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“Next you’ll be asking if drink driving laws are fair”: UK Government asks motorists “caught out” by cycle lanes if current traffic fines are “fair to drivers”, leaving cyclists baffled

The new consultation comes as part of Rishi Sunak’s ‘Plan for Drivers’, and has been slammed by cyclists, many likening the move to asking for feedback from those on the receiving end of penalties for breaking the law

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation for seeking drivers’ opinions on whether current traffic fines are “fair” as part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s ‘Plan for Drivers’, with a dubiously-worded social media post that has been slammed widely by cyclists.

The much-criticised ‘Plan for Drivers’ was announced in October, part of which hoped to “address concerns about councils generating surpluses from issuing penalty charge notices for contraventions of moving traffic restrictions”.

The decision was slammed by leading active travel groups in the UK as denying citizens of “their choice, health, and freedom”, with Cycling UK even accusing the prime minister and Conservative party of an “ill-fated attempt to win” votes with pro-motoring policies that were “undermining” active travel success.

> Rishi Sunak’s ‘Plan for Motorists’ will “rob people of choice” and force them to drive, say cycling and walking campaigners

When announced, the government had indicated that it was going to order a review of the fines in a bid to make them “fair”, along with other tactics such as a “new guidance on low traffic neighbourhoods” and “stopping local authorities using so-called “15-minute cities” to police people’s lives”, as well as “addressing concerns about councils generating surpluses from issuing penalty charge notices for contraventions of moving traffic restrictions”.

Now, as part of the next step in its plan, the DfT is seeking views on how to “restrict the ability of local authorities to generate surplus funds from penalty charge notices”.

The contraventions include motorists driving through no entry, no left or right turn, or prohibited vehicle signs, or unlawfully entering box junctions, and driving in mandatory cycle lanes.

> No cycling! (or walking) but Jeremy Hunt’s budget delivers £5 billion giveaway to drivers

“These enforcement powers help free up police time while helping councils to reduce traffic congestion. However, enforcement should be undertaken proportionately and not used as a means to raise revenue,” the DfT says.

As a consequence, the government has launched a public call seeking to “gather evidence of current practice to inform possible policy proposals” and “explore options for restricting a local authority’s ability to generate surpluses from traffic contraventions”.

It was announced on DfT’s social media with the caption: “Caught out by driving in bus lanes or yellow box junctions? We want to hear from you on whether the current traffic enforcement measures are fair to drivers.”

The post has been slammed by cyclists and active travel campaigners on social media, with many likening this move as asking for feedback from those on the receiving end of penalties for breaking the law.

> Cycling charity accuses Conservatives of "ill-fated attempt to win" votes with pro-motoring policies "undermining" active travel success

“‘Caught out’? Are the huge signs and paint in the road not clear enough for you? Wouldn’t that count as driving without due care and attention?” asked Tom Staniford.

“Don’t complain. Hand your licence in. You don’t deserve the privilege of driving on public roads.”

“Caught out? What strange phrasing. What’s next, asking burglars if they think being caught out by the pesky police is fair to burglars?” added Tony.

“How about considering whether it’s fair to all road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and those using public transport, rather than just one group?” wrote Chris.

“Break the law, face a fine. Why is this so difficult to understand?” said an exasperated Dan.

Meanwhile, Michael came up with his own alternative call for evidence: “Caught out shop-lifting? We are having a consultation on shop-lifting. Have you been caught shop-lifting? Do you think the current shop-lifting enforcement is fair to shop-lifters? Please get in touch.”

“I can't believe a government department has been corrupted like this,” said Greg. ”You're responsible for keeping ALL people who use the roads safe. Pandering to the dangerous road users will result in more families losing loved ones.”

“Next up, you’ll be asking drivers if drink-driving is a fair measure,” said Bob.

Drivers on C3 Cycleway, London (credit: John Sword)

Yesterday's blog would indicate that a fair few “caught out” drivers in London have in fact already made their minds up about the fairness of not being allowed to drive in cycle lanes, as in a bid to avoid the traffic rush, several drivers, including professional van driver, a cabbie, and even a driving instructor, took to the cycle lane on C3 Cycleway in Shadwell, London — refusing to even give way to cyclists.

> ‘How to beat the rush? Use the bike lane’: Motorists, including driving instructor and cab driver flood cycle path — and refuse to give way to cyclists

The Conservative government’s apparent pro-motorist agenda shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, with the prime minister claiming that he was on the “side of the drivers” last year — comments which were heavily criticised by many campaigners.

In March this year, it was revealed that an official report ordered by Rishi Sunak in an attempt to stop LTNs being installed by councils, concluded that the schemes are “effective in reducing traffic volumes within their zones while adverse impacts on boundary roads appear to be limited”, and was subsequently subject to an attempted cover-up by the Tory Government.

> Government continues “angry rhetoric” against low traffic neighbourhoods despite its own report showing more people support LTNs than oppose them

When the report was eventually published, London’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner Will Norman attacked the government for continuing with its “load of angry rhetoric against LTNs, 20mph, and even bus lane cameras”, despite its own research proving the benefits.

The said rhetoric had come in the form of a new guidance from Department of Transport (DfT) under the government’s ‘Plan for Drivers’, titled ‘Crackdown on anti-driver road schemes and blanket 20mph limits to put local consent first’.

The guidance said that councils will only be able to implement LTNs if they have the support from locals. Failure to do so could see future funding withdrawn and the government could take control of an authority's roads.

Meanwhile, campaigners are challenging a decision in 2023 to cut more than £200m from the Department for Transport’s active travel budget for the following two years.

In a judicial review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, lawyers for Transport Action Network (Tan) argued that the cuts threatened a key plank of the UK’s carbon reduction strategy. However, the DfT told the court that none of the grounds has any substantive merit and that the claim should be dismissed.

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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38 comments

Avatar
eburtthebike | 2 months ago
7 likes

Possibly the most biased government poll I've ever seen, but then, I've never lived in North Korea.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 2 months ago
1 like
eburtthebike wrote:

Possibly the most biased government poll I've ever seen, but then, I've never lived in North Korea.

There's discussion of that here: https://road.cc/content/news/uk-government-review-motorists-caught-out-cycle-lanes-308187

Edit: Oops - put this comment on the wrong topic

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KDee | 2 months ago
1 like

Interesting article published by Dutch News (link below). I don't drive much in NL, so didn't know that you can effectively keep racking up fines without any consequence other than financial. Probably explains why when I do drive, there are so many speeders on the highway, and what I feel is a big increase in speeding in urban areas.

https://www.dutchnews.nl/2024/05/safety-campaigners-call-for-crackdown-o...

 

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David9694 | 2 months ago
8 likes

Yeah, this whole thing can really just get to fuck. But that's what we're up against - the normalisation of the plucky chancer driver, the demonisation of the rules of the road anyone whose job it is to try to uphold them and efforts to restrict the means to uphold the rules such that it only ever scratches the surface.

And that's what happens when you try to assuage fanatics and nutjobs - nothing you do (e.g. Rwanda) will be enough for them, nothing you do will ever satisfy them.  

The bit of reasonably good news from the local election results is that this bollocks is not cutting through with the electorate - like Sadiq Khan is home and dry in London and Labour are strong in cities like Southampton and Exeter, the Greens in Bristol. 

Earlier this year, the Facebook algorithm served me up one of the "been caught speeding?" Groups, so I sat in for a few days.  The commonest post was along the lines of "caught doing 50 in a 40 - what am I looking at?" So the good news was that drivers seem to be are afraid of the speed cameras and there is palpable desperation to get a course rather than (still more) points. 

Long read time 

And forever and anon throughout his future life, an agony constraineth him to travel from land to land and to teach by his own example, love and reverence to all things

That's the TL:DR message from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. I didn't do very well at Eng Lit. 

I've recently encountered a nadir with the driver accounts in my local comment column, around our 20 mph proposals.  When asked what they're doing to stop killing the 4 people a day, I'm up against things like "so what?" "Think of all the people that don't die", and the usual references to other situations in which people die like accidents at home (so what?)

What has happened to them to diminish basic respect for life? Maybe they've never been visited by death in their own lives, maybe they have been and it has all just bounced off a hard shell or was never there in the first place ? Is it all just a big game of GTA to them? 

A kid at school was killed by driver in 1976. One driver slowed or stopped to let him and his mate out from a side road, another overtook took the first. I didn't know him, but I know the spot where it happened, not far from home. I can see his face and I remember the solemn memorial assembly we had at school.  I have to cross a double lane road on my commute - some drivers are good enough to slow down and beckon me across, but they're not thinking about what's in the other lane. 

Just after sixth form a classmate had his dad's powerful BMW one evening and rammed it into a tree.  A funeral to go to for a young bloke my own age (18). 

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marmotte27 replied to David9694 | 2 months ago
10 likes

"And that's what happens when you try to assuage fanatics and nutjobs - nothing you do (e.g. Rwanda) will be enough for them, nothing you do will ever satisfy them. "

This! Starmer take note!

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hawkinspeter replied to marmotte27 | 2 months ago
8 likes
marmotte27 wrote:

"And that's what happens when you try to assuage fanatics and nutjobs - nothing you do (e.g. Rwanda) will be enough for them, nothing you do will ever satisfy them. " This! Starmer take note!

"Meet me in the middle," says the unjust man. You take a step towards him, he takes a step back. "Meet me in the middle," says the unjust man.

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Scarey | 2 months ago
9 likes

'Fair' to drivers, an interesting idea; aren't drivers super privileged to start with? They can afford it for a start (many other road users can't), they just sit there, warm and dry and go where and when they please and feel justified in complaining when their told to behave more responsibly. It's about time that it was made very clear to drivers that driving was a privilege which will be taken away if/when they break the rules, do just that, don't fine them; we need good drivers and fewer bad ones and their cars. 

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Justanotherhuman | 2 months ago
6 likes

Say they aren't fair, why should it be a single fine. Cost the same if someone is on minimum wage vs 100s of times more than that. After a third offence should have to go court. You hear about people parking on yellow lines because it's just easier to pay the  daily fine

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Justanotherhuman | 2 months ago
13 likes
Justanotherhuman wrote:

Say they aren't fair, why should it be a single fine. Cost the same if someone is on minimum wage vs 100s of times more than that. After a third offence should have to go court. You hear about people parking on yellow lines because it's just easier to pay the  daily fine

They should tow the vehicles on double yellow lines as they're causing a hazard. People will be less likely to just use them as easy parking if they're going to have to get a taxi to where their car has been towed and then have to pay all the extra cost to get their car released. Even better would be to have the car towing depot only be open for a few hours per day so the "customers" would typically have to wait until the next day to queue up to get their car back. I'd be happy to see the enforcement given out to private firms and have a few towing trucks checking out cycle lanes etc.

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Hirsute | 2 months ago
2 likes

" Use Union Jack / George Cross backgrounds or flags placed upon signage...
Put it in Braille also...
Get bigger/more signs sponsored by gambling companies... "

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chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
1 like

I like the last - "take a chance on the A9 ... on a bicycle!"

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mitsky | 2 months ago
13 likes

"Punishable by a fine" means "Legal for the rich"...

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ktache | 2 months ago
7 likes

For those hard done but otherwise law abiding motorist, I always think that there should be an option for halving the fine and doubling the points I wonder how many would take it up?

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chrisonabike replied to ktache | 2 months ago
5 likes

Ah - but "cruel and unusual punishment " - because we *have to drive*. Ignoring the argument "don't want points? Just follow the rules (most of which you learned to pass your test)".

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antigee | 2 months ago
10 likes

No fines but points?
If you appeal signage inadequate and isn't then you pay a cost for checking plus get points
And fix company owned vehicles not identifying drivers. Fix drivers with too many points still being allowed to drive.
Don't ask me how to sort drivers who have lost license still driving but there must be a way to fix it...I'd go for privatised road side checks and vehicles confiscated and sold ..1 claim of unauthorised allowed and that's it
In favour of a war

Avatar
Benthic | 2 months ago
10 likes
Quote:

12. Describe any ideas you have for measures that would help drivers comply with moving traffic, yellow box junction, bus lane or parking restrictions. 

Increase fines. The current government is rather fond of deterrents.

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chrisonabike replied to Benthic | 2 months ago
2 likes

Good point.  Round them up and send them to ... Rhiwbina.  It should be a safe place - 20mph limits as standard in built up areas, no?

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Benthic | 2 months ago
8 likes

Ask your average Daily Mail reader if crime should go unpunished, and they won't want to answer.

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brooksby replied to Benthic | 2 months ago
11 likes
Benthic wrote:

Ask your average Daily Mail reader if crime should go unpunished, and they won't want to answer.

Depends on the crime and depends on the skin colour and wealth of the perpetrator , I'd wager.

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Neil MG | 2 months ago
5 likes

Maybe the Government could introduce a set monthly fee that allows drivers to be caught out as much as they like!  It could replace the Ulez charge!  I think I should apply for an advisor role to Sunak!

 

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wtjs replied to Neil MG | 2 months ago
12 likes

Maybe the Government could introduce a set monthly fee that allows drivers to be caught out as much as they like! 

This has already been introduced in Lancashire, with the full co-operation of the police and the former Tory PCC- we'll see if the new Labour PCC is in on the deal

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brooksby | 2 months ago
10 likes

I suspect that the point of this is more to stop those eeeevil councils finding a revenue stream, damn them!

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chrisonabike | 2 months ago
5 likes

Did the survey - bit odd as it does seem rather leading, but then there's a section saying "ah but they can't just wildly spend the money on their own bonuses".

"Fairness" for me suggests that rather than "but cash cow motorists!" the way to judge fairness is:

(a) are the rules clear*? and

(b) are they sufficient to actually change behaviour - but not too far beyond?  Obviously without some kind of means testing they're just going to be petty expenses for the rich.  However if they're not actually changing behaviour then I'd suggest they're too low rather than unfairly high.

Why should these have to be less than it costs to enforce them to be fair?

* Rules - most should if they've passed a driving test.  For specific signage this can be challenged in court (and is) if it's unclear.

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hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
9 likes

I was conflicted as to whether to respond that the current enforcement is "fair" as I would consider it "unfair" in terrms of the danger that some drivers cause to others, but I know that they're looking to get lots of "unfair" results in the consultation, so I felt forced to respond "fair" and then go into detail in the text submissions instead.

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
10 likes

The penalties are unfair - unfairly low.

Department for Transport Car Drivers.

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AidanR | 2 months ago
0 likes

The juxtaposition between the tweet, apparently asking drivers for their views on how they should be fined, and the actual consultation linked to, is wild. The consultation is clearly aimed on local authorities, not the general public. Did the person running the DfT's Twitter account even read the consultation?

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Hirsute replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
1 like

One of the early questions is if you are an LA. Then it surpresses any LA questions if you say no.
So yes, they are asking individuals their views

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chrisonabike replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
0 likes

Yup - says so in their documents also.

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LeadenSkies | 2 months ago
16 likes

I have responded pointing out that the best way to help drivers comply would be to have stricter enforcement and harsher punishment as we all know that would deter many drivers from taking the chance and help them pay attention to their surroundings whilst operating a two tonne bit of machinery.

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Hirsute | 2 months ago
12 likes

All the boxes are free text, so you can write what you like - eg

//pbs.twimg.com/media/GMpi49iaMAAftbV?format=png&name=small)

" ‘Caught out’? Are the huge signs and paint in the road not clear enough for you? Wouldn’t that count as driving without due care and attention? Don’t complain. Hand your licence in. You don’t deserve the privilege of driving on public roads. "

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