Does the Highway Code need amending as the Department of Transport proposes?

On 28 July 2020, a consultation was launched seeking views on proposed changes to the Highway Code.

The review is being held by the Department for Transport, to improve safety for vulnerable road users, particularly the groups of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.

The main changes being proposed are ensuring that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others, making rules on pedestrians clearer, providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead and creating guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders.

I am all in favour of changes to the Highway Code that make our roads safer, but I am unsure whether “road users who can do the greatest harm” should shoulder ALL the responsibility.

Car drivers, lorry drivers, motorcyclists have already passed tests to quite high standards, would it not be beneficial to ensure the cyclists and horse riders pass some sort of test as others do? Would that be a better way forward?

During the lockdown on my daily exercise, I noticed cyclists everywhere, and I mean everywhere; at the side of the road, middle of the road, on the pavements, flying down public stairways, swerving between cars. I have never seen so many badly ridden bicycles.

It is fair to point out that there were many very professional looking riders out there as well.

Apparently, bicycles were highly sought after with long waiting lists.

However, the proposals by the Department of Transport miss the point, yes vulnerable road users need protection, but would it not be safer to introduce tests? Obviously set down by experienced cyclists and horse riders. That way those who have decided to use the roads have a code of conduct to follow as car drivers, motorcyclists and lorry drivers do.

Young cyclists could have courses before they embark upon public roads, then adult courses and not forgetting the older generation. All of whom would require varying degrees of training. Then a licence issued.

Drivers are already taught to be aware of hazards, but you cannot always anticipate the actions of a cyclist who has taken to 2 wheels for the first time since childhood.

Bike riding is a wonderful way to travel on sunny days, but there must be some sort of level playing field if their popularity is here to stay as some suggest.

What about identification? Should they be made to have registration plates for a small fee?

Cyclists are not averse to committing road traffic offences, so I am told. How do we identify them? At present we cannot other than if they are wearing illuminated Lycra and the police catch them further up the road. The chances of finding a policeman on the beat are equal to finding a unicorn these days.  Perhaps a displayed registration plate for cycles is the answer. It would at least allow enforcement (if the police have resources)of penalties for not having lights on in the hours of darkness.

So, should there be a test that cyclists and horse riders must take prior to making their 1st appearance on a public highway? Would that make the roads a safer place for everyone? I certainly think there is food for thought in the idea.

The Department of Transport should think carefully before imposing further rules within the Highway Code that will make drivers more aware, but if cyclists and horse riders are not familiar with any of the Highway Code, with the best will in the world, it’s not going to protect those whom they intended to protect.

This blog was written by Lynn Mahon

This article was written by Lynn Mahon and these are her own personal views and not the views of the firm.

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