Highway Code Review
Following years of campaigning by cycling organisations, a review of the Highway Code has been initiated by the Government, setting out proposals to make cycling and walking safer, which include:
- the introduction of either a 'hierarchy of users' or 'hierarchy of responsibility', recognising that road users who pose greater risks to others should have a higher level of responsibility;
- a new rule tackling 'left hook' collisions, giving priority to whoever is going straight ahead at an unsignalised junction. (A short video explaining how it would work can be found here.);
- new rules to address dangerous overtaking and ‘close passes’, with a guideline minimum safe passing distance of 1.5m at 30mph, 2m at higher speeds;
- the introduction of the Dutch Reach which makes car occupants turn their head to look over their shoulder before opening the door;
- amending the rule about riding two abreast so that it will simply advise riding in single file when drivers wish to overtake, and it is safe to let them do so;
- clarification that cyclists should ride in the centre of the lane, to make themselves as clearly visible as possible (primary position) on quiet roads or streets, moving over to the left if a faster vehicle comes up behind, but only if they can do so safely;
- rule 140 – Cycle lanes and cycle tracks. The new rule would advise drivers that cyclists don’t have to use cycle lanes or cycle tracks (a common misconception). It includes specific advice to drivers to be prepared to stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists before crossing a cycle lane or track;
- rule 151 – The new rule would advise drivers to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross in front of them in slow moving traffic, clarifying that cyclists can filter past other traffic;
- rule 178 – Advanced stop lines. The new rule would advise that where a driver has passed the first white line at the time that the signal turns red, they should stop as soon as possible rather than just proceeding to the second line;
- rule 186 – Drivers would be advised to give priority to cyclists on a roundabout, to give them plenty of room, not attempt to overtake within their lane, and to allow cyclists to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout. There would be further advice that drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to ensure that they do not cut across cyclists in the left-hand lane who are continuing around the roundabout.
Cycling UK have prepared a draft consultation response which can be used to support these changes, which can be found on the Cycling UK website.
GPs to prescribe cycling
In a new plan to start a cycling and walking ‘revolution’, backed by £2bn in funding, the Department for Transport said it wants to work through social prescribing of cycling ‘wherever appropriate’. It will choose areas with ‘poor health and low physical activity rates’ to pilot the scheme. The Government has set out a new obesity strategy which is to undergo trials in selected areas, with new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommendations for GPs.
The proposals state that "To cope in future, the NHS will have to not only increase supply (with new hospitals, more GP appointments, and so on) but also reduce demand, by helping people to live healthier lives. The service will need more concertedly to tackle the causes of ill-health, and not just the symptoms. We will choose several pilot places with poor health and low physical activity rates to deliver personalised care by working through social prescribing in primary care networks to incentivise GPs to prescribe cycling wherever appropriate."
A stock of bicycles will be available to lend to patients alongside ‘training, access to cycling groups and peer support’ - with the potential for patients to keep the bikes ‘if they used them enough’.
The downside is that the resources will be taken from funding previously announced for ‘active travel’ in May.
New Era for Cycling?
Since the “lockdown” in March, cycling’s star has risen in the political, popular and news agenda because of ordinary people cycling – the regular and irregular cyclist, the family which ventured out on the empty roads for the first time and the thousands of key workers, who took to two wheels rather than run the risk of passing on the virus to others on public transport.
The pandemic has opened the eyes to decision makers and the wider public that cycling doesn’t just give a break from the worries of the world, but it also presents a part of the solution to them. From being the best way to practise social distancing for short journeys, to its benefits for our physical and mental wellbeing, to its part to play in addressing our concerns about air quality and the environment, getting more people cycling is a miracle pill.
The Government has announced a new plan to improve cycling and walking in England. It places cycling at the heart of our towns and cities and aims to make it safer and accessible for everyone – not just the regular cyclist but the would-be one too.
Given the breakthrough in the nation’s attitudes, you’d be forgiven for thinking today’s announcement was crafted in recent weeks. The impetus that has brought it all together is new, but the work behind these changes has been years in the making.
Two years ago, the Government held its Cycling and Walking Safety Review. Cycling UK and many campaign groups responded. What we’ve seen today is many of those recommendations finally translated into policy which will make cycling safer.
Together with Living Streets and traffic engineer Phil Jones, Cycling UK has worked closely with the Department for Transport to shape the recommendations contained in the consultation.
At the end of the day, the number one thing which will keep people safe, and give the would-be cyclist the confidence to head out on the roads, is protected space. For too long, there has been an inconsistency in the design of our cycle networks and cycle lanes. That era is coming to an end, as there are now national design standards for cycling infrastructure. This means schemes which consist mainly of paint, which make pedestrians and cyclists share the same space, or which do not make meaningful changes to the status quo on the road, will not be funded.
These standards will be overseen by a new inspectorate, Active Travel England, which will be responsible for the cycling budget and help make sure schemes meet the new standards. We can’t expect dramatic change overnight – the likes of Amsterdam and Copenhagen were not built in a day – but this vision looks ahead at the next decade and has the support of the active travel organisations like Cycling UK, Bicycle Association, British Cycling, Sustrans, Living Streets and the Ramblers to deliver it.
However, while local authorities begin the building the infrastructure we need for a happier and healthier future, there are also measures being introduced which will start to change the way the English perceive cycling:
- everyone – from all school children to adults – will be able to access cycle training;
- there will be an increase in cycle parking at train and bus stations, allowing for a greater integration between transport modes;
- residents will have the power to call for an end to rat runs through their local streets;
- local authorities will have the powers necessary to crack down on traffic offences, like parking in cycle lanes.
- measures are also promised which will increase the public’s access to e-bikes, which rumours suggest will be akin to the government’s plug in grant scheme for electric cars.
One thing however has not changed - funding. The Prime Minister has set out an impressive shopping list; for sure the £2bn for this year will kick start this, but there is no new money. It is the same £2bn announced in May and February before it. If we are to shift gears so that everyone can feel the transformative benefits of cycling, we need proper ‘long term’ investment to the tune of £6bn to £8bn over the next five years. This autumn the Chancellor is scheduled to initiate a strategic spending review, when he will have the opportunity to invest in the future and enable the Prime Minister’s vision of a golden age of cycling to come true.
Making streets safe for cycling
Local authorities will only receive Government funding for cycle schemes if they adhere to the DfT’s new Local Transport Note on Cycle infrastructure design. The new body, Active Travel England, will be checking that they do so.
Chapter topics include: space for cycling within highways; motor traffic free routes; transitions between carriageways, cycle lanes and cycle tracks; junctions and crossings; cycle parking; and traffic signs, road markings and wayfinding.
High quality cycle routes and networks have five characteristics, says the advice: they’re coherent, direct, safe, comfortable, and attractive. It goes on to list 22 principles for successful schemes. The note includes -
“On roads with high volumes of motor traffic or high speeds, cycle routes indicated only with road markings or cycle symbols should not be used as people will perceive them to be unacceptable for safe cycling. Cyclists must be physically separated and protected from high volume motor traffic, both at junctions and on the stretches of road between them. Segregated facilities can be implemented with full kerb segregation or light segregation, for example with wands, stepped kerbs, planters etc.”
“To allow faster cyclists to overtake, and make room for non-standard bikes, cycle tracks should ideally be 2 metres wide in each direction, or 3 to 4 metres (depending on cycle flows) for bidirectional tracks, though there may have to be exceptions.”
It also favours allowing cyclists into vehicle restricted areas (VRAs) such as pedestrian areas. “There should always be a preference for allowing cyclists to access VRAs unless there is good evidence that this would cause significant safety problems.”