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Government needs to change Highway Code rules on overtaking cyclists and car dooring says Cycling UK

Charity asks for more comprehensive review of Highway Code than is currently being carried out

Cycling UK has asked that the government make the Highway Code rule about passing cyclists less open to interpretation by stating the gap that should be left. The charity would also like to see guidance introduced for vehicle occupants to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ method of opening car doors.

The government consultation: “Remote control parking and motorway assist: proposals for amending regulations and the Highway Code” is to look at the Highway Code changes needed to accommodate such technology.

The scope of the consultation means that there may also be changes to the rules around overtaking cyclists (Rule 160) and car dooring (Rule 239) – two areas which Cycling UK believes need updating.

Rule 160 advises that drivers should: “be aware of other road users, especially cycles and motorcycles who may be filtering through the traffic. These are more difficult to see than larger vehicles and their riders are particularly vulnerable. Give them plenty of room, especially if you are driving a long vehicle or towing a trailer”

Cycling UK argues that the phrasing “give them plenty of room” is too open to interpretation and would like guidance on the gap drivers should leave.

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Close passes account for a third of threatening encounters cyclists have with motor vehicles, according to research by Dr Rachel Aldred’s Near Miss Project. The project found that they are particularly a problem for women, who on average cycle more slowly than men, experiencing a 50 per cent higher rate of close passes.

Cycling UK would also like to see guidance introduced for people to use the opposite hand when opening a vehicle door to get out. The so-called Dutch Reach method twists the person so that they can’t help but look behind them as they open the door, reducing the likelihood that they will door a cyclist.

Rule 239 of the Highway Code currently states: “you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic”

Despite this, between 2011 and 2015, there were 3,108 reported collisions where “vehicle door opened or closed negligently” was recorded as a contributing factor in incidents attended by the police.

In July, the family of Sam Boulton, a cyclist who was killed when a taxi passenger opened its door into his path, joined Cycling UK in calling for the creation of a new offence of causing serious injury or death by car-dooring.

While the Government has acknowledged the need for updates to the Highway Code to keep up with advances in technology, the last full scale review occurred in 2007 and Cycling UK would like to see something similarly extensive carried out now.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Head of Campaigns and Advocacy said: “Whether it was the intention or not, the new Highway Code review is on the right path for safer cycling. It gives government the opportunity to address two of the greatest dangers to vulnerable road users: close passing and car-dooring.

“However, to make the roads safer for everyone, it is clear the scale of this consultation is too limited.

“What’s needed as we move towards increased motor vehicle automation is a holistic, not piecemeal, review of the entire Highway Code, something which could and should have dovetailed with the long promised review of all road traffic offences and penalties that we were promised in May 2014 by then Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling MP."

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