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Highway Code changes: Just 18 percent of cyclists think road safety has improved, poll finds

The new study found that 12 percent of cyclists believe conditions on the road have worsened in the past year, while only one in ten reckon the government takes cycle safety seriously enough

This Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the much-discussed changes to the Highway Code – where did that year go? – and a new study has found that in the twelve months since the updates, just 18 percent of cyclists believe that they have made a positive difference to road safety, while just under half of the respondents weren’t even aware that the changes had been introduced.

The long-awaited changes to the Highway Code, implemented on 29 January 2022 in the midst of great consternation within the national press, included amongst other things the introduction of a hierarchy of road users aimed at protecting the most vulnerable, and drivers being advised to give cyclists a minimum of 1.5 metres of space when overtaking.

Communication of the changes left a lot to be desired, however, with the Department for Transport (DfT) waiting until July to launch its road safety campaign promoting the updates – leaving the new Highway Code to fall victim to swathes of misinformation (often perpetuated by the mainstream media) or plain ignorance.

> Highway Code: 61% of drivers HAVE NOT read new rules, AA survey suggests 

In September, an AA poll found that, of the 13,327 members it surveyed, 8,090 (61 percent) said they had not read the changes. Of the 8,090 not to have read the new rules, 6,972 (52 percent) said they were aware of the changes but had not read them, while 1,118 (eight percent) were completely unaware of them.

A recent poll by cycling insurance specialist Cycleplan, however, indicates that ignorance of the new changes is as equally, if not more, prevalent amongst cyclists.

The company’s recent survey of 1,000 “regular” cyclists on the Highway Code changes found that 48 percent were not aware that the changes had been introduced (a similar figure to when the insurer carried out the same poll in early 2022).

> "Protect those most at risk": Highway Code changes promoted as government launches 'Travel Like You Know Them' campaign 

According to the study, the changes – if they’ve even been read at all – haven’t led to a safer and more harmonious environment on the roads.

When asked whether they had noticed a difference in road safety at junctions over the last 12 months, only 18 percent of cyclists said that they felt safer. 12 percent claimed that junctions have felt even more dangerous since the Highway Code was updated, while 70 percent said that they haven’t noticed a difference.

Just one-fifth of the cyclists polled said they feel safe cycling on UK roads, while 32 percent claimed to have been involved, or nearly involved, in a collision with a motorist in the last 12 months.

Finally, when asked about how seriously national and local governments are taking road safety, just one in ten cyclists believe that the UK government has made safe cycling a priority, while only 12 percent agreed that their local council is working hard to make the roads safer for people on bikes.

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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