Wednesday, July 29, 2020

UK Government Plans to Encourage Cyclists Without Ensuring Roads Are Safe for All

Private Motorists and HGV Operators Should Respond to Consultation to Save Lives
Shipping News Feature

UK – With the government announcing plans to encourage cycling, and promising funds to free up space on Britain's already crowded road network, many in the road haulage community are looking forward to the future with some trepidation. We would go further and say without some proper legislation people are going to die due to a badly thought out policy when something can clearly be done.

The death toll amongst the cycling community is already too high, particularly in urban areas. As we have pointed out before the statistics clearly show there are numerous factors to be considered here. Why do such a disproportionate amount of women get killed in cities when a bike meets an HGV? Is this a cultural thing because little boys play with cars and lorries more than girls? Or is it just an anomaly?

What can be done to improve visibility from the cab of a truck, and how many mirrors and cameras can a driver watch when moving through traffic? Do the politicians and figures like the London Mayor understand the difficulties of maintaining a supply chain when the rules get tighter in an indiscriminate safety campaign? Or indeed has he ever driven an HGV, such vehicles keeping his city from anarchy?

Now the government has launched a consultation which runs until 27 October seeking views on proposed changes to The Highway Code to improve safety for vulnerable road users, particularly the groups of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders. The aim is to introduce a ‘Hierarchy’ of road users putting the responsibility firmly on those travelling in the most protected environments, i.e. truckers and the like.

Only when you get to the very end of the communications published is there brief mention that the vulnerable groups should ‘have regard for their own and other road users’ safety’. The aim is clearly stated that cyclists and pedestrians have a right of way in virtually all circumstances over other traffic.

Nowhere is there a mention of what would seem to be the obvious. If you are prepared to grant cyclists dominance on the road, they surely should at least have to prove they are capable of handling their machine in a safe and sensible manner. The only reason there are no such things as a cycle licence and compulsory insurance is that cyclists were always viewed as a small community, put bluntly, at the bottom of the heap of road users and riding at their own risk.

If they are to be elevated to the most important group then surely they should at least have proved they are capable of riding sensibly and not getting themselves killed. Every other road user needs a licence, why not a cyclist? Every other road user needs insurance, which might seem unnecessary for bicycles until you witness the actions of some urban couriers and the like. The government statement says:

"The consultation document is seeking views on proposed changes to The Highway Code to improve safety for pedestrians, particularly children, older adults and disabled people, cyclists and horse riders. It is important that these groups feel safe in their interactions with other road users. The ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ is a concept which places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy.

”The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, in particular children, older adults and disabled people, followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.”

The Hierarchy list then goes on to state a whole bunch of rules which any sensible driver would already be adhering to, give way on zebra crossings, pedestrians have priority on crossings when they have a green light etc. The government needs to understand that a wrong message could lead to more accidents, not less, as ill-informed pedestrians walk in front of traffic whilst arrogant cyclists have conflicts with recalcitrant truckers.

Indeed it would seem to many absolute insanity for a government to encourage large numbers of people, indeed anyone, to venture out into modern traffic, at any age, with no training whatsoever and tell them they were the ‘priority road users’ no matter how the rules are mandated and massaged and spun.

The link to the government consultation is HERE and will lead to the online response form. We strongly suggest that all UK road using readers ensure they make their views known whilst they have the chance although, as so often with such documents, the government’s current intentions are already clear to see.

So how is the trucking industry reacting to the proposed legislation? This week the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in its new guise as ‘LogisticsUK’ has expressed the view of its members who are in the road haulage sector via Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy, who commented:

“The government’s plans present an opportunity to make cycling a more attractive option for private road users, however Logistics UK is urging government to ensure that these plans are implemented with consideration to the needs of the logistics sector. Without deliveries, businesses in cities and towns will not receive the goods and services they need to trade and get back on their feet after the effects of the pandemic. Any new road layouts must be planned very carefully and provide adequate access to roads and kerbsides for logistics vehicles.

“With more reallocation of road space to accommodate cyclists, it is vital that government encourages local authorities to ease restrictions around off peak and night time deliveries and schemes such as the London Lorry Control Scheme are fundamentally reviewed and reformed. This would ensure shops and businesses receive the stocks they need in order to return to full trading, as well as maximising the use of limited road space.”

“Logistics UK is also pleased to see the government has taken the opportunity to provide clarity on a number of issues in the Highway Code; eliminating ambiguities will help to make the roads safer for all users. However, our members need clarity on several other elements in the government’s plans, including raising standards on lorries, legal protections, and road user hierarchies, we all need to do our part to ensure safety on our roads, but our members will require more detail on the changes to ensure the new rules work for all parties.”

The question remains however with the governments intended action being laid out in the consultation, is all being done to protect cyclists from a potential death sentence and lorry drivers from a life time of guilt and self-regret? Without the proper training that a riding licence would help provide, with the potential of a road ban if abused, and the possible addition of suitable insurance, the answer clearly, is no.

Photo: Credit Christchurch City Libraries, ref. CCL PhotoCD 1, IMG0072 /.