I often find myself in the situation that I'm riding my bike on the road, holding up several cars whom I can tell are getting impatient (there are oncoming cars so its hard to overtake safely). A lot of the time the pavement is completely empty. Would I be wrong to then switch to the pavement in order to (1) allow the cars to pass (2) reduce the risk of impatient drivers carelessly overtaking me? Where does the law stand on this? Moreover if it is allowed, does the pavement have to be completely empty?

Edit: Clarification - I'm more asking what more experienced bike riders do in this situation, rather than the exact legislation. If you've had any encounters with the police with such a situation, then that would be even more helpful.

  • I don't know if its legal or not in the UK, but in the US at least this can vary on the town level (or even parts of towns), so you might need to be more specific in your location.
    – Batman
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:34
  • @Batman England
    – mrnovice
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 16:41
  • would it be better to just stop, disembark , go on the pavement and wait until it is safer ? (if you can do it safely)
    – Max
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 17:59
  • 2
    Even if the law says something, you may have to violate it. For example, if there was a lunatic driving, I'd happily go on the pavement even if it was illegal. If a cop tickets me, I'll tell them, and if I still have the ticket, I'll pay it. But the prime directive is safety first.
    – Batman
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 18:24
  • @srank I edited the question to clarify what I'm after
    – mrnovice
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 19:13

4 Answers 4


It is illegal to ride a bicycle on pavement in UK by the law. It is covered by 1835 Highways Act and Highway Code Rule 64: "You MUST not cycle on a pavement". Penalty is £50.

But it makes common sense and cops generally put a blind eye as long as you are not doing anything dangerous. But at the end of the day it will depend on individual officer opinion.


When it happened to me and I could not ride elsewhere, I preferred first to acknowledge the waiting drivers I noticed their presence (by raising my hand, so that they don't get into the mood of " this guy is not giving a dam about me") and then taking the first chance to stop on the side and let the queue proceed. I did this even when going downhill on a mountain road and I was travelling around the speed limit of 50 km/h and had trucks and cars behind me.

In your case you can consider using the pavement strictly for the time necessary for the waiting cars to take your over.


Aside from it being illegal, when the roads are busy is the last time you want to be going up and down badly dropped curbs and crossing side roads (not always where you would like to from the point of view of visibility).

When the roads are that busy, riding wide (so cars can't squeeze past) helps a lot. Frequent shoulder checks, even if you have a mirror, are a good idea. Then when there's a big gap in the oncoming traffic you can tuck in, sit up straighter and slow down - subject to potholes of course, they're another reason to not ride too close to the curb if there are too many cars around for you to pull out round the bad bits.


There are roads I call "meat mincers" - for obvious reasons.

But when travelling, I prefer to go a few blocks either side of the congested roads, and the side streets are comparatively free of vehicles.

There are bike paths, and parks and gardens, canals, rivers, and industrial estates etc., and depending upon the time of day etc., can be virtually vacant....

This road from Footscray to Newport is completely vacant at 7am

Google Earth:

37°50'01.11" S 144°53'41.29" E

Use your brains, and GO searching for better routes, on maps, and experience etc...

Find the parallel routes and use them.

After all, you only die once.

  • The rules are not written to make you oppressed, they are a compendium of "This is what will greatly help you and others to stay alive" and "Doing this will kill, injure you and others". and Also depending upon the time of day, etc., if the road is really dangerous, it may be OK to ride on the foot path, provided you are slow enough to not alarm or frighten pedestrians, hit people stepping out of doorways, or plough into cars reversing out of or pulling into alley ways or car parks.... Gotta be sensible, slow and accomodating.
    – user10547
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 6:25

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