Well, it seems that the rules of the road as they relate to cyclists really aren't as well understood as they should be.
The sun was shining as I cycled on my usual Sunday morning route west of Glasgow. The road was a single carriageway road on the outskirts of the city. I came to a stop at a set of traffic lights when an aging blue Vauxhall Astra drew up alongside me. Before the car came to a stop the vitriol from the passenger had started. In a voice that I will generously describe as loud I was given a stern lecture about how I was failing to comply with the Highway Code when riding my bike. "Cyclists are required to cycle no more than 18 inches from the kerb. You should acquaint yourself with the Highway Code where you will find that rule before riding a bike on a public road." she yelled (those were not her exact words but I am conscious that some readers might be of a nervous disposition) before the Astra spluttered off into the distance.
Cyclists are entitled to ride their bike on a public road, provided that the rules of the road are complied with. There is no legal requirement for them to use cycle lanes or cycle paths. A cyclist is required by law to ride in a manner that is not inconsiderate to other road users. Car drivers are likewise required to drive in a manner that is not inconsiderate.
When riding on the road there is no requirement for cyclists to ride near to the kerb or "to keep in". In many circumstances it will not be safe for a cyclist to do so. Parked cars , drain covers , pot holes, gravel, glass and other circumstances may mean that it is simply not possible for a cyclist to "keep" in, but by far the main reason why a cyclist will choose not to ride close to the kerb is traffic.
When riding in busy traffic I will, whenever possible, adopt the "primary position" on the road. This is also known as "taking the lane" and involves me riding in the middle of the lane. This allows me to be seen by other road users and allows me to more easily overtake vehicles that might be double parked or buses stopped at bus stops and the like. It also prevents car users from trying to overtake me when it is simply not safe for them to attempt such a manoeuvre. When safe to do so, for example when the traffic eases or a wider section of road is reached, I will adopt the "secondary position" on the road. This involves me riding to the left of the middle of the road. I don't have to get my tape - measure out I just need to feel safe in that position and will only adopt it if the road conditions allow.
I didn't get the chance to tell the passenger in the Astra that I was already acquainted with the Highway Code and that the rule she so forcibly told me was contained within the Code was a figment of her ignorant imagination. I wondered when the last time it was that she had read the Highway code. I didn't ponder that question for long. I think I know the answer!