Road Positioning: The Ultimate Guide

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When you’re riding a bike on roads, especially in busy city centres with lots of traffic and other obstacles, road positioning is a vital part of staying safe and only requires a bit of common sense. There are different situations you’ll encounter while cycling on roads, and each one will need you to be in slightly different states of mind. So let’s have a look at some of the positions that will be essential to any road cyclist.

Primary and Secondary Riding Positions:

The primary position is the cyclist’s term for the middle of the lane. It should be noted that when there is more than 1 lane of traffic heading in the same direction, the primary position refers to the leftmost lane of the road.

The secondary position is the cyclist’s term for riding about a metre to the left of moving traffic. However, you shouldn’t really ride too close to the edge of the road in case of emergency, and you’ll be riding through all the debris such as glass and stones that end up there. A good guide would be to stay roughly half a metre away from the edge of the road when riding in the secondary position.

As the name states, the primary position is the one that you as a cyclist should take up most of the time, as it allows you the most time to react and gives you a higher visibility of the surrounding traffic. It’s probably most useful when at road junctions, in narrow lanes where riding on the left might tempt cars to rashly go past you, and in busy traffic.

However, the secondary position is also useful when you don’t want to be in the middle of the action, as it allows cars behind you to see what’s happening ahead and so overtake you safely.

Both of these cycling road positions are approved by The Department For Transport and The Cyclist’s Touring Club and are widely recognised as the best places to cycle on roads, as they will get you through the vast majority of riding situations you are likely to come across.

Is Cycling on Pavements/Footpaths Illegal?

If you’re a veteran road cyclist, then you’ll almost certainly know that cycling on pavements is illegal, although if you’ve just moved from a more rural setting or are a beginner, it’s helpful to know that cycling on pavements or anywhere where the pedestrian has right of way, such as footpaths, is definitely illegal.

However, in some places, councils have split up the pavement into sections for cyclists as well as pedestrians, and it’s pretty clear in the instances where this has happened, so if the roads happen to be particularly busy, there are normally alternative routes.

Signalling to Make a Right Turn:

While making a left turn on roads is pretty straightforward, as long as you remember to indicate, turning right can be a bit more of a challenge as you have to negotiate an extra lane of traffic.

Advance planning here is important: at about 80 metres before your turn, you should start looking for gaps in the traffic and filter into the centre of the lane at about 50 metres.After this start moving towards the centre line separating the oncoming traffic, although keep a distance of at least 1m from this line, and always be in a position to move swiftly in case of the oncoming traffic getting too close. When you reach your exit, signal with your right arm and wait for a suitable gap before turning.

If you’re turning right with other traffic, position yourself a little bit to the left of the centre lane, unless there is a specific right-turn lane, in which case you should take up the primary position there. Once you’ve turned, assume either the primary or secondary position, dependent on which one is more appropriate.

Can More Than 1 Cyclist Ride Abreast?

It is actually legal for 2 cyclists to ride abreast – side by side – on the road, as long as the road is not narrowing or when you’re approaching a bend. When cycling in a large group, riding in groups of 2 is legal and is more sociable than riding alone!

So there we have the main situations you’ll encounter while cycling, and the road positions that you should take up. It’s not that bad: there’s only really 2 positions you’ll need for 95% of the time, so keeping safe shouldn’t be too hard as long as you follow them.

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