Getting the best for cycling out of HS2

Cycling UK will be presenting a petition in Parliament about the HS2 rail scheme on 17 July. It advocates for high quality conditions for cycling designed into any changed infrastructure and sets out the need for an ongoing dialogue with both HS2 and DfT.

Nottingham Pedals, liaising with Sustrans and various other groups such as ourselves, as part of the East Midlands Region of Cyclenation, is pressing HS2 to include a pedestrian/cycle paths in the detailed proposals for the new HS2 bridge over the River Trent between Thrumpton in Nottinghamshire and Cranfleet Lock / Long Eaton in Derbyshire. This would provide a link to many local, regional and national walking and cycling routes on both sides of the river, including Sustrans NCN routes 6 and 15, the Trent Valley Way, Erewash Trail and River Soar Trail. The case is being made for good cycle access to and from the proposed HS2 East Midlands Hub at Toton a few miles to the north, on the Nottinghamshire / Derbyshire border.

Both of these suggestions have recently been included in Pedals’ comprehensive list of missing links / gaps in the Greater Nottingham Cycle Network, which has been submitted as part of the process for the preparation of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) for the D2N2 (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership) area, for which DfT-funded consultancy support is being provided by Sustrans and Phil Jones & Associates.

Highway Code’s rules on overtaking cyclists

Based on a Cycling UK article

The Highway Code’s rules 162-169 deal with overtaking generally, with Rule 163 referring to the distance to leave when overtaking a cyclist, and advising drivers to overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so and “give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.

It is not clear, however, how much room that is, because the space people give when overtaking cars varies considerably. If a driver routinely overtakes other motor vehicles leaving less than a one metre gap, does Rule 163 imply that this is all they have to leave when overtaking a cyclist, regardless of their speed, the weather and the road conditions?

Rule 212 also refers to overtaking cyclists and motorcyclists, with advice to “give them plenty of room”. This phrase is repeated in Rule 213 in the context of advice that they “may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road”.

But ‘plenty of room’ is another subjective concept. Either Rule 163 needs to be amended, or a new rule inserted, to specifically refer to a minimum passing distance guideline.

Research indicates that near misses are a normal experience for many people cycling in the UK. Women reported more incidents per mile than men, although that was due to a difference in speed. Slower cyclists experience more near misses. This is of particular concern given that increasing and diversifying those cycling requires the creation of comfortable cycling conditions for a range of ages and abilities.

The very high rates of non-injury incidents by comparison to reported injury cases is crucially important because road safety policy is often driven by casualty statistics, and near misses do not register on those statistics. However, experiencing these can create a perception of danger, which is a barrier to cycling.

A Minimum Distance Law would be difficult to enforce, given the need to establish in evidence the exact parameters beyond reasonable doubt.

However, minimum distances set as guidelines within the Highway Code would not only provide much clearer advice than the current rules, but also allow the flexibility to take account of road conditions, weather, speed and size/type of vehicle etc.

These guidelines have been suggested by Cycling UK

Drivers of larger vehicles (buses, lorries etc.) to take extra care and consider leaving more space when overtaking cyclists.

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