To improve road safety, the Department for Transport (DfT) is bringing in new rules, which mean drivers face fines if they’re caught parking in cycle lanes—and the penalty could be a whopping £130. Not only that, but cyclists using helmet cameras will aid police to charge motorists with dangerous driving.
The Highway Code is also under review to offer more protection to cyclists in a crackdown by authorities who want to get drivers out of their vehicles and, instead, onto bicycles, but cycling organisations say the new measures aren’t enough.
Bikes, camera, action!
As part of a two-year action plan involving measures ‘to combat road rage, encourage greater mutual respect between road users and protect the most vulnerable’, the DfT said that, for the first time, local councils would have the power to use CCTV cameras to monitor mandatory cycle lanes. London drivers found breaching cycle lanes face a fine of £130. Elsewhere in the UK, councils can issue fines of up to £70.
Together with the DfT appointing a new Cycling and Walking Champion to promote ‘active travel’, police will get a bespoke new back-office unit—using a £100,000 grant at first—to examine and share footage captured by dash-cams and cyclists’ helmet cameras.
It won’t be the first time the public has helped prosecute motorists for careless or dangerous driving. North Wales created ‘Operation Snap’ in 2016, which gives people the ability to upload personal footage of motorists breaking the law. This strategy saves around 14 hours of work per case compared with traditional investigative methods.
Further key measures of the plan include a Highway Code review, on how drivers should behave towards vulnerable road users—such as maintaining their distance when passing cyclists—and encouragement for local authorities to increase their total transport infrastructure spending to 15%.
On your bike
The government has rejected calls from certain members of the public, for cyclists to undergo cycling tests, have licences, insurance, and number plates for their bikes.
Extra safety gear won’t be mandatory for cyclists, either. The DfT stated that they believe wearing helmets and high-vis clothing should be an individual’s choice and they did not want to impose more regulations which would be difficult to enforce.
In his announcement last week, Minister of State for Transport, Jesse Norman MP said:
“Greater road safety—and especially the protection of vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders—is essential. We want to improve air quality, encourage healthy exercise, reduce obesity, and boost our high streets and economic productivity. That means more support for cycling and walking, and that’s why [sic] these new measures are designed to deliver.”
Walking and cycling organisations gave their support for the changes to the Highway Code but showed disappointment that the action plan didn’t tackle speed reduction.
Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK Chief Executive said lowering vehicle speeds around people walking, cycling, and horse riding doesn’t just reduce the danger to them, but also their perception of the danger.
“While the DfT’s proposals for amendments to the Highway Code will help save lives, ignoring the threat and dangers of speeding is disappointing,” he said.
In 2017, 101 cyclists died on the UK’s roads and there were 18,220 injured. 2017 also saw a 5% rise in pedestrian deaths. In the years 2007 to 2016, around three pedestrian fatalities each year and 82 serious injuries involved cycles—or 0.6% of pedestrians. Yet, 99.4% of collisions in which a pedestrian died involved motor vehicles (e.g. cars, motorbikes, lorries, vans, etc.).
Do you know the code?
In case your knowledge of the Highway Code is rusty, here’s how things stand on cycle lanes and cyclist waiting boxes:
Motorists—and motorcyclists unless the signs dictate otherwise—mustn’t drive or park in cycle lanes with a solid white line running down their right side. These are mandatory cycle lanes.
Other cycle lanes have a broken white line running down the right side. Drivers shouldn’t drive or park in these either unless unavoidable. An example might mean a large vehicle is approaching on the opposite side of the road, which may need more road space, or a vehicle parked inappropriately on the opposite side of the road prompts traffic to drive around it.
Advanced stop lines (ASL), also known as cyclist waiting boxes, are another area motor vehicles mustn’t enter. If you’re found doing this, you might receive up to a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence. To lessen the chance of having to stop in the cyclist waiting box when in slow-moving traffic, pause at the first white line and make sure there’s ample space for your vehicle to clear the junction safely before moving onto the box. If your vehicle has crossed the first solid white line and the traffic lights turn red, you must stop before the second white line and wait in the cyclist waiting area. You’re not committing an offence if you drive onto the box while the traffic light is green and can’t clear it before the light changes to red. For you to risk prosecution, a police officer or camera would have to witness you crawl along onto the box while the traffic light is already red.
How do you feel about cameras policing cycle lanes? Are you a cyclist and/or motorist who is looking forward to capturing footage of bad driving? Do these changes worry you? Tell us in the comments.