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“One tweet cannot always explain the complex rules of the Highway Code”: Road safety group responds to criticism of “motor-centric” post advising cyclists to “stop and allow drivers to overtake”

“Our aim is to try to educate all road users to be considerate of everyone else to avoid collisions and make the roads safer for everyone to use”

A road safety group which came in for criticism at the weekend, after advising cyclists to be “considerate of motorists who are trying to pass them”, has responded to the backlash by insisting that “our aim is to try and educate all road users to be considerate of everyone else”, while emphasising the need for drivers to reduce the danger posed to cyclists and pedestrians.

The Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership, which brings together agencies involved in road safety in the county, was heavily criticised at the weekend after posting a since deleted tweet which advised cyclists to stop and pull in to allow motorists to pass.

“Cyclists need to be considerate of motorists who are trying to pass them, by moving from a central ‘primary’ road position to a secondary road position to invite a vehicle to pass,” the group posted on Twitter on Saturday.

“If there is insufficient room they should stop when safe to do so to allow vehicles to pass them.”

> Road safety group draws ire after advising cyclists to “stop and allow drivers to overtake”

The tweet also included a graphic which contained guidance from the Highway Code, advising cyclists to “be aware of drivers behind you and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so.”

The post attracted the ire of cyclists on social media, with journalist and campaigner Peter Walker pointing out that the guidance is misleading, while others claimed that it was “motor-centric” and may lead drivers to expect cyclists to pull over or to ride single file, in order to avoid “inconveniencing” motorists.

“Cyclists should only do it when THEY feel it is safe. It’s not up to the driver to beep when they want you to single out,” one Twitter user said in response to the guidance. “If I’m cycling with my daughter on the inside, they may have to wait some time. Her safety is more important than a driver’s time keeping.”

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

Today, the Warwickshire Road Safety Partnership – which is chaired by the county’s police and crime commissioner Philip Seccombe – sought to clarify its position in a statement to road.cc.

“We acknowledge that one tweet cannot always explain the complex rules of the Highway Code,” Inspector Dave Valente, of Warwickshire Police’s Road Safety Unit, said.

“Our aim is to try to educate all road users to be considerate of everyone else to avoid collisions and make the roads safer for everyone to use.

“We are regularly raising awareness of the hierarchy of road users. This makes it clear that drivers and motorcyclists have the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to cyclists and other vulnerable road users.

“We are also advising drivers to wait behind a cyclist until it is safe to pass them, that it is not acceptable for drivers to squeeze past cyclists when it is not safe to do so, and encouraging cyclists to submit headcam footage of careless or dangerous driving to Op Snap.

“Drivers should wait until the road is clear, there are no obstructions, and it is safe to pass and allow at least 1.5 metres when overtaking a cyclist.”

> Police accused of "victim blaming" for advice to cyclists after two riders injured by drivers

The backlash which followed the road safety group’s initial tweet isn’t the first time this year that those charged with making the roads safe have been accused of “victim blaming” when it comes to cyclists.

In February, police in Bournemouth were criticised after responding to two separate incidents where cyclists were seriously injured after being hit by drivers with a “BIKE aware” social media campaign, which advises riders to “be aware”, “keep space”, and “expect to wait”.

The Facebook post received several comments questioning the response to the two incidents, but Bournemouth Police doubled down on its advice, replying to comments by insisting that being “BIKE aware is for both cyclists and motorists, with considerations made by both to help keep everyone on the road safe”.

The controversial advice accompanied a report of “two unrelated serious road traffic collisions in Christchurch”.

“Both involved vehicles colliding with cyclists, leaving the two cyclists requiring hospital treatment for serious injuries. One of the cyclists had fractures to their knee, thumb and four vertebrae,” the force confirmed.

“It is the responsibility of everyone who uses the roads to keep themselves and others safe,” PC Greg Johnson said. “Cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups that use the roads, as these two incidents on the same day have shown, so I’m asking everyone who uses the road, whether they are a motorist or cyclist, to be BIKE aware.”

However, the advice attracted accusations of “victim blaming”, with one reply suggesting that “every cyclist I know is inherently ‘bike aware’ as they have to demonstrate self-preservation on a daily basis”, while another questioned the wording of the report which appeared to claim that the vehicles had collided with the cyclists, not their drivers.

> Pro cyclist-led lights campaign, endorsed by Tadej Pogačar, “feeds into victim-blaming culture”, says road safety expert

The week before Bournemouth Police’s contentious road safety campaign, Police Scotland received similar accusations of victim blaming after asking pedestrians to wear hi-vis clothing following a spate of road deaths. The advice was criticised by many, including national lead for fatal collision investigation reporting DCS Andy Cox, and came after six pedestrians died in collisions in the space of just 13 days.

Last July, the West Oxfordshire branch of Thames Valley Police also faced a backlash after reporting that its officers had attended a collision between a “cyclist and a car”, while also urging cyclists to remember to wear a helmet.

And just last week, Derbyshire Constabulary announced a new road safety campaign which said that its officers will focus on protecting cyclists and motorbike riders by reducing dangerous riding behaviour and ensuring that they keep them within speed limits.

In the somewhat clumsily worded statement, the force said that it is going to spend “more time on our most rural roads, to ensure riders are keeping to speed limits and riding with care”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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15 comments

Avatar
qwerty360 | 1 year ago
3 likes

One thing I have thought of since this was originally posted.

 

Rule 72, defining rules re cyclists positioning and moving left to allow for faster moving traffic, effectively overrules/adds constraints to rules 160 and 169, which respectively instruct all vehicles to keep left and slow movers to stop to let queues of faster traffic past.

 

So rule 72 isn't there to require cyclists move out of the way for safety; Instead it explicitly expands on other rules to restrict when/how cyclists should 'keep left'; Therefore if discussing safety the discussion shouldn't be on 'cyclists be considerate' with an implication that getting left, out of the way is a special requirement for cyclists, but that cyclists explicitly aren't required to do so and should only do so where safe (per this rule...)

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to qwerty360 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Exactly. There's far more 'keep right' than 'keep left' in Rule 72. It's about encouraging the use of primary road position.

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IanMK | 1 year ago
3 likes

Their tweets do seem to concentrate on making sure that cyclists and other vulnerable road users know the highway code. I think to convince me that they actually understand road safety I'd like them to be teaching drivers some stuff. eg overtaking in traffic calming areas, overtaking at junctions, overtaking at pedestrian crossing facilities.......

Also if a tweet cannot convay complex ideas why not just use it as a conversation starter and then actually reply to some of the responses if you feel that the original tweet was misconstrued

Avatar
brooksby | 1 year ago
5 likes

Insp Dave Valente wrote:

“We acknowledge that one tweet cannot always explain the complex rules of the Highway Code”

Seems to me that Twitter probably isnt the best medium to use for this purpose, then...

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Surreyrider replied to brooksby | 1 year ago
0 likes

Agreed - if you can't get it right in a tweet...don't tweet.

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hawkinspeter replied to Surreyrider | 1 year ago
0 likes

Surreyrider wrote:

Agreed - if you can't get it right in a tweet...don't tweet.

FTFY

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
6 likes

Have they co-opted a cyclist onto the committee yet?  So that they don't keep making the same mistake.

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chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

Unrelated but on the Police Scotland pic they're illustrating this one with:  Are Police Scotland saying "leave as much room as two coppers side-by-side when overtaking a cyclist" or is it a picture from when the guidance was "leave as much room as you would when overtaking a car and clipping their wing mirrors OR door mirrors"?

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IanMK replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
2 likes

I'm a bit perturbed by the Police Scotland illustration as well. Whilst I would not report such an overtake. I wouldn't say it represents best practice. Also it's a bit more nuanced. I had one this morning exactly like that. I was in secondary going up a hill and a car passed me in exactly that position half over the center line. The problem is that they were accelerating to get past me before the car coming the other way. It was a 60 road anyway so that really meant that should have given me more space. NOT a good overtake.

Also the shoulder width of the average male is about 500cm. So really should be three coppers width. 

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chrisonabike replied to IanMK | 1 year ago
2 likes

Agreed - I'd find that unremarkable in an urban environment with a modest speed differential, but it might be unpleasant if that was a truck on a derestricted road...

Also true in that reducing "overtaking" to a single instruction is going to leave something out.  "Cross fully into the other lane" might be a start but that doesn't help if you're in a cycle lane.  As for these images most I've seen aren't much more helpful that the old wording, plus having additional confusing elements.

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IanGlasgow | 1 year ago
1 like

"after posting a since deleted tweet"

They haven't deleted it.

https://twitter.com/WarksRoadSafety/status/1649110685803245568?t=DrqC_WG...

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qwerty360 replied to IanGlasgow | 1 year ago
3 likes

They posted more than one tweet on this.

 

The first one didn't even mention the "where safe" part of the HW code rules re cyclists letting faster traffic past...

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Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
1 like

That HC section is fine as it is.  There was no need to reword it and change the meaning.   Though tbf the change isn't a massive deal.
I would rather ppl focused on the lack of need to change it rather than parse ever more ridiculous meanings from it in order to continue the shoeing.

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Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
1 like

I'll just get my popcorn for this one

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morgoth985 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Agreed.  Perhaps therefore it might be wise to avoid tweeting in a way that could be perceived as encompassing the whole Highway Code.

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