types of Cycling Routes Found on UK Highways?

How Can I Keep My Bike Safe in the City?

The Growth of Cycling in UK Cities