Road positioning for cyclists


Cycling in traffic is strictly regulated. What must be done, what can't be done? All the while, adequate bike behaviour is more than knowledge of road laws alone.

Postioning yourself well in traffic is essential for feeling good and safe.

Cycle path

As soon as this zone reserved exclusively for cyclists (and for riders of mopeds of up to 50 km/h) is present and passable (indicated by white lines on the ground and/or appropriate panel/s), you are obliged to use it. You are allowed to leave it only when overtaking or changing direction. When the cycle path is interrupted, the cyclist continuing in the same direction has priority. When changing direction, you give way to vehicles coming from your right and from your left.

The suggested cycle lane and the chevron road markings

These are indicated by a differently coloured strip on the carriageway or signage marked directly on the road surface. These two variations only suggest the position of the cyclist on the carriageway. In no way compulsory, they remind drivers of the potential presence of cyclists.

Limited One Way traffic (the SUL)

A “Sens Unique Limité” (Limited One Way), indicated by a special panel, allows cyclists to access a one-way street from both directions. The cyclist must take up their position (that is, at least 1 metre from the edge of the road) but must keep to the right as soon as a car approaches from the opposite direction. It is advisable to position oneself in the middle of the lane as soon as you enter the SUL. By doing this you establish visual contact with the motorist before moving back to the right.

Advanced Stop Line (the ZAC)

A “Zone Avancée pour Cyclistes” (called “Advanced Stop Line” or “ASL” in the UK), more commonly known as “sas vélo” (“bike box”), allows you to be more visible and to position yourself at the head of queuing traffic during the red phase at traffic lights.

The bus/taxi lane

The cyclist can use this type of lane only if a panel authorises it or if they are turning right at the next intersection. Keep well to your right and respect the lights provided for the buses. It is strictly forbidden to cycle two abreast in this situation.

Pedestrian zones

Only use these if a panel authorises you to do so. Do not forget that the pedestrian takes priority. So cycle at a walking pace and dismount when the flow of pedestrians is too great.

Some important manoeuvres

Take up your position on the carriageway

To cycle in complete safety the cyclist should command their position on the road and ride at 1 metre from the right-hand road edge/kerb: by doing this you will prevent motorists from overtaking dangerously on narrow roads and also the risk of an accident if somebody opens the door of a car.

As a road user, the cyclist can only use pavements and pedestrian crossings if they dismount and walk by the side of their bike.

Riding two abreast?

In built-up areas, as long as passage remains possible in the opposite direction, you are allowed to cycle two abreast. This is also allowed outside built-up areas, but in this case you are obliged to revert to single file when a car approaches from behind.

Turning left

Break down your manoeuvre into several different stages:

  • When approaching the intersection, look behind to evaluate the situation.
  • Signal your intention by extending your left arm.
  • Double-check the situation behind you while keeping your arm stretched out.
  • Move into the middle of your traffic lane.
  • Examine the intersection, paying attention to all vehicles (coming from each side).
  • Turn left as widely as possible (making a “right angle”).

Negotiating a roundabout

Besides the five first stages of the previous manoeuvre that need to be executed for this too, here are a couple of tips for negotiating a roundabout in complete safety:

  • When on the roundabout, keep your position in the centre of the road. By doing this you prevent others overtaking you and you remain visible.
  • Signal your intentions clearly. You can keep your arm extended to the left if you are continuing around the roundabout and you must extend it to the right when you are taking the next exit.

Riding past a queue of cars

When the traffic is stationary you can choose to pass the queue on the right or on the left. However, if you pass the queue on the right (without the presence of a cycle path) and an accident is caused by somebody opening their vehicle’s door, the law considers that you are in the wrong.

If the traffic is moving, pass the queue on the left, which means in effect that you are overtaking. This manoeuvre made on the left makes you more visible and is therefore safer.

Blind spots

Accidents involving cyclists and heavy goods vehicles or buses are particularly serious. In order to avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations of this kind, be sure to follow these safety guidelines:

  • never overtake lorries on the right-hand side;
  • do not overtake when approaching an intersection;
  • maintain visual contact with the driver via their rearview mirror in order to avoid their blind spot;
  • at intersections, even if you are on a cycle path and have priority, look behind you to check that no lorry is about to turn right and watch out for the rear ends of buses that swerve out;
  • make sure you are visible at night: a white light at the front and a red light at the back are compulsory.

4 rules to forever remember

As a more vulnerable road user, your own behaviour will determine your comfort and your safety.

  1. priority does not mean safety;
  2. be visible and do not do anything unexpected;
  3. always exercise courtesy;
  4. it is essential to remain alert. Keep your radar tuned!

Through developing personalised solutions that facilitate and encourage people to transition to cycling, the non-profit organisation Pro Velo contributes to a higher quality of life.