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Highway Code changes: Cycling UK calls for long-term public awareness campaign to help produce a “mindset shift” on British roads

Charity says it will take years, not months, to fully enforce the revisions and change “entrenched driving behaviour”

The updated Highway Code, which comes into effect today, has the potential to usher in a “mindset shift” which will make the roads safer for everyone, according to Cycling UK – but only if the government commits to a long-term, well-funded public awareness campaign, the charity says.

On Wednesday the Department for Transport (DfT) announced the launch of a £500,000 communications drive to raise awareness of the new changes and to ensure that “road-users across the country understand their responsibilities”.

The announcement followed weeks of criticism from both cycling and motoring organisations of what many view as the government’s failure to effectively communicate the Highway Code revisions to the public, which has led to a spate of misleading reports in the mainstream press.

> Public must be told about Highway Code changes, says Cycling UK

The publicity campaign, operated by the government’s long-standing road safety campaign Think!, will be broadcast across radio and social media, and will run in two phases beginning in mid-February and concluding in the summer.

In a statement issued yesterday, Cycling UK welcomed this initial campaign but called on the government to “look beyond the summer and commit to a long-term awareness campaign”.

“The latest changes to the Highway Code are a hugely important start towards a mindset shift that will make the roads safer for everyone – not just for people who choose to cycle or walk,” Cycling UK’s head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore said.

> Highway Code changes: Department for Transport finally announces publicity campaign to increase awareness

 “The changes in our driving behaviour, however, will only happen if the government commits to communicating them with simple, accurate, and memorable messaging in the long term.

 “We’ve seen the public’s attitude shift on seat belt use and drink driving. This shows entrenched driving behaviour can change. The new Highway Code requires a similar shift, and it can happen again but not overnight.

 “To make our roads safer for everyone, the government must be looking in terms of years not months to communicate and eventually enforce these changes.”

Alongside the DfT’s upcoming publicity campaign, Cycling UK has also created a free online toolkit, featuring ‘myth-busting’ graphics, videos, and cartoons, to ensure that the changes are accurately communicated and to prevent confusion among road users.

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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