Using cycle lanes and other cycling facilities safely
Cycle tracks, bus lanes, shared use paths, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes, toucan crossings and other facilities are provided specifically to help improve safety for cyclists and other road users. This page explains how you should use them to make your journey by bike safer.
Cycle tracks are provided for bicycle use only and have a kerb line separating them from the road. Here are some points to remember:
- cyclists are most at risk when entering and exiting the cycle track
- there are no rules about which side of the track to use but cyclists generally keep to the left
- be aware of pedestrians and other road users who may need to cross the track
- you're required by law to have a bell to alert other road users that you're there
- you should always be considerate to other road users who give way to you
- Cycle track video clip (YouTube website)
Shared use paths
These paths can be used by pedestrians, cyclists, joggers and dog walkers. There are no lanes marked on the path and nobody has the right of way, so all users are equally responsible for their actions.
As a cyclist it's important that you keep your speed down and watch out for others.
Pay particular attention to vulnerable users such as the elderly and small children.
When you're approaching people wearing headphones remember they may not be able to hear your bell.
Very few footpaths are shared use and cyclists are only allowed to use footpaths which are designated for them. There will be a blue sign to show if you're allowed to cycle on a footpath.
These paths are divided and a solid line separates pedestrians and cyclists - there will be a bicycle painted at the start of the path to show you which side is yours.
However, be aware that dogs, small children and pedestrians may wander on to your side of the path.
Be considerate, sound your bell and thank them when someone moves over for you.
These are cycle lanes on which you should travel in the same direction as the traffic - they may be alongside busy roads.
The main dangers to cyclists are pedestrians crossing the lane and vehicles joining the road from side road junctions.
If it's necessary for you to leave the lane, you must check behind, make eye contact with the driver of the vehicle behind and signal your intention clearly.
In a contraflow lane you are travelling against the flow of the traffic and you must pay particular attention to pedestrians crossing between parked cars who may not be aware of the cycle lane.
Car drivers also may not expect to see cyclists travelling in the opposite direction. Watch out for the doors of parked cars being opened into your path by unsuspecting drivers and passengers.
As a cyclist, bus lanes can make your journey smoother and faster but remember that you may share it with buses, taxis and motorcycles.
To make yourself more visible to other users of the bus lane, stay mainly in the middle, moving in to a metre from the kerb to allow buses/ taxis to pass safely.
- never cycle along the inside of a bus as there are blind spots
- remember - if you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you
- Bus lanes video clip (YouTube website)
Advanced stop lines
These green boxes with a bicycle painted on them are becoming more common at traffic light junctions. Only cyclists are permitted in these boxes.
You should make eye contact with the driver behind you, especially if they're in a high-seated vehicle.
Cyclists must stop at red lights. For more information see Rule 178 of the Highway Code for NI.
Equipment and maintenance
In the final video clip there is advice on high-visibility clothing, helmets and legal requirements of bicycle maintenance. In summary, to cycle safely you need:
- a red rear reflector
- efficient brakes
- a working bell or horn
- working front and rear lights for cycling at night
- Equipment and maintenance video clip (YouTube website)