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Revolution! The Hierarchy Is Changing…

And so is the Highway Code. It’s been interesting to see how the gammons, ‘kippers and Nigels (apologies if you are a Nigel who doesn’t adhere to the thoughts of the ridiculous Nigel Farage) of Britain have been reacting this week to the news that the updated Highway Code will (shock horror!) introduce a pyramid of hierarchy that sees those who are more likely (and able) to inflict death and destruction on the roads being assumed to have more responsibility than those who pose little danger to others. The changes are nicely summarised in this video from Cycling UK:

Nick ‘Mr Loophole’ Freeman, the celebrity lawyer who rides (not on a bike) over the legal system to get his well heeled clients off their speeding fines came up with a ridiculous comment earlier in the week when discussing the changes to the Highway Code. I mentioned him in this tweet:

When I set out on my bike or on foot, I don’t have a ‘sense of entitlement’. I do, however, behave in a manner which asserts my rights as a user (and funder) of the public road network. This will, for example, see me move into the centre of the carriageway at a pinch point in the road where I perceive potential danger ahead and suspect that an approaching motorist might try and squeeze through the gap. The same applies to passing parked cars. And this has now been enshrined into the changes to the Highway Code. Excellent!

As far as a ‘sense of entitlement’ goes, might I humbly suggest to Mr Freeman that the evidence from my walks and cycles on the roads of Britain would suggest that the problem with ‘entitlement’ doesn’t lay at the doorstep of walkers and cyclists but at that of many motorists. Here’s a classic example of the genre from earlier this week as I walked to work:

I find it as bemusing as I find it infuriating. When the driver positioned their car over the pavement did they, at any moment, consider that any passing pedestrian would be impeded in their route. As an able-bodied pedestrian I was able to step into the road or squeeze between the car and skip but what about someone in a wheelchair or mobility scooter or someone with a push chair or someone with a white stick or an elderly person who might potentially trip on the curb or… the list could go on. The level of unthinking ignorance is potentially award winning.

Getting back to the changes to the Highway Code itself, you can read the new version of the code on the Gov.uk website but here are a couple of quotes that are relevant to cyclists that might empower you to cycle in a safer way:

Rule 61

Cycle Routes and Other Facilities. Cycle lanes are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Use facilities such as cycle lanes and tracks, advanced stop lines and toucan crossings (see Rules 62 and 73) where they make your journey safer and easier. This will depend on your experience and skills and the situation at the time. While such facilities are provided for reasons of safety, cyclists may exercise their judgement and are not obliged to use them.

Rule 72

Road positioning. When riding on the roads, there are two basic road positions you should adopt, depending on the situation.

Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations:

  • on quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely
  • in slower-moving traffic – when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely, move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake
  • at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you

Here’s some of the advice given to drivers, especially the gammons, ‘kippers and Nigels:

Rule 163

Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should:

  • …stay in your lane if traffic is moving slowly in queues. If the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are, you may pass on the left. Cyclists may pass slower moving or stationary traffic on their right or left and should proceed with caution as the driver may not be able to see you. Be careful about doing so, particularly on the approach to junctions, and especially when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles.
  • give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 215). As a guide:
    • leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
    • …take extra care and give more space when overtaking motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians in bad weather (including high winds) and at night
    • you should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.

Rule 213

On narrow sections of road, on quiet roads or streets, at road junctions and in slower-moving traffic, cyclists may sometimes ride in the centre of the lane, rather than towards the side of the road. It can be safer for groups of cyclists to ride two abreast in these situations. Allow them to do so for their own safety, to ensure they can see and be seen. Cyclists are also advised to ride at least a door’s width or 1 metre from parked cars for their own safety.

On narrow sections of road, horse riders may ride in the centre of the lane. Allow them to do so for their own safety to ensure they can see and be seen.

Motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

Alas if you are gammon, ‘kipper or Nigel, you’ll probably ignore most of this. Many of them can’t read let alone drive… Remember:

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3 replies »

  1. As far as a “sense of entitlement” is concerned, I think we are entitled to ride on public roads in safety. These changes are just common sense. I am a little concerned that the changes will get petrolheads’ backs up and will lead to more aggressive driving from some people.

    • Yes, alas this is always true but we can at least comfort ourselves in the knowledge that ‘ignorance’ is no defence in the courts… 😐

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