Cycling UK has urged the government to launch a properly funded and ongoing awareness campaign over changes to the Highway Code due to come into effect at the end of January, with the charity saying that “now is the time to right the misunderstanding on our roads.”
The changes, primarily aimed at protecting vulnerable road users including cyclists, were drawn up following a consultation held by the Department for Transport (DfT) last year.
But the charity says that without people being made aware of the changes, and what they aim to achieve, the revised Highway Code will only be of “limited benefit.”
Its appeal follows a poll by the AA of its members earlier this month which found that two in three were unaware of the changes, with the motoring organisation likewise calling for the DfT to publicise them.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns said: “Cycling UK is concerned the forthcoming improvements to road safety outlined in the latest revision of the Highway Code, which will benefit everyone, are not being communicated through official channels.
“In a month’s time, our Highway Code should change for the better, but these changes will be of limited benefit if the public aren’t aware of them.”
The changes, which are due to come into effect towards the end of next month, include:
A new Hierarchy of Road Users, meaning that those posing the greatest risk to others have a greater degree of responsibility – ie motorists to people on bike or foot, or cyclists to pedestrians.
The introduction of a minimum 1.5-metre passing distance for motorists overtaking cyclists.
Recommending the ‘Dutch Reach’ to drivers and other occupants of motor vehicles to avoid cyclists being ‘doored’.
Simplification of rules regarding non-signalised junctions aimed at preventing crashes where drivers ‘left-hook’ cyclists.
Clarification that cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast – and that it is often safer for them to do so.
Widespread misconceptions on that latter point and comments on social media or beneath online press articles highlight that there is widespread ignorance among motorists of what the current rules of the road are, let alone what the new version will be.
“Many people won’t have read the Highway Code for years, so it’s essential that the key changes are clearly explained, with simple, accurate and memorable messages,” Dollimore said.
“These changes have legal implications. Just as we saw with the introduction of other road safety measures like mandatory seat belts and stricter drink driving laws, the public needs to be accurately informed about the new rules.
“The hierarchy of responsibility and changes to junction priority need to be explained and communicated properly, regardless of whether or not everyone agrees with them.
“Once the public has been clearly informed about the update, there’s a requirement to bring people on a journey to understand and appreciate why these changes are necessary.”
The charity is calling for the government to introduce an ongoing and properly funded awareness campaign so that the changes can be clearly communicated to the public.
“At Cycling UK far too often we see the potential for conflict that comes from a lack of awareness of the Highway Code,” Dollimore continued. “This puts the most vulnerable on our roads at unforgiveable risk.
“Now is the time to right the misunderstanding on our roads, not tomorrow when it is too late,” he added. “Any awareness campaign needs to be viewed in years, not months, and it needs to be well-funded.”
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.