Highway Code Rule 163

Rule 163 of the Highway Code is a strong topic for many cyclists. It deals with how you should overtake one when on the road. More often that not overtakes are good but sometimes they are appalling and leave cyclists in a position they wouldn’t want to be in, being forced into the kerb.

The Highway Code states that you should

  • Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so
  • not get too close to the vehicle you intend to overtake
  • use your mirrors, signal when it is safe to do so, take a quick sideways glance if necessary into the blind spot area and then start to move out
  • not assume that you can simply follow a vehicle ahead which is overtaking; there may only be enough room for one vehicle
  • move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in
  • take extra care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance
  • give way to oncoming vehicles before passing parked vehicles or other obstructions on your side of the road
  • only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right, and there is room to do so
  • stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left
  • give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you  would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)

This image is included with the notes:

This image is great, it shows roughly where a cyclist should be on the road, around 1 meter from the kerb. This gives the cyclist space to avoid pot holes and keeps them away from the drain covers. Note the cyclist is wearing practical clothes, and has safety gear, these are not required but are a good image to portray.

The driver has moved fully into the other lane, indicating and clearly giving the cyclist plenty of space. I very rarely get an overtake like this, but when I do they stick in my mind.

The only problem I have with rule 163, is the strap line under the image ‘Give vulnerable road users at least as much space as you would a car’ this implies that it is fine to overtake a cyclist with inches of room, because the driver does the same to a car. If the drivers are aggressive when overtake other cars, they are technically doing nothing wrong when they do the same to cyclists with this in view.

6 thoughts on “Highway Code Rule 163

  1. I learned to drive (and cycle) in the Netherlands, where cyclist/pedestrian safety is a key issue. So I always try to overtake cyclists as shown in the image above, especially given the absence of cycle paths in this part of the country. Unfortunately, this routinely leads to panic attacks from passengers (friends) who think I’m a “dangerous driver” for “giving cyclists too much space / being on the wrong side of the road”. Am increasingly reluctant to offer lifts to people 🙂

  2. Maybe it was meant to say ‘Follow the same path as you would have to if overtaking a car’.
    1 car-width + a foot from the kerb
    as illustrated.

  3. If you print the picture and measure carefully based on an assumption of standard sized handlebars, the cyclists wheels are 1.5 metres from the kerb.

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