Cycling FAQs: where may I cycle?

Frequently Asked Questions about Cycling

We have compiled a short list of frequently asked questions, along with answers, to assist you in the various areas of cycling. If you have any further questions you’d like answered, email them to campaigning@gobike.org.

Q: When is cycling allowed on footways and other paths?

A: Cycling is generally not allowed on the footways (pavements) of roads. The only places where is it allowed is where a special “Redetermination Order” has been passed by the appropriate roads authority (e.g. council or Transport Scotland) to permit passage by both those on foot and by cycles. This will be indicated by blue “Shared Pedestrian/Cycle Use” signs. On paths away from roads cycling is generally allowed except where there are “No Cycling” signs (either a pictogram or worded sign) where a Traffic Order or By-law prohibits cycling. “Cyclists Dismount” signs on the other hand do not prohibit cycling, and are used by roads authorities to warn of unspecified hazards. If you fall off your bike at such a location, these signs make it difficult to make a claim of negligence against the appropriate roads authority. Whenever cycling on paths cyclists should have consideration for other path uses, just as they should towards other road users on a road.  See also Core Paths below.

Q: When is cycling allowed in pedestrian precincts?

A: This is dependent on what the relevant roads authority has decided. If a pedestrian precinct has “No Vehicles” signs then cycling is prohibited unless wording below the sign exempts it from the restriction, which may only be between certain times. On the other hand, if the precinct has “No Motor Vehicles” signs or “Shared Pedestrian/Cycle Use” signs then cycling is allowed. However, there may still be a “one-way” restriction in place, which unless stated otherwise will still apply to cycles. You may be interested to know that the Department for Transport produced a Traffic Advisory Leaflet (guidence to roads authorities) stating that in principle there is no problem with allowing cycling in pedestrian precincts.  But also see “Core Paths” below

Q: What is a Core Path?

A: Under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, every local authority in Scotland is required ‘to draw up a plan for a system of paths (‘core paths’) sufficient for the purpose of giving the public reasonable access throughout their area’.  See Glasgow City Council’s details here. Note that Buchanan Street, Gordon Street and Argyle Street in Glasgow are core paths but Royal Exchange Square is not, see the map here.  However, you must cycle with regard to other users on a core path!

Q: Which types of road crossing can cyclists ride across?

A: The Highway Code advises that cyclists may not ride across the road at ordinary pedestrian crossings such as Zebra and Pelican crossings, but may cross on foot whilst pushing their bikes. However, Toucan Crossings and Cycle Parallel Crossings, where a green cycle is displayed to those crossing, cyclists may ride across. As the red man/green man/green cycle signals on a Toucan Crossing are advisory, cyclists may cross when safe to do so, even when the green cycle is not displayed. But at a Cycle Parallel Crossing, where cyclists cross on a separate crossing alongside the pedestrian crossing, a full red light is displayed and this must not be passed when lit. For more information see the Cambridge Cycling Campaign’s Crossing Menagerie.

Q: If I have dismounted at a “Cyclists Dismount” sign, when can I start riding again?

A: This is one of the mysteries of life! There is no “Cyclists Remount” sign, and in any case a “Cyclists Dismount” sign does not legally require cyclists to dismount (see above), so you can start riding again as soon as you like. However, care should be exercised since there may be an unspecified hazard present, and this hazard may continue for an unspecified distance (there being no “for xxx yards” plate below said “Cyclists Dismount” sign).

Q: Why are units on cycle route signs sometimes different?

A: Again, another mystery! On UK road signs, distances will be given in miles (yards for short distances, for instance to a hazard), and heights in feet and inches. Heights may also be given in metres in addition to imperial units, but never solely in metric. However, cycle route signs use miles, kilometres, and even time. The time will be an approximation and will depend on how fast the local authority Cycling Officer anticipates cyclists will cycle. This may even be as slow as 6 miles per hour! The moral of the story is to be prepared for cycle signs to be in ANY measure.

Q: Who runs the roads?

A: In Scotland, most roads are run by the local councils. Some main roads, called trunk roads and motorways, are run by Transport Scotland. Whoever the roads authority is, it may employ contractors to deliver certain aspects of the roads infrastructure, such as maintenance. However, the roads authority is still in charge of its contractors and should be contacted in the first instance should you need to raise an issue.

Q: What types of cycle facility are there?

A: See our Cycle Facilities page.

Q: I want to have a particular cycle facility installed on a road near me. Is there a formal process I can go through?

A: There is no formal process specifically for cycle facilities. You may wish to raise the issue with your councillors or speak to an officer at your council (or Transport Scotland for Trunk Roads). If it is in Strathclyde, you can contact Go Bike to see if we wish to support your idea.

Q: Is there a design manual against which I can compare a local cycle facility?

A: The Scottish Government has published Cycling by Design on its website, which draws together advice and guidence on a wide range of cycle design issues into one document. Not all cycle facilities comply with this guidance, and since it is only guidelines, there is no legal requirement for cycle facilities to comply. Sustrans also produces a Sustrans Handbook for Cycle-friendly Design.  Note that both these documents are large files and may take some time to download because of all the photographs.

Q: Can I find out about cyclist accident figures in my area?

A: See CityBeast.com’s Cyclist Casualty Maps.