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“Unfair and unjust” – Haulage trade body RHA slams Highway Code changes aimed at protecting vulnerable road users

Chief executive says hierarchy of road users is “inherently unjust” on drivers

UK haulage industry trade body the RHA claims that forthcoming changes announced last week to the Highway Code are “unfair and unsafe, and could put vulnerable road users at risk.” The assertion was made in a blog post published yesterday, the same day a cyclist was killed in a crash involving a lorry in central London.

The new version of the Highway Code, to be published in the autumn, will set out a hierarchy of road users under which those with potential to cause the most danger to others will be deemed to have greater responsibility to those who are more vulnerable than them.

> Cycle safety in focus as Highway Code changes revealed, including setting out hierarchy of road users

Drivers of large vehicles such as lorries or buses will therefore be held more accountable for the safety of car occupants, for example, who will likewise be viewed as having more responsible for those further down the scale, such as cyclists, followed by pedestrians.

The changes, finalised following a consultation to which stakeholders including the RHA responded, also see cyclists given priority at junctions when travelling straight on, and provide clarification of safe overtaking distances.

They were supported by road safety campaigners, with the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, saying: “These proposals should make cycling and walking safer, and this is to be welcomed.

“A concerted effort must now be made to communicate the changes to drivers because as we know, many do not read the Highway Code for long periods after passing their test.”

However, the RHA maintains that the revisions to the Highway Code are “unfair and unsafe, and could put vulnerable road users at risk.”

It expresses particular misgivings over the hierarchy of road users – a common concept on the continent that campaigners have long fought to have introduced in the UK, but described as “inherently unjust” by RHA chief executive Richard Burnett.

“As far as we can see, there is little, if any, justification for these changes,” he insisted.

“The hierarchy of risk created by the operation of cars, vans, coaches, buses and lorries is already reflected in the additional ongoing training undertaken by lorry and coach drivers.”

The RHA said it also objects to giving cyclists priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead, highlighting concerns that it may put riders in the blind spot of left-turning drivers, and calling for the change to be scrapped.

Tom Cotton, the RHA’s head of policy and infrastructure for England and Wales, commented: “The proposal to give cyclists a special rule that gives them a right of way to pass a turning vehicle is dangerous, it simply defies logic to promote a manoeuvre that puts cyclist in the dangerous and vulnerable position on the road.”

> Cyclists to be given “carte blanche to go sailing through red lights,” apparently … except they’re not

By unfortunate coincidence, the blog post was published on the same day that a woman was killed in a collision involving a lorry while cycling through the junction of Theobalds Road and Southampton Row in central London.

> Yet another cyclist killed on London’s Holborn gyratory – the seventh since 2008

As we highlighted in our report yesterday, she is the seventh cyclist to have been killed on the Holborn gyratory system since 2008, with lorries involved in six of those fatal crashes and a coach in the remaining one.

In a statement, London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said: “While it is too soon to speculate on specifics, we note the junction where this happened is part of the Holborn ‘gyratory’ system of one way streets and junctions that has claimed the lives of five people walking and cycling in eight years.

“LCC protested here after Dr Peter Fisher’s death in 2018 also while cycling in a lorry collision. It is horrifying that three years later, nothing has changed.

“Camden Council and Transport for London must urgently make changes to this junction,” it added. “More years of inaction will mean more lives lost.”

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.

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