This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 72.
The outcome of the consultation for the new Highway Code draft cannot be worse news for cyclists and threatens the loss of real liberties for cyclists, of the sort that have already been tested in the courts.
Despite claiming to have listened to the many thousands of cyclists who wrote in, complaining at the draft’s requirement for cyclists to use cycling facilities where they exist, the civil servants involved in drafting it have made the wording worse, not better. Presumably the idea that local authorities are not doing a good job, an admission of failure, cannot be formally recognised in the Highway Code!
We all know how inadequate many cycle facilities are. Some are plain unusable, others inconvenient. Some, for instance on Milton Road, have a dual purpose of acting as a stick for some motorists against cyclists (even using their vehicle as a weapon), on the grounds that ‘there’s a cycle path over there, use it, this is MY road!’ But cyclists are currently under no obligation to use such facilities. Cyclists have the right to use the road, irrespective of a separate (and often substandard) facility being provided.
In the same way that many motorists have the option of using Park & Ride sites provided at great expense (though they often fail to use them), or use local roads even when a motorway is provided, cyclists have a choice whether to use the more direct main road, or a pavement-like facility. Different cyclists will use different provision, depending on what is most appropriate for them.
If done right, facilities like shared-use paths do offer some benefits to less experienced cyclists, though the oft-found dangers (such as inadequate side-road crossings and vehicles emerging from driveways) vastly reduce any supposed advantages. So many cyclists will continue to want to use the road. Commuter cyclists, in particular, quite reasonably have no desire to have to give way at every side road, or dodge the poles, phone boxes, or whatever else has carelessly been left in a cycle path. Furthermore, pedestrians using shared-use paths surely have no desire to encounter faster cyclists.
At the time of writing, the draft before Parliament will become the finalised Code unless stopped by MPs. Following a meeting we held with our MP, David Howarth, we have since received indications that he will be amongst those trying to stop it. We hope to report next time on what happened.
Elections – getting cycling issues into candidates’ minds
The Committee took the opportunity to ask all the candidates in the City Council elections what they thought on a range of cycling issues. We sent each candidate a ward-specific survey, containing a number of general questions, and some more specific ones, for instance covering issues like car parking in key cycling corridors, one-way streets and the like.
Some 30 candidates, around half, and from all the political parties, took the time to respond, and we are most grateful for their time during what is such a busy period.
What was in some way surprising was the very heavy consensus on a number of issues, particularly the widespread shortage of cycle parking provision around the city. Many agreed with our call for the institution of a formal target-based Cycle Parking Strategy to focus minds on more provision.
We look forward to having this support from those candidates who were elected.
Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator