DfT, FoI, MCLs, PCNs and the TMA (part 6)

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 101.

I’m afraid I am rather addicted to TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), so I had better explain:

In 2004 the Traffic Management Bill received royal assent and thus became an Act (the TMA). Of course this didn’t mean that all this became law on that day, as much needed to be ‘enabled’ and advice and guidelines on enforcement written (a process done by civil servants rather than Parliament).

So what does the TMA do that’s of importance to us? It enables Civil Enforcement Officers to issue PCNs (Penalty Charge Notices) for a variety of minor traffic infringements in LAPE (Local Authority Parking Enforcement) areas.

One amendment to the Bill was to include in that list of infringements those in MCLs (Mandatory Cycle Lanes). We’ve now obtained more information from the Department for Transport (DfT) by using Freedom of Information (FoI).

So now I’ll begin. Part 6 of the TMA has never been enabled, and hence a string of minor ‘moving traffic’ infringements remain the responsibility of police officers to enforce. This is despite repeated promises as part of the DfT Cycling and Walking Action Plans between 2005 and 2009. These include a number of things such as offences in MCLs and yellow box junctions. Part 6 also enables the use of ‘approved’ cameras as part of the enforcement process.

Unfortunately, many police officers fail to realise either that driving in an MCL is an offence, or that dealing with illegal stopping in such lanes is also their responsibility.

We had heard that some were concerned that extending the list of offences covered by civil enforcement, and especially those involving cameras, was considered a ‘war on the motorist’. Actually, far more motorists suffer far more by lack of enforcement, as delays and danger occurs as a result of illegal actions by a small minority. Not to mention the dangers caused to vulnerable road users such as those on foot or bike.

Using FoI we’ve obtained some useful information:

In late 2010 the DfT wrote to 20 local authorities about enactment of Part 6, and 14 replied.

The minister concerned wrote that:

‘whilst some were clearly very enthusiastic about this, … others were more muted in their support. Indeed some did not respond to the letter… We came to the conclusion that this was not an area where staff resources should be devoted at this moment in time.’

In fact four of the local authorities, being district councils, had no Highway powers and hence little interest. One said that if they’d had the powers it is possible that a fatality might have been prevented. Others had written previously to DfT requesting such powers to improve ‘Network Management’. Not one that replied said they would not support ‘enactment’.

We consider that the consultation letter, consultation process, and the assessment of replies were all seriously flawed.

We have passed much of this information on to LTT (Local Transport Today – a fortnightly publication much read in local authorities), CBT (The Campaign for Better Transport), CTC (one of those TLAs that now isn’t a TLA…).

I do hope that part 6 is enabled soon, and that the three vehicles that seem to stop daily in the cycle lane near the University Arms hotel will then use the loading bay just some 20 metres away.

We believe that the Department for Transport must enable Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act (2004) as soon as possible, in line with The Times’ ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign.

If you are interested in the details of this, see our website: www.camcycle.org.uk/campaigning/issues/mcls/

Jim Chisholm