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Junction rule change could prevent left-hook danger, say campaigners as petition launched

Highway Code changes proposed by British Cycling and the AA to give way when turning could improve safety and pave the way for better cycle infrastructure in the UK

British Cycling, the AA and pedestrian groups are calling for a universal rule to give way when turning, to reduce left hook risks for those cycling and walking, and have launched a petition to drum up support.

At the moment, they say, the Highway Code features 14 rules relating to walking and cycling at junctions, which are unclear, often with a different emphasis, while failing to cover all scenarios.

The proposal, based on research commissioned by British Cycling, is to make one rule, requiring those driving or cycling to give way when turning to people going straight on. At the moment a lack of clarity and legal protection for cyclists and pedestrians against turning traffic mean councils are reluctant to provide innovative infrastructure, instead building “stop-start” bike lanes which, research suggests, undermines safety, rather than protecting cyclists.

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Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy adviser, said the proposals would eliminate confusion and encourage more people to walk and cycle.

“Whether driving, cycling or walking, negotiating a junction is the most hazardous manoeuvre you can make on the road – this is evidenced by the fact that nearly two thirds of motor vehicle collisions take place at junctions,” he said.

“There are at least 14 different rules in the Highway Code which relate to people walking and cycling at junctions, and it can be difficult for anyone to interpret what is the correct behaviour. A change needs to be made – the rules need to be simple and unambiguous.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “It would be beneficial for all road users if the Highway Code simplified the rules at junctions where a disproportionate amount of injury crashes occur.”

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The new proposal follows research conducted on behalf of British Cycling, and is based on Danish, Dutch and Swedish models where vehicles travelling straight give way to pedestrians as well as cyclists crossing side roads, riding on cycle lanes on the inside of traffic.

Rule changes would mean:

- Drivers turning at a junction giving way to people cycling and walking who may be on your nearside, or crossing the road you wish to turn into;

- Cyclists turning at a junction giving way to people walking who are crossing the road you wish to turn into;

- Pedestrians getting increased protection when crossing a side road or other junction.

At the moment rule 170 of the Highway Code states drivers must give way to pedestrians who are already crossing a side road, but this rule is rarely observed and is not directly enforceable by law, says report authors, Phil Jones Associates.

The report, titled Turning the Corner, suggests current laws do not adequately protect cyclists from turning traffic, whether people are riding on cycle lanes or on the road. This encourages cyclists to ‘take the lane’ to avoid left hooks, reducing the value of investment in cycle infrastructure, it says.

It adds lack of clarified rules and the fact rules aren’t enforceable means local authorities are reluctant to give priority to pedestrians and cyclists over turning traffic.

British Cycling launched a petition today to build support for the new proposal. Among those to have already signed are Chris Boardman, Olympic champions Joanna Rowsell Shand, Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Steven Burke and Paralympic legend Dame Sarah Storey.

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Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “As pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists we all need to recognise that the road is a shared space which works best when we all respect each other. The clearer we can make the rules of the road the easier it is for us all to see what’s expected of us and to comply. The rules also need to be complemented with the right streetscape engineering, with markings, surfaces and road geometry all telling us the same story.”

A fear of sharing road space with motor traffic represents a major barrier to more people cycling. British Cycling argues changing the rules would allow more and better infrastructure to be built, improving both actual and perceived safety for those on foot and on bikes.

Suggestions made by the report include a single rule regarding left turns in the Highway Code, and strengthening the wording of that rule; changes to rules for road markings (the Transport Signs Regulations and General Directions, or TSRGD) including use of ‘elephant’s footprints’ indicating side road priorities. Alternatively it suggests a change to primary legislation under an act of Parliament to support the various rules of the Highway  Code, introducing a ‘Universal duty to give way’, as applied in Nordic countries.


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