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Government slammed for not informing public of Highway Code changes aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians just days before they come into effect

AA says poll of its members finds that one in three are still unaware of new rules – and shadow minister says they will be “totally meaningless” if people are unaware

The government has been strongly criticised for its lack of communication to the public of key changes taking place to the Highway Code aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, with a senior Labour politician saying that they will be “totally meaningless” if people are not aware of them.

Meanwhile, a poll of more than 13,700 of its members by the AA earlier this month found that one in three (33 per cent) did not known that the Highway Code is being changed, and 4 per cent said they had “no intention” of refreshing their knowledge of the guidance, reports Sky News.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, the new rules include:

  • Establishing 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.

But Jack Cousens, AA head of roads policy, said: “With a week to go, too many drivers are unaware of the new rules of the road.

“While the government formally announced these changes last summer, they have been far too silent in promoting them.

“Shockingly, one in 25 drivers say they have no intention of looking at the new rules.

“These changes affect everyone, so we encourage people to read the updated code now so we can make our roads safer.”

Labour MP Louise Haigh, the Shadow Transport Secretary, said that the changes to the Highway Code would be “totally meaningless” if people were not made aware of them.

“Incredibly, ministers haven’t even begun telling the public about these major changes,” she said.

“A comprehensive national safety campaign is needed to keep cyclists safe on our roads, but ministers are missing in action.”

Last month, Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, urged the government to run a publicity campaign to make the public aware of the impending changes.

> Public must be told about Highway Code changes, says Cycling UK

He 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.”

However, a DfT spokesperson said: “The proposed upcoming changes to the Highway Code will improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders and were announced to national press.

“The department has established a working group of key organisations to ensure that messages about the changes are as widespread as possible and our well-established Think! campaign will continue to ensure all road users are aware both when these changes come into effect and beyond.”

> Highway Code changes: ‘What about cyclists, or do the rules not apply to them?’

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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