The Highway Code – new draft revision

There is a new draft revision of the Highway Code at www.dsa.gov.uk/highwaycode. Most of the cycle-related stuff is in Rules 56-79. There are some good amendments. For example:

  • The advice ‘not to drink at all when driving, because any amount of alcohol can impair driving ability’
  • Drivers MUST NOT… use a vehicle with excessively dark tinting on the windscreen or window either side of the driver
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Cycling outside the Botanic Garden, it is often impossible to obey highway code rule 64 and the proposed amendment to rule 58.
Image as described adjacent

There is also a new section for new drivers.

The worst part is the insertion of the words ‘cycle facilities’ in rule 58.

58. Use cycle routes when practicable and cycle facilities such as advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings where they are provided, as they can make your journeys safer.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But with this wording, if you don’t use a ‘facility’ (however badly designed or inappropriate for your needs it might be) then, in the event of a crash, a driver’s insurance company might claim that your going against the highway code was contributory negligence and reduce your claim. The CTC makes a good case and asks people to fill in an on-line letter to their MP see http://www.ctc.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx?TabID=4303.

Now remember that shared use and segregated paths are facilities too. If this draft gets accepted you can expect increased intimidation of the ‘You cyclists shouldn’t be on the road’ type.

Some routes may make a pleasant leisure ride but are completely impractical for commuting.

Rule 64 You should… Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path.

Of course the proposed amendment says you should use cycle lanes, even if they are in a dangerous location. In fact it’s impossible to obey rule 64 and the amendment to rule 58 if you cycle down Trumpington Road outside the botanic garden where a narrow cycle lane has been installed right next to parked cars. We reported on this in Newsletter 37.

Horningsea road shared use – sometimes it may be safer not to use a facility.
Image as described adjacent

Of course many ‘facilities’ are dangerous in themselves. We have complained about substandard width, poor visibility, sharp edges and the lack of white lines so you can see the edge in the dark. My least favourite is on the Oakington path, a brick wall in a path with a white line that directs you straight into it.

Cyclists also have a right to choose a direct route rather than a ‘facility’. We see that the Highway Code doesn’t tell drivers that they should use alternative ‘facilities’ if they exist. I’m sure most drivers would object to being told to use a park and ride if it has been provided.

Travel is complex and based on freedom of choice: whether to drive or cycle and which part of the network is best, considering speed, distance to be covered, skill level etc. Cycle Friendly Infrastructure acknowledges this. While a shared-use pavement with give-ways at every side road may be chosen by a parent accompanying a child, it is not viable for a commuter who has to cover five or ten miles. If we are to persuade people out of cars, cycle journey times must be a realistic alternative to driving.

We are not opposing off-road provision; indeed we have supported good quality provision in the past. However, cyclists have a right to choose a direct route rather than be forced onto facilities. If cyclists are not using a facility, it is for a reason.

If you object to the rewording of Rule 58, follow the links in the first and second paragraphs to send your comments to your MP and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). Cambridge Cycling Campaign welcomes all members to join the subgroup meeting to discuss other changes to the Highway Code. If you are interested, please email contact@camcycle.org.uk or leave a message on (01223) 690718.

Richard Taylor