Where there are roadworks, it is not uncommon to come across ‘cyclists dismount’ signs. The Department for Transport provides guidance about safety for cyclists in ‘Safety at Street Works and Road Works: A Code of Practice’ (see bit.ly/ctc-cyclistsdismount). This states that suitable provisions are to be made for the safety of cyclists passing or crossing works. Particular care is needed where cycle lanes or cycle tracks are affected by street works or roadworks. Cyclists might have to use other parts of the carriageway, a temporary cycle track, or an alternative route. Consideration must be given as to whether access on the carriageway can be preserved for cyclists, even if it needs to be closed to motor vehicles. Where the carriageway is closed but the footway remains open, a ‘Cyclists dismount and use footway' white-on-red temporary sign can be used. Contractors are therefore required by the rules to keep the road open for cyclists if at all possible, and especially if it is also open to cars.
The Department for Transport guidelines state quite clearly:
‘Where access is permitted for motor vehicles, “Cyclist Dismount" signs should not be used. The hazards to cyclists at roadworks are rarely great enough to justify this measure. In any case, cyclists are likely to ignore such instructions.’
The legal status of a ‘cyclists dismount' sign depends on the type of sign. Where there is a ‘cyclists dismount' sign with a bicycle in a red circle, the instructions are mandatory under s.36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. If not, the signs are advisory and there is no legal obligation to follow them. They may, however, signal a significant increase in the risk of danger, so this does not mean they can be safely ignored. A failure to dismount could be taken into account if there were a collision. When considering the rights of the police to fine road users, it is also worth remembering that the police can fine a road user for anti-social behaviour. In some situations, this could justify fining a cyclist for riding through a ‘cyclists dismount' sign.
Paul Kitson, Partner from Slater & Gordon (UK) LLP