Cycling rules in the UK

Even though cycling in the UK is not as common as in other countries, both municipalities and NGOs are increasingly implementing urban mobility initiatives that favour biking for short-distance travels. As things are moving forward in this sense, it’s important to ensure everybody stays safe on the streets.

We can’t take responsibility for you not knowing or respecting national cycling rules, so please get informed before saddling up. Below we summarised the most important aspects to consider when biking in the UK, but keep in mind that our interpretation of the rules does not represent the letter of the law.

Bike requirements in the UK

LIGHTS | Between sunset and sunrise, you must have and use one white light pointing straight forward and one red one pointing straight back.

REFLECTORS | Your bike must have at least one red rear reflector and four amber pedal reflectors.

BRAKES | Your bike should have two functioning braking systems. Bikes in UK generally have the right hand lever for the front brake and left hand one – for the rear brake.

BELL | Bike bells are not required by law in the UK, but it’s good to have it. A polite but determined, chiefly British “Excuse me” can also work as a less aggressive warning device.

HELMET | Wearing a helmet while riding is not mandatory.

Cycling rules in the UK

  • In the UK, everyone must drive/ride on the left-hand side of the roadway. Never ride your bike against the traffic flow.
  • The use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
  • You may use a lane shared by bikes and pedestrians, but if it’s segregated you must keep to the side intended for cyclists. In these cases, take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people, and allow them plenty of room.
  • You can’t cycle on sidewalks / footpaths.
  • In pedestrian areas, only ride your cycle if there aren’t too many pedestrians about; otherwise dismount and push it. Also, if there is signage specifically prohibiting cycling in such areas, you’d better respect it.
  • You can ride across cycle-only crossings and so-called Toucan crossings – light-controlled crossings for both cyclists and pedestrians. They are push-button operated. On any other type of crossing you must dismount and walk across.
  • You must not cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Just don’t. Ever (yes, even when there’s nobody around). Some junctions have an advanced stop line for cyclists where you can wait ahead of other traffic.
  • Do not pass between the curb and a bus when the bus is in a bus station.
  • You mustn’t carry a passenger unless your bike has been built or adapted to carry one.
  • You are not allowed to hold onto a moving vehicle or trailer.
  • When approaching a junction on the left, watch out for vehicles turning in front of you, out of or into the side road. Just before you turn, check for undertaking cyclists or motorcyclists. Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left. Pay extra attention to those nasty big trucks, they’re pretty dangerous to cycle next to, especially at junctions.
  • If you are turning right, check the traffic to ensure it is safe, then signal and move to the centre of the road. Wait until there is a safe gap in the oncoming traffic and give a final look before completing the turn.
  • Take extra care when crossing tramway tracks. You should also dismount at level crossings where a ‘cyclist dismount’ sign is displayed.
  • Cycling while drunk is, of course, a big NO.  While there is no legal limit for the alcohol volume accepted when riding a bike and nothing will happen to your driver’s license, the police can decide you are not able to ride safely and fine you by up to £2500.

Hand signals

Use hand signals to communicate your intent to other drivers/riders.

TURNING RIGHT | Extend the right arm perpendicularly to the body.

TURNING LEFT | Extend the left arm perpendicularly to the body.

STOPPING | Use the same signals as the ones for turning, depending on the side you’re getting off to. While you’ll see many Brits doing this only telepathically, stick to it for your own safety.

For more detailed explanations of the rules and requirements, read here and here.

Donkey Republic rules

  • You must always lock your bike when parking it, be it during your rental period or at the end. You lock your bike by pushing down the lock handle until it beeps. Double check to make sure it stays locked.
  • For extra security, use the chain that comes with every Donkey bike and chain the bike to a fixed object, such as a street lamp post.
  • During your rental period, you can take and park your bike wherever you want. However, at the end of your rental you must return the bike to an available drop-off location. After parking and locking the bike, remember to open the Donkey app and click END RENTAL.
  • Have fun exploring the city on two wheels!

Want to rent a bike in the UK?

Check where you can rent and unlock a bike with your phone in the Donkey Republic app