Your Ultimate Guide to Cycling Commuter Etiquette

The number of cyclists  in major cities continues to grow.– In London, cycling journeys grew by 5% in 2018. Nowadays, there’s a good chance you’ll be riding alongside a huge number of cyclists, particularly during rush hour. Therefore, it’s imperative to practise good cycling etiquette.

More cyclists on the road means more potential for things to go wrong. In fact, driver/rider error accounts for 71% of reported accidents in the UK. However, this can be eradicated by being diligent and communicating clearly.

From overtaking safely to knowing whether you can draft, here are the unspoken rules of cycling etiquette that cyclists should abide by.

Overtake safely

Remember to look – signal – manoeuvre. When overtaking, give the other cyclist plenty of room so you won’t collide if they swerve suddenly.

Make sure you pass on the right and let the other cyclist know you are passing, ahead of time. Once you’ve overtaken them, don’t veer in front too quickly as you might clip their front wheel.

You shouldn’t undertake, but you need to be wary of undertaking as some cyclists don’t know or follow the rules of the road. This is especially important when turning left.

Let people pass you

If someone wants to get past you, let them – you’re not in a race. If another cyclist approaches from behind, move to one side and let them pass (so long as it’s safe). Making it difficult for someone to get past you will likely cause an accident.

Give them plenty of space, too. Rule 163 of the Highway Code states that you should give cyclists at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.

Use appropriate hand signals

Hand signals are essential to communicate on busy rush hour roads. Other cyclists and road users need to know what you’re doing and where you’re planning to move.

Remember… look – signal – manoeuvre. If you’re turning right and forget to signal, you could cause a collision if someone tries to overtake you. 

To get clued up on cycling hand signals, check out this useful guide. Not all cyclists will be familiar with these, so remain cautious and don’t take it for granted that other cyclists have understood you.

Stick to the cycle lane

Even though it’s not compulsory, it’s a good idea to use cycle lanes where possible. It’s illegal to cycle on the pavement and cycle lanes are much safer than the roads. If you do need to leave the cycle lane, make sure the coast is clear and signal before moving into the road.

 Again, the Highway Code is your friend if you’re unsure about the rules of the road.

Make yourself visible

Drivers and pedestrians need to be able to see you on the road. In rural areas, the combination of sharp bends and unlit roads can make cyclists practically invisible to other road users.

Wear luminous clothing in the dark, like a high-vis jacket or helmet. Make sure your bike has lights on the front and back too, so you can be seen from all angles.

Check out our article for more information on how to stay safe whilst cycling in the dark.

Use your bell

Even though there’s no legal requirement to have a bell on a bike, it’s a good idea. If you’re coming up behind someone or a person steps into the road, it’s a great way to let them know you’re there. They’ll be more likely to get out of the way and you’ll avoid a collision.

If your bike doesn’t have a bell but you’re thinking about getting one, these are the best bike bells in 2020.


It’s common to listen to music whilst riding your bike. However, this restricts our hearing –  a major sense used to alert us to potential danger.

To stay safe on the road, leave your headphones in your bag and listen out for cars, other cyclists and pedestrians, especially at peak hours. If you have your headphones in and a motorist beeps their horn to alert you to something, you might not hear it.

Be aware of drafting

If you’re not already aware, drafting is when a cyclist rides closely behind another cyclist so they can pedal more easily and use less energy.

Drafting is a much-debated topic among cyclists. Some feel it’s unacceptable and rude, others feel it’s okay in some circumstances.

Cyclists on Bike Forum and Bike Radar have a lot to say about it, but most people agree it’s acceptable if done with good manners. If you’ve discussed it, agreed to take turns or even asked if it’s okay, then it’s likely acceptable.

Park your bike up properly

Sadly, the UK doesn’t yet have plans to replicate the world’s biggest multi-storey bike park in the Netherlands.

Nevertheless, you should still park your bike in a bike rack or another secure place. Make sure it stands upright against whatever you lock it to. Pedestrians and cyclists won’t appreciate it lying on the pavement – and it may end up damaged.

Embrace the cycling community

As a cyclist, you’re part of a community. That’s why you should look out for each other on the road. If you can warn cyclists of a danger or help them out on their bike, do so.

Follow the rules

Everyone needs to take the unspoken cycling rules on board for them to work. Vicki Scheele, a daily South London commuter, explains:

“Some cyclists think the rules of the road don’t apply to them. If we all do the right thing, ride sensibly, don’t cut anyone up, or be where we shouldn’t, then all road users will get along just fine and generally quicker, too. It’s too easy for cyclists to just nip into a space or hop on the pavement without thinking.”

In the UK, we’re lucky to have cyclists who follow these rules of etiquette to a tee. That’s why we have among the lowest number of cycling fatalities per million inhabitants in Europe. Because our cyclists are sensible, courteous and most importantly – aware.

Specialist cycling insurance from Ripe Cycling

The final thing you can do to protect yourself whilst cycling to work is take out insurance.

Ripe Cycling provides specialist cycling insurance which protects you, your bike and your cycling equipment. With our Public Liability insurance, you’ll also be protected from legal fees if you damage someone else’s property or injure someone whilst on your bike.

Get an instant online quote and see what we can do for you.


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