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Chris Boardman urges people to have their say on Highway Code changes

British Cycling submits response to consultation into measures that can make roads safer for cyclists and which closes next week

British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman is urging people to have their say on proposed changes to the Highway Code which are currently the subject of a consultation that closes next week and which could make roads safer for vulnerable road users, including cyclists.

The governing body has today outlined its own position on some of the planned revisions to the code, including those relating to priority at junctions, close passes and introducing a hierarchy of road users to protect the most vulnerable. The organisation will also be issuing its formal response regarding rules governing cyclists riding two abreast shortly.

> Consultation launched on proposed changes to Highway Code

Boardman said: “We know from our experience with temporary bike lanes and low-traffic neighbourhoods that changes which only seem to benefit cycling are likely to face opposition.

“That’s why it’s crucial government hears from all those people who simply want our roads to be safer, civilised and welcoming spaces for people, regardless of how they travel.

“Some will question the usefulness of updating the Highway Code, but as the go-to reference document for courts and instructors, the proposed amendments really do give us the chance to reset some of the core principles which guide how we use our roads.

“Most importantly, the proposed changes will ensure we all have to look out for those more vulnerable than ourselves by removing many of the ambiguities around how we use junctions and overtake others.

“In the time it takes to make a cup of tea you can have your say and ensure this golden opportunity doesn’t go to waste.”

The consultation closes next Tuesday 27 October and responses can be submitted online here or by emailing HighwayCodeReview2020 [at]

Here is a summary of British Cycling’s response

Junction priority

We support the proposed changes to Rules 2, 3 and 76, and the new Rule H3, which clarifies the existing ambiguity and states that there should be a universal right to give way when turning. As we highlighted in our Turning the Corner campaign, two thirds of all serious incidents occur at junctions and this is not helped by the fact that the Highway Code currently includes 14 contradictory statements on the matter.

Close passing

We are also supportive of the proposed wording on overtaking, which removes the existing ambiguity. Our 2019 State of Cycling report found that 87% of British Cycling members are close passed at least once a week, and though these dangerous incidents are not reflected in Government statistics we know that they are a huge deterrent to more people riding.

Hierarchy of road users

A formalised hierarchy of road users, which protects the most vulnerable on our roads and places clear requirements on those who have the ability to cause the greatest harm, benefits us all. This isn’t about shifting blame – it’s simply a recognition of the fact that some road users have the capacity to do far greater harm than others – this has implications for how cyclists behave around pedestrians too.

Boardman outlined the implications of each of those responses.

On the subject of junction priority, he said: “Imagine that you’re driving down a road and you want to turn left into a side street. If there’s a cyclist on your inside, you wait for them to go straight on before you turn left. It’s simply writing down what good drivers already do.

“Similarly, someone on a bike turning left should always let someone walking across the mouth of that junction finish before turning.

“The police attribute passing too closely as a factor in a quarter of all serious collisions between cyclists and vehicles,” he continued. “Close passing is ostensibly a casual disregard for human life, it can be absolutely terrifying when you’re on the receiving end and it leads to many people stopping cycling altogether.”

Turning to the concept of introducing a hierarchy of road users, he added: “It’s simply a civilised way to use our streets, where those that can do the most harm are obliged to look after the more vulnerable. Who wouldn’t want that for their family and kids?”

British Cycling added that it would be outlining concerns that it has regarding the proposed new wording of Rule 66, which is related to riding two abreast, later this week.

In the meantime, Cycling UK, which is encouraging people to respond to the consultation via this link on its website, has published its own suggested wording on that subject, which it says is based on the views of its members and club leaders, as well as liaising with local campaign groups and other bodies including British Cycling.

> Cyclists called on to support “10 key changes” to Highway Code

The national cycling charity’s proposed wording is that:

“[cyclists should] be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding with another and in small or large groups. You can ride two abreast and it is often safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Switch to single file if you consider it safer to allow drivers to overtake.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Titanus | 3 years ago

Keep it simple! Any changes should be basic and strait to the point. The whole thing should be like that actually. This is because far too many people on the roads are about as bright as the moons of Pluto. The simpler it is, the more people will understand it.

There should also be a system that forces police to act on footage of breaches of the highway code rather than have it left to their discretion. The footage would have to meet basic criteria ofcourse. Pointless having laws, codes etc if they are not being properly enforced.

Captain Badger replied to Titanus | 3 years ago

Hear hear!

huntswheelers | 3 years ago

I just hate it when you you are side by side, get the call "car back" you line out and the feckers still close pass

HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago
1 like

I would drop the word "abreast" altogether. It seems to me it's the trigger word for people who are already hostile to cycling to lose their minds.

'Two people riding next to each other' is less emotive language.

Titanus replied to HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago
1 like
EK Spinner | 3 years ago

Rule 66 I think should differntiate between single lanes and roads wide enough to have a centre line (and dual carriageways).

adopting single file only makes a pass easier (and indeed possible) on single lanes.

Meanwhle on a wider road motorised traffic should use the next lane to the right to overtake, riding 2 abreast make this easier as it shortens the length of convoy being passed and hence should be positely encouraged


mikewood replied to EK Spinner | 3 years ago

If we aren't careful, drivers will just interpret it as saying that cyclists should single out when there's a car behind to allow them to pass. They will not be interested in the "only if it's safe to do so"

Sriracha replied to mikewood | 3 years ago
1 like

Too true. Car drivers are never going to connect with, still less to accept, the idea that the cyclist in front is judge and jury over whether it is safe for them in their car to overtake.
Maybe the wording should be changed along the lines of, "Cyclists should travel two abreast except on single lane roads." It will be a cold day in hell before any motorist reports them for going single file anyway!

EK Spinner replied to Sriracha | 3 years ago

I'm not even a fan of that, on single track roads where everything should be slower anyway, and mtorists are not on long journeys (only linking to more major roads - yes there are exceptions in highlands and islands) then 2 up is fine as we are still not wider than a car and much narrower than most tractors, but we should (and do in most cases) expect to single out to allow passing from both directions.

EK Spinner replied to mikewood | 3 years ago
1 like

thats one of my worries, "but you should have singled out" being the reason why they had to close pass me

Captain Badger replied to mikewood | 3 years ago

When I looked through the consultation, there was one section amended to essentially say that traffic coming from the rear has priority. Flagged it on Twitter at the time, (as well as responding to teh consultation).

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