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I'm new to using cycle paths and seem to get dirty looks for riding on the left.

When driving along my usual commute this morning I saw others riding on the right and therefore passing to the left of each other.

Surely it's the same as driving? I'm also sure that the give-way markings when crossing roads are on the left.

Edit For clarity, I am using a single off-road cycle-path as opposed to a cycle-lane.

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Round here the long bike path is marked bikes on one side, pedestrians on the other. Nearly everyone ignores that (it's busy with bikes, few pedestrians, and they tend to be led by dogs) so people ride on the left anyway -- or left-of-centre for better visibility and hazard avoidance, tucking left if someone comes the other way or to be overtaken. On the otherwise unmarked paths (just a wide path through a park, the only indication bikes can use it is a small sign at one(!) end "cyclists" tend to keep left, "people on bikes" can be anywhere, just like pedestrians. So generally, keep left. – Chris H May 8 '14 at 7:58
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Of course you keep left, overtake on the right and queue like a good British person at junctions!

However, there are no rules. In 2006 British Waterways, concerned at the popularity and over-crowding problems on tow-paths did a consultation to work out if they needed a 'keep left' policy. It was deemed that such a move would be unpopular and not adhered to (and certainly not policed). Therefore, if there is no keep left idea then overtaking on the right cannot be deemed to be against any code.

Most cyclists over the age of five seem to appreciate the 'keep left/overtake on the right' idea, however there are some scenarios where this goes out the window in deference to safety. Going over Kingston Upon Thames Bridge the cycle lane is two-way, but you would be a brave cyclist to stick to 'keep left' when joining the bridge to go south - cyclists heading north are wanting to join the main highway and are crossing past your path. Going on the right is the expected norm at that particular point and, with it, overtaking on the left...

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I'm going to stick to passing on the left and if I clatter in to anyone I can cite the Waterways example. Thanks! – mizzle Nov 18 '11 at 16:12

In almost all situations, it is easiest to apply the British road standard (keep left: A), overtaking to the right of the slower user. However the following reasons change this in situations other than two cyclists passing in opposite directions:

  • Paths that are narrow, uneven, under bridges, or overgrown cause cyclists and other users to move to centre or vary their position.
  • Pedestrians following the roadway rule of walking facing oncoming traffic (e.g. on their right)
  • Pedestrians following the 'pavement' total lack of rules. (though I always keep left there too...)
  • Cyclists following the old 'pass pedestrians on the water side' rule (intended to avoid handlebar snagging)

The assumption of other's knowledge of standard roadway rules is also affected by:

  • Increased liklihood of use by young/ old / inexperienced/ non-road users.
  • Decreased spacial awareness by leisure use joggers, cyclists etc. using music/headphones; Age- or high-volume related hearing deterioration.

Therefore, it is easy and always best practice to slow down and signal (or call out 'passing on your left/right') to avoid collisions, crashes and dirty looks. This also works even on the rare cyclepaths with lane and direction markings.

Remember, just as cyclists come off worst in a road collision because everything else is bigger, everything else on a cyclepath (pedestrians, buggies, prams, fishermen, jakeys, cats) come off worse as they are smaller. Don't become the arse you're trying to avoid on the roadway.

Happy cycling.

  • Dave E.
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In the US most "aware" cyclists treat a path as a road, more or less -- moving to the right to allow traffic (opposing or same direction) to pass, moving to the left (and call out "On your left!") when passing traffic in the same direction. (Of course, you do everything backwards in the UK)

When on a relatively narrow path, however, with light traffic, there's a tendency to "cruise" more or less in the middle of the lane, though of course being aware of traffic approaching from either direction & being prepared to move over.

When on a wide path, one rider finds himself nearer to the "wrong" side as he encounters an opposing rider similarly on the "wrong" side, it wouldn't be too unusual to pass without switching sides. It can be confusing, though, so I generally try to stay to the "proper" side to at least a little degree to remove ambiguity.

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I've checked the Highway Code, and Rule 160 seems to apply universally (I can't see anything in the Bicyclists section): "Once moving you should keep to the left, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise." I have experienced a lot of dangerous situations recently on our local mixed-use cycle path, with oncoming cyclists on the wrong side (their right) who leave it dangerously late to move out of the way. Today a male cyclist ahead of me was riding on the wrong side (his right) and the young boy behind him was weaving around. Despite repeated tings and requests of "Can you move to the left, please?" from me, the adult refused to budge until the very last minute. His bad example was putting that boy in danger.

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I don't think cycle paths are one-way in the UK unless explicitly stated (but I've never seen a direction sign). There are sometimes cycle paths on both sides of a road and I tend to choose the side with the best surface.

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Me too (or at night the furthest side from oncoming traffic to avoid being dazzled).I have amended the question for more clarity – mizzle Nov 18 '11 at 10:48

Generally speaking the genuine separated cycle paths that I use regularly (as opposed to lanes on the side of roads) are treated as if they were roads, i.e. keep left.

(Warning, contains several sweeping generalisations.) The thing to bear in mind, though, is that, cycle paths tend to have a higher proportion of cyclists who perhaps have less roadcraft than on those on the roads, so perhaps are just dawdling and ambling and being less concerned with getting from A to B as fast as possible. (The cyclists who want to get somewhere quickly are probably on the roads as in most situations that is the more direct option, cycle paths tend to be circuitous diversions.)

One common protocol one overtaking is to call forward "passing on your right" (or left) to warn, making it clear your intention. Are the dirty looks as much because you hadn't been seen as that you were on the left?

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Sorry, I must not be making my question clear. I am asking about an oncoming cyclist. Should I treat the path as a road and keep to the left? Maybe it is just that, as you say, other cyclists are not as competent and aware as I – mizzle Nov 18 '11 at 12:12
Maybe you're surrounded by river users or sailors - passing port to port! – Unsliced Nov 18 '11 at 14:35

I keep to the left, as do the majority of other cyclists that I come across on cycle paths, with no problem. However, I have also come across a few "frosty" pedestrians using the paths, coming at me from the opposite direction, sticking to their right, grumbling that I should be cycling on the right. Can't win!

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