Reclaim the lanes

Downing Street, November 2006. Sheppard’s ‘The Careful Carriers’. Not careful enough to worry about obstructing an important cycle lane for two hours.
Image as described adjacent

Recent events have again raised the issue of Mandatory Cycle Lanes (MCLs) from which all motor vehicles are excluded by law. Our cover shows a few recent photos (from Campaign members) which illustrate some of the problems.

We now have the opportunity to lobby councillors and officials to ‘reclaim the lanes’ as the Traffic Management Act will shortly ‘enable’ powers for Parking Attendants to issue Penalty Charge Notices for many more infringements, such as parking in cycle lanes.

We’ve raised this issue before, and have received information from the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) that confirms our view of the Highway Code, that only in exceptional circumstances, such as an accident, or under the direction of a police officer, are motor vehicles allowed in such lanes. (See ‘Mandatory Cycle Lanes: some progress’ in Newsletter 58.)

Currently, few police officers seem clear on the law, despite copies of DSA letters being sent to the Chief Constable, and there seems little will, or resources, to apply the law even in extreme cases. Similarly worrying is that even professional drivers treat MCLs with contempt, with bus drivers and even driving instructors using them on a regular basis. Few motorists regularly use footpaths to speed themselves past other traffic, or park on the pavement obstructing pedestrians, so why treat MCLs differently? After all, we are usually just treated as ‘pedestrians on wheels’ by authorities.

Hills Road, September 2006. This ‘professional’ driver’s reaction to being told he was committing an offence: ‘F*** off. You don’t pay any taxes. I’ll park wherever I like.’ And at the moment he’s right, about the last bit.
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I’ve even been called an ‘Arsehole’ by the driver of a school coach full of children who daily stops in an MCL, despite a purpose built setting down point for coaches some 50 metres away, and many delivery drivers seem to believe they have a right to flout such regulations in order to save time,

The lack of knowledge by motorists, even the professionals, would mean that initially it is probable that just warning letters should be used. Later the system could be self funding.

It is unlikely that Parking Attendants will be able to fine for moving vehicle infringements from day one, but we see no reason why drivers they identify should not be sent strongly worded warning letters.

What will we do now?

We are obtaining copies of the draft guidance recently issued by DfT, and will use that information to lobby officers and councillors to apply, as required, for permission to use the new powers. Although this will cost money to start up, we believe this would be a good use of funds available from existing Local Authority Parking Enforcement (LAPE). The County has also obtained money from the Government under the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) and included in the bid was money for ‘Soft Measures to Improve Cycling.’ Surely using such funds to ‘reclaim the lanes’ must be money well spent.

The County is considering extending the LAPE rules over a wider area, and to include bus lanes; surely that is the time to extend the regulations to mandatory cycle lanes.

Jim Chisholm