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This is a tricky one and a problem I suspect others encounter, but I can't find a definitive answer so...

On my cycle (in the UK), I have a few streets which are narrow with parked cars on the left (near)side of the street I'm travelling through.

Of course I'm going to have to pass into the oncoming lane to get past them as I need to keep a door's width from the parked cars. And to be clear, I only begin the manoeuvre when there's no traffic in the right lane; so no issues here.

HOWEVER: half the time I'll not make it to the end of the line of cars parked on my left before cars in the oncoming lane round a blind corner and ram their way up the lane honking at me (see video grab pic below) despite the fact that I'm committed and halfway down the 2-way road.

I've researched this and although I can find various writings on the 'net which say that if I'm committed, the approaching motorist should yield to me, NONE point to any legal authority for such a view. And I've poured through the Highway Code and I can't find anything that supports this assertion.

Are road users travelling in the right (oncoming) lane obliged (or "should") yield to a cyclist who was already committed to passing parked vehicles in their own lane?

Is this an urban myth or is there support for this somewhere I'm unaware of?!?!?!

Passing Parked Cars on left

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    Do remember that whether they "should" or are "legally bound" to yield, if an oncoming driver fails to yield, you lose. Knowing you were legally right is of small consolation to your heirs. Also, in the pic provided, you could duck to the left in front of the orange VW if necessary.
    – FreeMan
    Jun 6 at 19:01
  • Provided you're willing to take the risk with the potential of opening doors, there's loads of space on that stretch of road. We have a couple like that here where we pass two cars no problem. My usual stance for this is maximum speed, maximum commitment which generally forces others to yeild to you. Try going faster.
    – Noise
    Jun 6 at 19:11
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    @FreeMan It's not a question of being "right", but rather clearing-up a longstanding confusion. We have some saying the motorists should yield if the person passing the parked cars is committed, but clearly from the reactions of some of the motorists, they think otherwise. And that's the whole point of the Highway Code: to have an agreed standard which makes road users' actions predictable to other road users. So I think they should yield to me, and they think the inverse. This is a really bad situation for a cyclist and the reason for wanting a better understanding.
    – F1Linux
    Jun 6 at 21:11
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    This is a uniquely UK road and many of our users won't have seen one like it outside of Television. Please clarify, is it legally two way or is this a one-way road ? Which painted line is the center line? What do two cars do if they meet face-to-face on this road ?
    – Criggie
    Jun 6 at 21:24
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    @Criggie the cars coming up the hill have priority but if there is space to pass two opposing cars that is generally acceptable. Typically there is a local knowledge of “the done thing” while visitors tend to approach such areas more cautiously and yield sooner. This particular case narrows towards the far end with possibly a junction, so is even more interesting
    – Noise
    Jun 6 at 21:58

4 Answers 4

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Intro:

This question is NOT about "Who is on the wrong side of the road" but rather about who possesses right of way where a cyclist temporarily uses the opposing lane to pass an obstruction- parked cars- in their own lane due to lack of space. It's a question really about yielding right-of-way.

I wrote this answer as I saw incorrect information in an earlier one which lead me to further research the law. Indeed, the thrust of this post was to address information I saw stating as FACT that motorists were compelled by law to yield to a cyclist who was "committed" to passing parked vehicles in their lane.

WRONG Information:

  • It IS incorrect to say the cyclist- me in this case- has "no rights at all" being in the right lane in respect to motorists who appear suddenly from the mini-roundabout at the bottom of this steep hill. The Highway Code is clear an absolute, unqualified duty of care manifests to all motorists in respect to vulnerable road users.

  • It's further incorrect to say that double yellow lines mean "no stopping". How many times has one stopped at a red traffic signal and seen double yellows out of their vehicle window? Nearly every road in the UK is so marked and would place drivers in violation of the Highway Code were this true. Even were it true, in the case of a pedestrian stepping in front of your vehicle you wouldn't stop because of the presence of double yellows? Of course not. Therefore this logic- and the law- do not allow for or demand that a motorist proceed to strike a pedestrian or vulnerable road user because there's a double yellow line present.

  • Finally speaking to the question itself about motorists being required by law to yield to a cyclist travelling in the opposite lane to pass an obstruction in their own lane is absolutely false; no such DIRECT support exists in the Highway Code and it is an urban legend now frequently repeated and amplified on driving instruction websites and now amplified by at least one newspaper. However, there is INDIRECT support.

Short Answer:

I'm not a solicitor, but I AM a UK cyclist and former Transit Police Officer (NYPD, not the UK Police) and here is my interpretation of the UK traffic law's protections for cyclists in such an encounter with a road user:

Although there is no DIRECT support in the Highway Code requiring a motorist to yield to a cyclist "committed" to passing parked cars in their own lane while travelling in the opposite lane, there IS actually INDIRECT support for it by virtue of rules which imposes a duty of car on motorists in respect to vulnerable road users. That's to say if they continued to proceed and to do so would endanger the cyclist, they'd be wrong. A motorist is never within their legal rights to drive into a cyclist or otherwise jeopardise their safety under any circumstances; the Highway Code is clear on this point; Rule 204 imposes an absolute duty without qualification on motorists to reduce the danger or threat they pose to vulnerable road users.

So a motorist ramming through despite seeing me thus forcing me near the parked cars- any one of which could pull away from the curb or fling a door open has INCREASED the danger to me in contravention of Rule 204- and that is not the only Rule which protects me as a cyclist. For granular detail, please read the "Longer Answer". Not to say I shouldn't rejoin my lane if space permits, but if it doesn't, the motorist can't just charge forward at me if to do so would jeopardise my safety or otherwise increase danger to me as a vulnerable road user.

And this is not a theoretical argument: a driver can be in their own lane and nonetheless be charged with "undue care and attention" for endangering the life of a cyclist.

Longer Answer:

The Highway Code guides/directs the following:

Driving in built-up areas

Rule 152

Residential streets. You should drive slowly and carefully on streets where there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars. In some areas a 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum speed limit may be in force. Look out for

  • cyclists and motorcyclists

The picture clearly shows this is a built up residential area with both cars and cyclists, so Rule 152 is operative and the motorist is obliged to drive carefully where there are parked cars and cyclists. Ramming their car through forcing the cyclist into obstacles is clearly in defiance of this General rule.

Rule 147

Be considerate. Be careful of and considerate towards all types of road users, especially those requiring extra care

  • slow down and hold back if a road user pulls out into your path at a junction. Allow them to get clear. Do not over-react by driving too close behind to intimidate them.

This is another non-cyclist specific General rule. It's true that I'm approaching a mini roundabout in the middle of a T-junction. I have indeed pulled out in the opposite lane, although the next sentence gives an example where this happens if the vehicle is in the SAME lane trailing the road user who's pulled out into their path. But the rule does not expressly qualify the road user pulling out into the path of another road user must be travelling in the same direction.

Rule 147 makes express reference to "road users, especially those requiring extra care" which are covered by Rules 204-225. Let's next look at what those Rules say about determining the rights- and responsibilities- of the cyclist in such a situation as this:

Road users requiring extra care (204 to 225)
Rules for road users requiring extra care, including pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists, other road users and other vehicles.

Rule 204

The road users most at risk from road traffic are pedestrians, in particular children, older adults and disabled people, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. It is particularly important to be aware of children, older adults and disabled people, and learner and inexperienced drivers and riders. In any interaction between road users, those who can cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they pose to others.

Here is a cyclist-specific rule that imposes an absolute, unqualified duty of care on the motorist in respect to reducing the danger they pose to vulnerable road users by the use of the words "In any interaction".

Thus, a motorist ramming their car through, forcing me into parked cars- again, any one of which could pull away from the curb or fling a door open- while honking their horn expressing their annoyance at me is in clear violation of Rule 204. This is clearly NOT reducing danger to me, it's INCREASING it.

But that is not the only evidence that protects cyclists in an encounter such as this:

Rule 213

Motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

Indeed, I am avoiding an "obstacle" in my own lane, albeit they're parked cars. Were the car a big icy patch, I'd be forced to divert around it placing me in the same situation.

The rule directs the non-vulnerable road user to "Give them [the cyclist in this case] plenty of room". So again, the motorist is NOT within their "rights" to just ram-through forcing me into the parked cars: ramming through is not giving me the cyclist "plenty of room" and the motorist could never believe their actions doing so were in compliance with Rule 213.

Although many will immediately think: the Highway Code specifies 1.5 meters clearance between the motorist and the cyclist! This is Rule 163 and since I am NOT "overtaking", but rather avoiding obstacles in my own lane, this rule related to overtaking would not appear relevant to the facts and circumstances of this particular situation.

Conclusion:

It would appear from the the reading- both collectively and individually- the foregoing cited Highway Code rules that although there is no express DIRECT legal compulsion for motorists to yield to a cyclist who has begun to pass obstacles in a clear right lane who then appears in the lane, if they would increase the danger to the cyclist by proceeding they would be required to stop or otherwise make active efforts to avoid the cyclist.

I'm trying as closely as possible to apply the law to the specifics of this common, but very grey and disputed area between motorists & cyclists. I'm NOT attempting to twist the laws to make myself "right", but merely attempting to clarify the responsibilities of the road users in what is probably a very common situation here in the UK. As you can see, cyclists DO have protections, but these are not express but implied by a collection of Highway Code Rules.

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    Just a footnote: some of the wording quoted above is new this year, from the latest version of the highway code. Hardly any drivers will have seen it
    – Chris H
    Jun 7 at 12:42
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I'm not from the UK but as a road user, my take would be:

Who is on the wrong side of the road?

  • In the UK, vehicles travel on the left side of the road.
  • Vehicles heading toward the camera are on their side of the center line.
  • Cars/trucks heading away from camera cannot fit on the left of the center line, therefore have crossed it.
    Going-away-cars are on the wrong-side of the road and have no priority in the heirachy of give-way rules.
  • Bicycles appear to fit on the left of the centerline and therefore have NOT crossed to the wrong side. So there is no need to apply right-of-way UNLESS the bike is on the wrong side of the road.

ANSWER If you've crossed the centerline you have no rights at all. If you're on the left of the centerline, there is no issue with right-of-way.

Also, the double-yellow line on the right means "no stopping" so the approaching car cannot stop here.

Do note that this would put you in the dooring zone. That's not at all ideal, so personally I'd aim for just-left of the centerline.

Ultimately this road is hampered by the common UK issue, lack of off-road parking and small houses/sections that cannot accommodate off-road parking, exacerbated by narrow roadways.

My fix would be to block off the midpoint of the road making two cul-de-sacs with no through vehicle access. If this is a busy through road, then remove the on-street carparking. Local residents would likely object to either solution.

For you, in the right now? I'd suggest avoiding that road unless you live on it.

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    The double yellow is no parking not no stopping. Even the less common double red, which does mean no stopping, doesn't mean you can't stop for traffic flow, just that you can't unload etc. Avoiding such roads on many commutes is essentially impossible - all parallel routes end up the same or the wider ones are full of traffic that will try to get past then stop in front of you. That said, you're broadly right.
    – Chris H
    Jun 7 at 5:34
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Roads like that are very common. In practice all you can do is ride in the door zone when there's traffic.

Unless the road was very quiet, I wouldn't wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic, but would just stay on my own side of the line. I'd slow down and be very alert to signs of people moving at cars. While you can't see into them very well, you'll know if one has just arrived because it will be obvious while parking, and you'll see someone about to get in. In fact I reckon the bigger hazard is someone starting to pull out of a parking space, but they're unlikely to do that suddenly with oncoming traffic.

For bigger oncoming vehicles (e.g. delivery vans) it might be necessary to tuck right in to the parked cars and stop, not next to a wing mirror. Be careful getting going again, but expect to move off while there's traffic.

If quiet, or it's even narrower such that there's no room for oncoming traffic to pass safely, I'd take the whole road, but be prepared to tuck in for a very slow pass (personally I tuck in late on narrow stuff, only after they've slowed down properly, but aware of my escape route if they don't). This also means that cars coming up behind can't just zoom past ignoring you in the door zone.

Conflicts between who should give way are common in the highway code, especially if there's a hill. The resolution generally involves good will and low speed. Avoiding the door zone is clearly best practice for your own safety, and it is advised in the code's section for cyclists, but advice is all it really is. So you'd be unwise to rely on drivers even knowing about it let alone respecting it.

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    While I say "I" for convenience, most experienced commuters in Bristol, Newport, and Cardiff would do something similar. I don't tend to ride in other towns and cities on working days but it's the same there at weekends
    – Chris H
    Jun 7 at 5:56
  • Concur - in town isn't the best place for a sprint.
    – Criggie
    Jun 7 at 11:57
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Nothing can be done, you need to find a suitable place where you could stop next to the parked cars and allow the front traffic to pass.

The usual care is to watch for the white "driving backwards" light and the turning signal on the car and stop so that you would not obstruct opening the door.

You may need also to do so to pass the cars traveling the same direction as you. Or, if not, take right the middle of the lane, otherwise they will try to pass over.

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    A sensible course of action to be sure, however, this hill has a blind juncture at the very bottom where the cyclist will have little or no warning the closer they get to the end of the road. So I slow down to a crawl the nearer I get to the end. My original question really related to the stuff I was seeing on the 'net which said if a cyclist was "committed" then motorists were compelled to stop. What I discovered is there was no such support in the Highway code for this assertion, only that a motorist was obliged to operate with care in respect to vulnerable road users.
    – F1Linux
    Jun 9 at 10:44

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