Road positioning is one of the most important skills a cyclist can learn and knowing where to put your bike at the right time will make your more visible and safer. There is a problem though with motorists lack of understanding of the Highway Code, let alone good cycling practice. The Highway Code doesn’t specifically mention the correct position cyclists should take but it does say,
Look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path.
This means keeping clear of the very edge of the road, especially in urban environments where you could blend into the street scene, or where the road surface is poor. Your road position then affects passing motorists although of course, when passing cyclists motorists should,
Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car
And this is well illustrated in the image below from the Highway Code itself.
So, if a cyclist is riding in the center of the lane it should have no effect on the manoeuvre taken by the motorist. Of course, this isn’t how it happens in the real world where drivers often seek to pass close to a cyclist to avoid giving way to oncoming traffic.
There are proper names for the different road positions cyclists can adopt; ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ as taught in the government’s own Bikeability scheme. An excellent summary of the positions is provided on the British Cycling website;
The primary road position is that of the general flow of traffic (ie in the centre of the lane). Riding in the primary position is sometimes called taking the lane as the cyclist takes the position normally taken by the motorist, who is thus prevented from attempting to overtake.
The secondary road position (roughly 1 metre to the left of the traffic flow and not less than 0.5 metres to the edge of the road) may be appropriate if the road is wide enough to allow safe overtaking, and the rider’s safety is not reduced by riding in this position.
The two images below summarise the positions and show how you should move into the primary position.
There are of course many considerations about which position is the most appropriate on any stretch or road at any time but the message it pretty clear; If you are traveling at the same speed as the traffic, adopting primary position will offer you the best vantage point from which to see and be seen by other road users.
Thanks to British Cycling for allowing the use of their images and text in this article.