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Consultation launched on proposed changes to Highway Code

Many of the changes including recommending Dutch Reach plus minimum passing distance are aimed at protecting cyclists

The government has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the Highway Code, many of which are aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, including cyclists.

Among the planned changes in the consultation document, which you can find here, are clarifying safe passing distances, encouraging the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique of opening car doors to try and prevent ‘dooring’ incidents, and highlighting a hierarchy of road users to place greater responsibility on those with most potential to do harm.

Also, as we looked at separately yesterday, a recommendation is being introduced that cyclist “Should … ride in single file when drivers wish to overtake and it is safe to let them do so,” adding that “When riding in larger groups on narrow lanes, it is sometimes safer to ride two abreast.”

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The proposals follow an interim review of the Highway Code announced in October 2018, and while they therefore stop short of a full-blown revision, there is a strong focus on improving safety of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, as well as children.

Besides the consultation document itself, the Department for Transport has also produced a summary – still a lengthy document in itself – which sets out details of the key changes, many of which aim to give motorists a greater understanding of how cyclists use the road, including positioning, the fact that it is not obligatory for people on bikes to use cycle lanes, and that they are allowed to pass motor vehicles on either side.

There are a number of proposed changes in the Rules for Cyclists chapter, perhaps the most contentious of which is updating Rule 59 “to state that evidence suggests that wearing a cycle helmet will reduce your risk of sustaining a head injury in certain circumstances” – although there is no suggestion of helmets being made compulsory for riders,

Rule 63, meanwhile, is to be changed to include riding in shared spaces, with the proposed text reading: “When riding in places where sharing with pedestrians, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles is permitted take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older adults or disabled people. Let them know you are there when necessary e.g. by ringing your bell (it is recommended that a bell is fitted to your bike), or by calling out politely.

“Remember that pedestrians may be deaf, blind or partially sighted and that this may not be obvious.

“Do not pass pedestrians, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles closely or at high speed, particularly from behind. Remember that horses can be startled if passed without warning. Always be prepared to slow down and stop when necessary.”

Among the other planned changes to that chapter are proposals designed to:

include references to cycle tracks, cycle signals and new junction designs

amend the wording on Advanced Stop Lines

clarify the priority cyclists have over other vehicles when going straight ahead at a junction

provide advice on cyclist behaviours when riding on a shared use route and giving pedestrians priority

recommend that cyclists give way to pedestrians waiting to cross the road at a side road or junctions

strengthen advice around the value of cycle training

expand the rules on safe riding and crossing busy roads, including recommended procedures for cycling at roundabouts and road positioning.

Rule 163, meanwhile, which currently tells drivers to give cyclists and horse riders “at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car” will for the first time give recommended passing distances of “a minimum distance of 1.5 metres at speeds under 30 mph,” “a minimum distance of 2.0 metres at speeds over 30 mph,” and “for a large vehicle, leave a minimum distance of 2.0 metres in all conditions.”

It will also be amended to advise motorists that “cyclists may pass slower moving or stationary traffic on the right or left, including at the approach to junctions.”

Meanwhile, the Waiting and Parking chapter will be updated to recommend the Dutch Reach, something that campaigners including Cycling UK have been pushing for following fatalities of cyclists.

The proposed new text reads: “You should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening, e.g. use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. You are then more likely to avoid causing injury to cyclists or motorcyclists passing you on the road, or to people on the pavement.”

As far as the establishment of a hierarchy of road users is concerned, the DfT says that proposed new Rule H1 ‘”ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.

“The objective of the hierarchy is not to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but rather to ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.”

The Department for Transport says: “Your views are particularly important to us so we would encourage you to respond to this consultation. The consultation period began on 28 July 2020 and will run until midnight on 27 October 2020. Please ensure that your response reaches us before the closing date.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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