Highway Code

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 75.

In October the new edition of the Highway Code was finally published. This contains the changes from the draft laid before Parliament that we and many others petitioned about, and for which much work was done behind the scenes by MPs and organisations such as CTC. Although from the cyclist’s perspective it is far from ideal, it is a major improvement over that in the draft.

The previous published edition had a Rule 47:

Use cycle routes when practicable. They can make your journey safer.

The new edition replaces this with Rule 61:

Cycle Routes and Other Facilities: Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.

Similar changes have been made to Rule 63 about cycle lanes.

The draft of Rule 63 in this new edition used the word ‘possible’ rather than ‘practicable’ as in the earlier published draft. I thought this was a huge step backwards. It is ‘possible’ to drive from Exeter to Southampton almost entirely on motorways, but no one in their right mind would consider it ‘practicable’ as it is well over 100 miles further to use the M5, M4, M25 and M3 rather than the direct A30 and A36. However, this was changed back to ‘practicable’ after much lobbying.

For the first time, we have a clear statement in the Highway Code that cyclists do not have to use (often inadequate) cycle facilities

So have we taken two steps backward and one step forwards? I don’t think so. At least it should now be clear to all but the most bigoted motorist, that the use of cycle facilities is not compulsory. Unfortunately it is highly likely that it is just those bigoted few who will fail to read the Highway Code.

It could be up to ten years before the Highway Code has another major revision. Let us ensure that the next revision is far more favourable to all classes of vulnerable users, and that motorists are told they have to be more responsible when driving their lethal weapons.

You can buy your new edition for only £2.50 at all good bookshops or you can see it at direct.gov.uk/Highwaycode

Jim Chisholm