As the Government’s consultation on the revision of the Highway Code approaches its final week, British Cycling Policy Adviser Chris Boardman has today urged the public to make their voices heard.
The consultation is the first wide-ranging revision of the code for a generation and closes on Tuesday 27 October. British Cycling’s response has focused on four key areas: junction priority, close passing, the hierarchy of road users, and riding two abreast. To support this formal submission, it’s critical that the voices and experiences of individual cyclists are also heard, to ensure the Government understands the real-life impact which changes to the code will have on all of our lives.
“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.”
You can submit your own response either online here or by emailing HighwayCodeReview2020@dft.gov.uk.
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.
Boardman: “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.”
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.
Boardman: “The police attribute passing too closely as a factor in a quarter of all serious collisions between cyclists and vehicles. 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.”
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: “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 will be setting out its concerns with the new wording proposed for Rule 66 (on riding two abreast) later this week.