Road Rants - Single Track Roads

Told you I could do a series of these...

I now live in quite a rural area and we have a lot of roads that seem mildly unusual to some, and seem to strike the fear of god in others!

Whilst they seem to have disappeared from most of the UK, there are still over 2,500 miles of them up here!

Single Track Roads (with passing places)

As the name suggests these are roads with one lane; not one lane in each direction - just one single lane, with the occasional passing place where the road is wide enough to allow to vehicles to pass.

Driving these roads requires more concentration and awareness of what's ahead of you than the typical commute through a city, and you'll likely come face to face with traffic going the opposite direction at some point.

The road and its users

These roads are narrow, and often wind through forests, gorse, shrubbery and other things that obscure your view.

You're also more likely to see pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, sheep, goats, cattle, deer, pheasants and all other manner of things that tend to be moving a lot slower than you or (especially deer) just run across your path.

Please bear in mind that many single track roads are not wide enough for a car and horse or car and cycle to pass safely, you must treat these as other vehicles, and use passing places.

That works both ways, a cyclist or horse-rider should allow you to pass at the next passing place.

Speed limit?


Yes, you read that right, National Speed Limit applies. Now, there's many cases where to drive at 60mph on them would be madness, however it's worth noting on a long straight section (or where you can see for miles that there's nothing else coming) the legal speed limit is 60mph and locals routinely drive them at that speed when safe to do so.

If you're driving along at 20 or 30mph and a vehicle appears behind you, let it past. It's easy to forget whilst you're enjoying the scenery that there are some of us who live and work here and (a) see it every day (b) still need to get somewhere!

Using passing places

Passing places should be used both to let traffic passing in the other direction but also where the driver behind you wants to overtake.

If you see a vehicle coming towards you, or the driver behind wants to overtake, pull into a passing place on your left, or wait opposite a passing place on your right. Give way to vehicles coming uphill whenever you can. If necessary, reverse until you reach a passing place to let the other vehicle pass. Slow down when passing pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

[Highway Code, Rule 155]

If you can't reverse... don't try. The locals are quite adept at it, doing it many times a day and would far rather back up a hundred yards than watch you end up in a ditch and then no-one's getting past.

That said, traffic going downhill should give way to traffic going uphill, but not if it means you're going to end up off the road, then you've just got two vehicle stuck on a hill...

On a related note, the same roads that have passing places tend to have soft verges. Don't use them as passing places unless you have a good 4WD system or fancy spending the rest of the day on the verge.

What passing places are not!

The clue is in the name really, passing place!

Car Parks

It is not acceptable to park in a passing place, people need them to - you guessed it - pass. Parking in them causes obstruction and is an offence.

Photo Opportunities

I appreciate we live in a beautiful area, and people want to take photos. To be quite honest I personally have no issue with stopping to take a quick snap from inside your car, but standing outside it with (in some cases) a tripod is somewhat ridiculous. Please don't.

If you must stop in a passing place for a short time, be prepared to drive on immediately.

Caravan / Mobile Home Parking

This one is just ridiculous. I quite like the idea of travelling around in a mobile home for a holiday to be honest, but with so many beautiful places that have actual parking, why would you want to be stuck on some backwater country road in what's barely a yard of tarmac with locals whizzing past you in the middle of the night at 60mph?

Passing Places (1973)

In 1973 the government decided a public information film was a good idea to convey how to drive on these roads...

They could do a lot worse than to remake this for a modern audience!

« Back to home