A CYCLIST has published a video of an encounter with the police when he and a fellow cyclist were stopped for riding two abreast. The footage has reignited the debate over the legality and safety of cycling side by side.
The video, shot from a helmet-mounted camera, shows the moment that a police traffic officer on a marked motorbike, and another officer in an unmarked BMW 3-series, stopped Paul Clayton and Peter Carini on the A452 near South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, on Saturday May 13.
After being told that by riding side by side they are causing motorists to drive without due care and attention, the cyclists argue that they have been riding within the law.
Rule 66 of the Highway Code states that cyclists “should never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends”.
In addition, rule 68 says cyclists “MUST NOT ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner”.
In the Highway Code, legal requirements are identified by the words “MUST” and “MUST NOT”. As rule 66 is not phrased this way, those who do not adhere to it are not breaking the law. However, all road users are expected to be aware of the code, and failure to follow it may be used as evidence in court to establish liability in the event of an accident.
Whether or not Clayton and Carini were in breach of rule 68 is another matter.
As if to underline what a grey area this is, the riders are eventually sent on their way by the officer, who has consulted his copy of the Highway Code throughout.
Online forums with comments on the film show how divided public opinion is.
The Bicycle Association and British Cycling have published a tutorial video for riders that addresses the “two abreast” issue.
In it the Olympic gold-medal-winning cyclist Chris Boardman suggests that it is safer for a vehicle to overtake a group of 10 cyclists riding in pairs than it is to pass 10 in single file, as the overtaking distance is shorter.
However, Boardman also points out the Highway Code gives no definition of what constitutes a busy or narrow road.