British Cycling Commute Membership
A potential new dangerous cycling law and the Highway Code

A potential new dangerous cycling law and the Highway Code

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British Cycling wanted to take the opportunity to continue the discussion with members about the changes to the Highway Code and the ongoing debate around road safety and enforcement of the law.

While cycling on the road remains a generally safe and enjoyable activity for most people, it is sadly the case that one incident of abuse, aggression or dangerous inattention from a driver can ruin an otherwise wonderful cycle. 

Policy Manager, Nick Chamberlin, had the following message for members:

I am extremely grateful to the members and clubs who have been in touch with me since the spring to talk about their experiences cycling on the road since the highway code changed, and to report persistent incidents of frightening and dangerous driving. It helps hugely to be able to pinpoint those areas of the country where conflict is highest so that I can focus my discussions with Government officials, local councils, and the police on the right areas.

The Department for Transport has been running its Highway Code awareness campaign for several weeks now. It is far too early to tell how significant the visibility of the campaign is, but it would be interesting to hear members views on whether you and your family and friends have seen any of it and what you think? I certainly believe that the campaign is too limited in its ambition and scope.

Connected to this, many of you will have seen in the news the Westminster Government proposal for a new law (in England) of causing death by dangerous cycling to be added to the Transport Bill due before Parliament in the autumn. This change in the law was first debated in 2017 as a response to the very tragic death of a pedestrian which was well publicised. British Cycling commented at the time that we were perfectly comfortable with the law changing if legislative time was prioritised for addressing the greatest dangers on our roads in relation to their impact on society. The harm caused to pedestrians by people driving is still many times higher than that posed by people cycling. I will carefully monitor the passage of the new law through the Commons and keep members updated on any concerns.

With this potential new law in mind, we have seen a small number of concerning reports to our incident team from members who have been involved in a collision with a pedestrian. Some of the circumstances surrounding the incidents indicate that groups of road cyclists were cycling at an inappropriately high speed in areas where they should have expected to come in to contact with pedestrians, namely Zebra crossings, signalised crossing points and minor road junctions. We have also been contacted by members of the public who have been close passed at high speed by groups of cyclists while walking on narrow rural lanes. Please consider that a high-speed close pass by a person or people cycling is just as dangerous and unacceptable as a close pass by a driver on the same cyclist.

I wanted to remind all members that the revised Highway Code is very clear that responsibility for pedestrian safety lies with the person cycling, through a clear and unambiguous hierarchy. The statement “those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others” applies equally to a person cycling as it does to a person driving. The revised code deepens the protection for people cycling over people driving but it also expects the same duty of care to flow down to pedestrians. The statement ‘sorry I didn’t see you’ is as hollow coming from a person cycling as it is from a driver. Please cycle with the same level of care for others that we expect from people driving to ourselves.

There have been other recent and more positive changes to the laws that seek to constrain the worst behaviours on our roads. One was a new criminal offence of Causing Serious Injury by Careless or Inconsiderate Driving which came into effect at the end of June. The offence was created in response to a government consultation on driving offences and penalties launched in 2016. Our partners at Leigh Day Solicitors cover this welcome change to the law here in a detailed explanation on their website. Although a seemingly minor change to the law there is the potential for significant benefits for people who cycle and are involved in an incident involving a driver.

Take loads of care on the road, enjoy the rest of the summer, and please contact us if you have any questions or want to arrange a conversation at choosecycling@britishcycling.org.uk.