Review of the Highway Code will improve safety for cyclists

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Even the purest of mountain bikers amongst us will occasionally venture onto tarmac, even if it’s only to get out the trail centre car park or onto the next bridleway. Today the Government has announced that there will be a review of the Highway Code to better protect cyclists on the road.

The review is part of  a wider strategy to increase cycling and walking by improving the safety of both.  Changes will ‘highlight’ how to avoid close passing and ‘car dooring’ of riders including using the Dutch method of opening the car door with the opposite hand and formalising safe-passing guidelines.

Whilst the cynics amongst us may question how much this will actually change driver behaviour it’s still a positive move, especially as these recommendations have resulted from a public consultation which had a much more negative focus on penalties for cyclists causing death or injury to others.  It seems like people are finally starting to take notice of cycling casualty figures and the sensible campaigning from Cycling UK and others. Let’s hope it’s the start of some meaningful changes to protect and promote cycling on the UK’s roads.

It’s nice to see something positive for a change

Cycling UK’s press release in full

Cycling UK is celebrating a significant milestone in its ongoing campaigning to improve cycle safety after the Government today (Thurs, 18 October) announced key improvements to the Highway Code.

As part of its review of cycle and pedestrian safety, Transport Minister Jesse Norman revealed the code will be revised to highlight how to avoid the dangers of close passing cyclists and encourage people to adopt the ‘Dutch Reach’ in an effort to reduce casualties caused by car dooring.

The Dutch Reach is a method of opening a car door with the hand furthest from the handle, forcing drivers and passengers to check over their shoulder for approaching traffic, including cyclists.

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at the national cycling charity, said: “Close overtakes and people opening car doors in front of cyclists are not only dangerous, they also put people off riding a bike.

“That’s why Cycling UK has been campaigning for changes to the Highway Code rules for many years, to make the requirements crystal clear to give enough space when overtaking a cyclist, wait if you can’t, and look before you open your car door.

“We’re delighted the Government has listened and we hope to contribute to the discussions regarding the amendments required to prioritise the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”

A step in the right direction

The announcement follows a consultation by the Government last year in the light of the Charlie Alliston court case, looking at improving safety for both cyclists and pedestrians

Alliston was riding an illegal fixed wheel bike with no front brake when he collided with mother of two, Kim Briggs as she crossed a street in London. Mrs Briggs died later from head injuries she suffered.

Meanwhile, latest road casualty statistics show that more than a hundred cyclists died in road traffic collisions in 2017.

Cycling UK has long campaigned on the issue of vehicles close passing cyclists, launching its Too Close for Comfort campaign in 2017 to provide police forces around the country with educational mats.

The charity is currently raising funds through a Kickstarter campaign to provide police with a virtual reality film and headsets to help educate drivers on what it’s like to be close passed while on a bike.

In the same year, Cycling UK campaigned for drivers to adopt the Dutch Reach, encouraging them to look over their shoulder before opening their door.

Cyclist Sam Boulton, 26, from Leicestershire was killed when he was struck by the door of a taxi opened into his path, knocking him into the path of a van outside Leicester train station in July 2016.

Jeff Boulton, Sam’s father said about the news:

“I’m relieved to hear the Government is now planning to encourage people to open their car doors safely after years of campaigning with Cycling UK on the benefits of the Dutch Reach. If only one person is saved from Sam’s tragic fate because the driver or passenger has adopted the Dutch Reach thanks to the Government’s actions then that’s a life worth saving.”

Farook Yusuf Bhikhu, the taxi driver, was convicted of the offence of ‘car-dooring’ and was originally handed a £955 fine, broken down as £300 for the offence, a £30 victim surcharge and £625 court costs, to be paid in £20 weekly instalments.  Further costs of £300 were added following an unsuccessful appeal.

‘Car dooring’ is a criminal offence, punishable with a fine up to £1,000.

Comments (7)

  1. Will it really make a big difference? How many of the 100+ biking fatalities last year were from car dooring ? Vs T boned or over the bonnets at junctions after cars pull out, or crushed at left turns by trucks etc.
    Yes every improvement is welcome, but I suspect it’s really ph1$hing about on the fringes rather than tackling the big causes.

  2. They can do a full rewrite of the highway code making it say that bicycles are king and cars must give way to them at all times and it would make no difference whatsoever. The vast majority of drivers never read it after passing their tests! The obvious way to make drivers aware of how vulnerable a cyclist is and why we ride in the way we do (primary position etc) is to get them on a bike for a day in traffic. Only then might we have a hope of them understanding the danger and damage driver can easily do when driving a vehicle in a dangerous manner round vulnerable road users.

  3. Yes milky. Have the driving test include an hour of riding a bike through busy urban traffic!

    I’ve often thought everyone, especially cyclists, should have an hour of driving a long wheelbase van in a busy city – it’s pretty much impossible to guess at how comprehensive the blind spot is in them!

  4. Does that hand annotated page of the 1988 HC (carefully cropped) indicate compulsory helmets for cyclists?

  5. It’s not only vehicle drivers. There are a lot of cyclists who really annoyed me when I’m driving.

    Maybe we need to educate cyclists as well as drivers.

  6. @fartymarty – interesting you should say that. The DfT press release says… “The Department for Transport is also publishing an updated national standard for cycling training manual, now with the latest best practice on safe cycling.” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-standard-for-cycle-training

  7. Let’s not even discuss the ignorant tree hugging piss stains that ride three abreast as if they are competing in their own private Tour de Frog on the public highway.

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