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.
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] dft.gov.uk.
Here is a summary of British Cycling’s response
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.
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.
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 has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.