This article was published in 2021, in Magazine 152.
Camcycle member Jim Chisholm has been campaigning for the enactment of the ‘Traffic Management Act 2004 Part 6: Civil Enforcement of minor moving vehicle offences’ for nearly two decades. We asked him to tell us more.
2004? Is there a typo there?
No! As has happened with parking offences, Parliament had always intended, via the above Act, to transfer responsibility for enforcement of many ‘minor’ traffic offence from the Police, to Local Authorities (LA) via Civil Enforcement (CE). The first two of several benefits are that any fines (Penalty Charges or PCNs) go to the LA to run the ‘system’ (not the Treasury as with police fines), and that the standard of proof is under Civil Law, hence ‘on the balance of probability’, rather than as with Criminal Law ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, so contested cases are less likely to be lost on technicalities, or minor errors in evidence.
So what has happened, when is it happening and why has it taken so long?
After many government promises (as documented in the Cycling and Walking Action Plans 2007-2009), and much pestering by campaigners and Local Authorities, it was announced in Parliament on 28 June this year that Part 6 would be commenced before the end of December, which means writing a Statutory Instrument (SI), and laying it before Parliament (no vote needed).
In 2010, government sent out a questionnaire to a selection of local authorities (that’s always a good delaying tactic!). One replied saying that a life would probably have been saved with such powers, and many said ‘yes please’, but some failed to reply, perhaps because they were authorities without any statutory transport powers? You can read more about this at camcycle.org.uk/campaigning/issues/mcls as Camcycle made FOI requests about this process. In summary, the relevant Minister of State said: ‘Local authorities showed little interest’! Other sources suggested it was feared that such powers were seen as ‘a War on the Motorist’! It is worth noting that within London, under a different Act, such powers have existed for years, hence enforcement of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and School Streets has been far, far, easier than in the rest of England.
Is that the key benefit for those who promote active travel? That authorities have more powers over travel restrictions?
As a cycling campaign, we called for this act to be enabled so that Civil Enforcement powers would be available for driving offences in Mandatory Cycle Lanes or parking in restricted areas where there were no yellow lines. It’s been a Camcycle objective for over a decade to make cycling safer in this way; as it stands, the police clearly do not have the resources to enforce breaches of ‘minor’ traffic law, and have trouble resourcing and enforcing far more serious ones that should result in points or a driving ban.
Banned turns and yellow box junctions will also move to civil enforcement by local authorities; these can be enforced by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). This could reduce congestion, pollution and dangers to those on foot or cycle from drivers who routinely, and often knowingly, break the law.
In addition, in our new world when the benefits of active travel have finally been recognised, other restrictions are covered too. Permits or exemptions can be granted to ‘No Motor Vehicles’ access restrictions more readily than for bus gates or bus lanes. In the London Borough of Southwark, measures are being taken to allow the disabled to have privileged access through ‘modal filters’ which exclude other motor vehicles.
When could we see these benefits?
We know that Cambridgeshire County Council has submitted an expression of interest to the Department for Transport to adopt new powers under part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 and potentially these could be used to support School Streets, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and other active travel measures in Cambridge early next year.
Why are we just talking about Cambridge here?
Unfortunately, although 300 authorities in England already have civil enforcement powers, Fenland, Huntingdonshire, South Cambridgeshire and East Cambridgeshire do not. I’m told that the first three are in the process of applying and districts around Oxford will gain such powers this December, so East Cambridgeshire will soon be one of just three authorities in the UK without the powers to make life safer for all.
What should we be campaigning for next?
From May 2022, it is expected that civil enforcement via a Statutory Instrument will be available for ‘Obstructive Parking’ (including on pavements) throughout Wales. Please can England have an SI to cover that too, as the Private Members Bill that would have regulated Pavement Parking back in 2015, was talked out by the Department for Transport itself!
Read more and find links to Camcycle’s campaigning on this issue.
Smarter Cambridge Transport has also recently written about Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.