Passing distances

Passing distances

Does the Highway Code’s Rule 163 on passing distances also apply to cyclists overtaking other cyclists? Riding my tandem, I was passed by a group of 20 cyclists, riding two abreast, with a clearance of virtually zero. A wobble from me would have brought the entire group down. I can only assume that the near-zero clearance was to prevent the outside riders crossing the centre of the road into passing traffic.

Phil Morris

A Rule 163 of the Highway Code states that road users should only overtake when it is safe and legal to do so. This rule is also applicable to cyclists, as indicated by Rule 67 of the Highway Code. This suggests that Rules 162-169 in relation to overtaking also apply to cyclists. In the situation you have described, it appears as if the group of cyclists failed to take into account the Highway Code and, as a result, put yourself and themselves in a potentially dangerous position.

Rule 66 states that cyclists should never ride more than two abreast. When the group of cyclists overtook you, they should therefore have completed this manoeuvre individually rather than as a group.

It should be noted that where the word ‘should’ is used in the Highway Code rather than the word ‘must’, a rule is not a legal requirement; if disobeyed, the perpetrator
is not committing an offence. However, non-compliance with rules may still be used in evidence to help establish civil or criminal liability.

As an aside, if you are involved in a collision with another cyclist, it may be difficult to pursue a claim against them for purely practical reasons. This could be because they don’t have any insurance or sufficient means to be worth suing. Members of Cycling UK can take some comfort: you have third-party insurance from your membership, which covers you against any damage or injury you may cause whilst riding your bike.

If you are involved in a collision or an incident and you believe that there may be a claim against you, ring Cycling UK’s Accident Helpline on 0844 736 8452.

Richard Gaffney

​Principal Lawyer, Slater and Gordon Lawyers

Road     Q&A     Legal

This Q&A was published in 'Cycle' the magazine for members of Cycling UK. To contact the experts, email your technical, health, legal or policy questions to editor@cyclinguk.org or write to Cycle Q&A, PO Box 313, Scarborough, YO12 6WZ

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