Road spending budget fails to provide for cycling
The Autumn Budget released on 29 October included a £28.8 billion fund for Highways England to spend on upgrading and maintaining motorways and major roads and £420 million for local councils to fix potholes. Cycling UK has called for more funding to fix local roads before new roads are built.
Poorly-maintained local roads are particularly dangerous for people cycling. An FOI investigation by Cycling UK in March found the average compensation pay-out to cyclists for maintenance-related damage was 13 times higher than to drivers (average £11,000 for cyclists to £841 for motorists). Department for Transport figures showed that at least 390 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured owing to pothole-related incidents since 2007.
There is also an extra £150 million for junction improvements on local roads, a positive investment which could be wasted if poorly-designed schemes do not benefit vulnerable road users. New design standards could help with this, but we still await their publication by the government.
Highway Code to be reviewed
In October, the government announced that it will review guidance on how road users should behave in relation to cyclists and pedestrians, with the aim of reducing deaths on our roads. The Code will now highlight how to avoid the dangers of close passing and will encourage drivers to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ (below) to reduce incidents of car dooring. Precise wording has yet to be announced but it is positive to see that these proposed changes have been welcomed by the RAC. Hopefully, over time these changes will lead to a culture of safer driving on our roads and reduce the number of cyclist casualties.
Two-year action plan to address road safety
On 22 November, the government announced 50 new proposals aimed at tackling road rage, encouraging greater mutual respect between road users, and protecting pedestrians and cyclists. The plan, launched by transport minister Jesse Norman, included proposals to offer discounts on insurance to drivers or motorbike riders who pass a Bikeability course, the appointment of a national cycling and walking champion, funding for a system to help police analyse bike and dashcam footage of incidents and new powers for councils to tackle parking in cycle lanes.
Cycling UK and Sustrans welcomed the announcement but said it was disappointing that initiatives to reduce vehicle speed around vulnerable users had not been included.
Two days earlier, the parliamentary debate on Road Safety and the Legal Framework saw cross-party support for a full review of road justice, which focused on unsafe behaviour by motorists as well as cyclists. Hansard reports MPs from all parties putting forward calls for greater clarity around definitions of careless and dangerous driving, increased penalties, fines and sentences for unsafe driving offences, more prosecution at the level of dangerous driving and an increased number of disqualifications for drivers with a history of penalties and offences.