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Highway Code: Alliance of British Drivers claims changes have “created a false sense of winners and losers”

The revisions, introduced in January, have given cyclists “the impression that provocative, obstructive and challenging behaviour has merit”, says the organisation’s director Duncan White

A director of the Alliance of British Drivers, a not-for-profit pro-motoring lobbying group, has claimed that the recent revisions to the Highway Code lack balance and have “entirely failed in creating a sense of shared responsibility for the safety of all road users”.

In an interview with GB News, Duncan White claims that the changes, which were introduced in January to protect vulnerable road users, have resulted in “very provocative behaviour” and even “deliberate” acts of obstruction by cyclists. 

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“The Alliance of British Drivers has always maintained that the safety of all road users is the paramount consideration; we are however concerned that the latest edition of the Highway Code has not created a balanced appreciation of the realities of road use,” White told the news channel.

“Our recent dialogue with Baroness Vere at the Department of Transport has reinforced our view that the latest version of the Highway Code is open to a broad range of interpretations and assumptions which has not contributed to a clarity of understanding of the revised ‘rules of the road’.

“The Alliance of British Drivers campaigns tirelessly for the safety of our roads. It is a matter of much regret that instead of bringing all road users together in the cause of safety, the revised Highway Code has introduced an unhelpful atmosphere of divisiveness that has created a false sense of ‘winners and losers’ rather than promoting mutual responsibility in how we all use our roads. This is not in anyone’s interest.

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White claimed that the new ‘hierarchy of road users’ contained in the revisions, which advises that the road users who can inflict the most harm should bear the most responsibility for safety on the roads, is “very prescriptive” and “provoked strong reactions in some quarters”.

He continued: “Sensible road users have always appreciated that the larger the vehicle, the potential for greater damage and the vast majority act in a responsible way in appreciating this very obvious situation.

“Since the publication of the revised Highway Code we have seen a change in attitudes and this has led to some very provocative behaviour on our roads which have, on occasions, been interpreted by some as a deliberate act of obstruction.

“This has not improved etiquette nor does it reflect the absolute requirement for individual responsibility to keep our roads as safe as possible for all users.”

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In a thinly veiled allusion to cyclists, White said: “If one sector of road users are given the impression that provocative, obstructive and challenging behaviour has merit then the revised Highway Code has entirely failed in creating a sense of shared responsibility for the safety of all road users.

“For Ministers of the Crown to deny such shifts in attitude despite written and visual evidence then we have an institutional failure to appreciate the negative impact of unwarranted changes in the Highway Code.

“When certain sectors of road users publicly state that they had a disproportionate impact on re-drafting our collective ‘rules of the road’ to their specific advantage and yet this is denied by Ministers despite the evidence, then we clearly have developed a very lop-sided understanding of equitable policies for the safety of all.”

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White’s comments echo the spate of impassioned and often misleading anti-cycling articles that followed the introduction of the Highway Code revisions in January.

In the Sun, Fair Fuel UK’s founder Howard Cox called the “lunatic” changes a “cyclists’ charter to ride any way they wish”. Cox claimed the revisions would encourage road rage and gave cyclists the “legal right to pass ALL the blame in any traffic incident on to other road users.” He also accused the “anti-driver Government” of “deliberately fuelling division between cyclists and motorists”.

Florida resident Richard Littlejohn penned an “error-strewn” column in the Daily Mail attacking cycling in Britain, while the Telegraph published an opinion piece which argued that “pedal-pushers have taken over British roads". 

White’s interview isn’t the first time that GB News has covered the Highway Code revisions.

In January one of the channel’s presenters, conservative commentator Darren Grimes, called for the changes to be scrapped, falsely stated that car drivers were at the bottom of the new hierarchy, and claimed that in London “you’re lucky if you get away with your life with cyclists storming down the road so fast” (despite cyclists being involved in four of the 346 incidents which resulted in the death of a pedestrian in 2020). 

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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