The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced a number of new initiatives in response to its Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS) cycle safety review. Campaigners have welcomed many of the proposals, but expressed disappointment at the lack of emphasis on speed reduction.
The plan comprises 50 measures intended to combat road rage, encourage greater mutual respect between road users and protect the most vulnerable.
Measures include cheaper insurance for drivers who get cycle training; increased powers for councils to crack down on parking in cycle lanes; a new police unit to analyse video evidence submitted by the public; and the appointment of a new walking and cycling “champion”.
A review of the Highway Code could also be carried out to consider its guidance about how drivers should behave in relation to vulnerable road users.
Cycling and Walking Minister Jesse Norman said: “Greater road safety— and especially the protection of vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders – is essential.
“We want to improve air quality, encourage healthy exercise, reduce obesity and boost our high streets and economic productivity. That means more support for cycling and walking, and that’s why these new measures are designed to deliver.”
The Cycling and Walking Alliance – which comprises Cycling UK, The Ramblers, British Cycling, Living Streets and Sustrans – expressed support for the plans, but asked why there was not more emphasis on speed reduction.
“Lowering vehicle speeds around people walking, cycling and horse riding doesn’t just reduce the danger to them, but also their perception of the danger,” said Cycling UK CEO Paul Tuohy. “While the DfT’s proposals for amendments to the Highway Code will help save lives, ignoring the threat and dangers of speeding is disappointing.”
Research suggests that drivers with experience of cycling are generally safer drivers and Cycling UK has long called for drivers to be incentivised to complete Bikeability training through discounts on insurance.
The action plan will assess whether insurance companies could offer such discounts to drivers and motorcyclists. The DfT says it will also work closely with courier companies to explore incentives for professional drivers to undergo training in driving safely alongside cyclists, pedestrians and horse-riders.
Another initiative aims to address a common bugbear among cyclists – parking in cycle lanes.
Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore commented: “Although it’s already an offence to park in a mandatory cycle lane, the reality is that the decline in police traffic numbers means this has been widely ignored and rarely enforced.
“Giving local authorities the power to enforce this offence with CCTV cameras is one of the simple solutions Cycling UK proposed in our response to the government’s cycling and walking safety review, so we’re delighted that such a long overdue and simple measure is now being implemented”.
Dollimore was however quick to highlight a flaw in the DfT’s message that it would encourage councils to spend 15 per cent of their local transport infrastructure funding on walking and cycling.
“Cycling UK would love to see more local authorities spending more of their transport funding on walking and cycling, but if they’re being asked to spend 15 per cent of their budget on active travel they might well ask what percentage of the DfT’s budget will be committed to this, and whether the DfT will similarly reallocate funding to active travel.”
The DfT also wants to create a new police unit to analyse video evidence of dangerous driving recorded by other road users and to appoint a new cycling and walking champion who would ensure new policies met the needs of road users.
Meanwhile, a study will be commissioned to examine the implications of adopting presumed liability laws.
Suggestions that cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and wear hi-vis were rejected.
The DfT said, “we believe that wearing helmets, and also high-vis clothing, should remain a matter of individual choice rather than imposing additional regulations which would be difficult to enforce. We will review evidence and international experience on mandatory helmets for children and provide clear guidance to help parents choose what is appropriate for their child.”
Suggestions relating to bike licensing and number plates were also dismissed. The DfT said that the “safety case for a testing/licensing system for cyclists is not as strong as that for drivers since, by contrast with motor vehicles, bicycles involved in collisions on the highway are far less likely to cause serious injury to other road users.”
Citing the impact on the environment and health, it added that, “the costs and complexity of introducing such a system would significantly outweigh the benefits.”