The founder of Fair Fuel UK, which lobbies the government over fuel duty, has penned a provocative opinion piece published in The Sun newspaper, attacking last week's Highway Code changes, calling them a "cyclists’ charter to ride any way they wish".
Howard Cox's article titled 'Lunatic Highway Code will just encourage road rage and put cyclists at risk – Government must rethink it now' claimed the changes "must have been authored by an asylum inmate".
Cox also accused the changes of assuming every driver is a "homicidal maniac", giving cyclists the "legal right to pass ALL the blame in any traffic incident on to other road users."
The past week has seen several impassioned articles published in UK newspapers criticising the revised Code. Last week, Florida resident Richard Littlejohn published an "error-strewn" column attacking cycling in Britain, while The Telegraph published an opinion piece claiming "Pedal-pushers have taken over British roads".
Multiple major newspapers also misrepresented Highway Code changes, just days before they came into force.
In the latest column to criticise the revamp brought in to protect vulnerable road users, Cox accused the "anti-driver Government" of "deliberately fuelling division between cyclists and motorists".
"What person with sound mind who rides a bicycle would want to cycle straight on at a junction on the inside of a 40-ton articulated truck that is signalling in front to turn left?" Cox asked.
"Well, guess what — one of the Highway Code changes covers exactly that. This rule gives a right of way to any cyclist passing on the inside of a left-turning vehicle or overtaking a right-turning vehicle on the outside.
"Ninety-nine per cent of sensible cyclists know this to be a highly dangerous manoeuvre. But a small minority of sanctimonious Lycra-clad riders will risk their lives to prove their pathological hatred for the motor car."
Rule 67 of the revised Highway Code actually advises, "when cycling on the road, only pass to the left of large vehicles when they are stationary or slow moving and you should proceed with caution as the driver may not be able to see you. Be particularly careful on the approach to junctions or where a large vehicle could change lanes to the left."
The most headline-catching aspect of the changes is the new 'Hierarchy of Road Users' prioritising road users most vulnerable in a collision at the top of the hierarchy. Pedestrians are at the top, followed by cyclists and horse riders.
Under this, cyclists have a responsibility to reduce danger for pedestrians in the same way motorists have a responsibility to reduce danger to cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
Consequently, pedestrians are always given priority to cross a road into which you are turning, and drivers should wait for cyclists travelling straight on to pass before making a turn.
The relevant section of the Highway Code in full:
Rule for drivers and motorcyclists
You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle.
This applies whether they are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road and you should give way to them. Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist, horse rider or horse drawn vehicle going straight ahead to stop or swerve.
You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary.
This includes when cyclists are: • approaching, passing or moving off from a junction • moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic • travelling around a roundabout
Cox went on to slam the hierarchy: "Instead of making all road users liable for their actions or blunders, this new 'hierarchy of responsibility' is based on the size or weight of a vehicle and signifies 'presumed liability' by the back door.
"Along with offering carte blanche to ignore cycle lanes and ride on main roads instead, our 'out in the fresh air heroes' can now also ride side by side in the middle of the highway, blocking traffic, causing more frustration and severe congestion that paradoxically will give rise to increased vehicle emissions. You couldn’t make this up."
The Highway Code actually states that cyclists can use cycle lanes "where they make your journey safer and easier", and should ride in primary position in certain situations, in order to be better protected on the road.
Rule 72 outlines these situations when you should ride in the centre of the lane to make yourself as clearly visible as possible.
This is when riding on quiet roads or streets, but "if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely".
Also in slower-moving traffic, but "when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake".
Finally, at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you.
Part two of Rule 72 says: "When riding on busy roads, with vehicles moving faster than you, allow them to overtake where it is safe to do so whilst keeping at least 0.5 metres away, and further where it is safer, from the kerb edge. Remember that traffic on most dual carriageways moves quickly. Take extra care crossing slip roads."
Cox concluded his piece claiming the "only winners will be lawyers, insurance companies and under-takers. Driver prosecution adverts will become a common feature across all the media."
He also made the unevidenced claim that there had been "reports of bike riders deliberately holding up traffic for up to eight miles."
"The changes are not only dangerous but counterproductive. Mark my words, they will unquestionably risk more lives too," Cox wrote.
The opinion piece was published on the same day the newspaper shared an online story titled 'Can I be fined for overtaking a cyclist in my car?', in which the question was asked: "If you get stuck behind a cyclist, will you get a fine for overtaking them?"
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.