Cycling surged during the coronavirus lockdowns as people took to pedalling on roads for their daily exercise.

Online orders for bikes from Brompton, the UK’s largest bike manufacturer, increased fivefold in the first few months of the pandemic, while the number of people cycling and the total miles cycled increased well over 100%.

But the avalanche of cyclists on roads raises new problems for cyclists and drivers alike, many of whom are new to sharing sometimes deadly environments.

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Potential changes to the Highway Code would see pedestrians and cyclists given new protections and priority over motorists on UK roads as part of a £338 million Department for Transport package to boost cycling and walking.

To keep cyclists safe on roads, the AA issued a warning to drivers, detailing how motor vehicles can and should share roads with bikes.

Similarities

Cyclists must follow many of the same rules as other road users, such as stopping at red lights.

Other road users, like drivers of cars and lorries, should also treat cyclists the same as other vehicles in many ways.

Cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders should be given at least as much room as you'd give when overtaking a car, according to the Highway Code.

You also have to give way to cyclists approaching from the right on a roundabout, just as you would other vehicles.

If a cyclist is turning right, hold back instead of trying to push past, just as you would for other vehicles.

You should also keep them and you safe by dipping your headlights for cyclists at night.

A cycle lane with a solid white line, bounded on the left by a pavement with a tree and double yellow lines, with a paved road on the right
Driving or parking in one of these cycle lanes could land you with a hefty fine

But there are also many difference between how you, as the driver of a motor vehicle, should act around cyclists.

For example, the Highway Code allows you to overtake a cyclist even where there's a solid white line in the middle of the road, but only as long as the cyclist is travelling at 10 miles per hour or less.

Here are some other differences in how you should treat cyclists to keep everyone safe:

Space

One of the most important parts of sharing roads with cyclists is giving them enough space to manoeuvre safely.

Much like buses, cyclists have their own designated spaces on many roads in the country. Respect that space.

You face an automatic £70 fine if you drive or park in cycle lanes marked with a solid white line.

Cyclists are much more vulnerable to fatality in a road traffic collision than a driver sat in the relative safety of a car, held in place by a seatbelt and cushioned by an air bag.

People on bikes are also affected more by the condition of roads.

While a pothole could cause your car to bump, a sharp dent in the road's surface could send a cyclist flying through the air.

They may have to avoid drains, potholes or debris that you can't see on the road, and you may have to react quickly to their movements.

Cycle pathway on Regent Road into the city. Photo by Colin Lane
A rise in people cycling has prompted increased demand for safer cycling lanes

Give yourself plenty of space to react in time, which will give cyclists room to cycle without the fear of a car sending them off balance.

Allow extra space in wet weather when road surfaces are wet and slippery.

This is all the more important when you're overtaking a cyclist on roads.

Here are some tips for overtaking cyclists (and horses) safely:

Speed

As cliché as it is, always expect the unexpected, and drive slow enough to respond to the unknown.

You never know when a cyclist, horse, pedestrian or other driver will appear around the corner, particularly on winding country lanes.

When driving around corners, make sure you're travelling at a speed slow enough to stop well within the distance you can see is clear.

Keeping your speed in check means you won't be caught off guard without time to respond.

You'll be able to react safely, without breaking hard or swerving sharp.

Speed is particularly important at junctions, where the intentions of cyclists, horse riders and other drivers may not be clear.

Cycle Lane on West Derby Road
Cycle Lane on West Derby Road

Junctions

Junctions can be treacherous to navigate.

Almost half the over 20,000 cyclists killed or seriously injured in Great Britain between 2011 and 2016 were involved in collisions at, or within 20 metres of, a junction, according to a government report.

As well as your own speed, keep an eye on the speed of others. Cyclists may be travelling faster than you think.

Be careful not underestimate their speed and pull out into them when approaching a junction.

Always check your mirrors and blind spots carefully before you turn

Watch out for them approaching on your nearside when turning left or right.

You don't want to turn into the path of a bike, forcing them to swerve off the road to avoid a collision with your car.

Just under half of 'pedal cyclist killed or seriously injured (KSI)' casualties that occurred at t-junctions or staggered junctions between 2011 and 2016 happened because the cyclist went straight while the motor vehicle involved turned left or right.

At junctions with traffic lights, make sure you stop at the first white line when a bike box, or advanced stop lines (ASL), is on the road.

Stopping in a bike box when you pull up to red lights could land you three penalty points and a £100 fine.

The only exception is if the lights suddenly change and it is safer for you to stop in the bike box than keep going through the junction.

Parking

You can also commit a traffic offence and put other road users at risk when your motor vehicle is stationary.

Try not to whack cyclists with your car door when leaving the vehicle.

Instead, turn and reach for the door with your arm furthest away from it, looking back towards oncoming traffic to see if your way is clear to exit the vehicle.

Parking in mandatory cycle lanes could put cyclists in a dangerous situation by forcing them into the stream of fast-moving traffic.

Violating the sanctity of a cycle lane may also land parkers of motor vehicles with the same £70 fine as when they drive in cycle lanes.