Regulations regarding cycle lanes

This article was published in 2010, in Newsletter 88.

Regulations regarding cycle lanes

Cambridge Cycling Campaign has long been concerned about the lack of enforcement of regulations regarding Mandatory Cycle Lanes and has recently written to Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, asking that the relevant sections of the Traffic Management Act be enabled urgently. Below is a slightly edited version of the letter.

We ask that the 
relevant part of the 
Traffic Management Act regarding the enforcement of Mandatory Cycle Lanes be enabled swiftly

Dear Lord Adonis,

Regulations regarding Mandatory Cycle Lanes

We are writing regarding the enforcement of Mandatory Cycle Lanes (MCLs) and the relevant provisions in the Traffic Management Act 2004 (‘the Act’) which still have not been brought into force. We write to ask that as part of the publication of a new National Cycling (and active travel) Strategy, the relevant part of the Act be enabled swiftly.

Cambridge, as you’ll be aware, has the highest levels of cycling of any local authority in the UK, and has significant distances of MCLs which should provide exclusive on-road routes for cyclists in otherwise congested spaces. Such cycle lanes can give cycling advantages over driving and make it a safe and pleasant mode of transport. The Highway Code is quite clear regarding such lanes, saying: ‘You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid line during its times of operation’ (Rule 140).

Mandatory cycle lanes in Cambridge provide penalty-free parking, unloading areas and ‘short cuts’ for impatient motorists due to lack of enforcement of the law.
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Unfortunately such lanes are also providing penalty-free parking and unloading areas, as well as ‘short cuts’ for impatient motorists, owing to confusion over enforcement, lack of education, and hence low rates of compliance by drivers with Rule 140.

Part 4 of Schedule 7 of the Act provides for the decriminalisation of contraventions, both stationary and moving, when drivers fail to comply with traffic signs (contrary to section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988) for MCLs and some other cycle and pedestrian facilities. While decriminalised enforcement of bus lanes has been carried out for many years, and indeed has been extremely successful in improving bus services, we believe that this is the only part of the Act that has yet to be brought into force. We understand that the Statutory Instrument needed to do so has been drafted and is ready for public consultation.

These issues are complicated by lack of understanding of the current situation within the police. Many officers on the beat, and those in higher positions, either fail to understand the law or believe that issuing tickets for infringements of cycle lanes is now the responsibility of Civil Enforcement Officers under local authority parking enforcement. Until the provisions in the Act are enabled, we see no likelihood of higher levels of enforcement or compliance within Cambridge and 
the surrounding area. We believe we are not the only body frustrated by this issue, as the London Cycling Campaign and Campaign to Protect Rural England have both raised it with the Department.

In Cambridge, cycle lanes with flows of several thousands of cyclists per day are regularly obstructed by parked vehicles and delivery vans, some almost daily by the same vehicles. As someone who cycles himself, you will be aware that such obstructions turn cycle lanes into obstacle courses that can be worse than no facility at all. To make Cambridge and other cities safer and more pleasant places to cycle, such lanes need to be clear of obstructions, and not seen and treated as penalty-free parking and delivery areas for motor vehicles.

We ask that as part of the moves to a new National Cycle (and active travel) Strategy, the relevant part of the Act be enabled swiftly. Only when enforcement occurs regularly will compliance increase and routes be available for people 
to cycle. Hopefully, less confident people would then start cycling on these important routes, reducing motor vehicle congestion and increasing the health 
of Cambridge residents.

Yours sincerely, on behalf of Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Jim Chisholm