‘Simple’ Highway Code change could cut traffic queues in half

12.00 | 28 June 2017 | | 4 comments

A ‘simple amendment’ to the Highway Code to give priority to those travelling straight ahead could reduce traffic queues by nearly 50%, according to new research from British Cycling.

Published yesterday (27 June), British Cycling says its research shows giving priority to people walking, cycling or driving straight ahead could reduce motor traffic queue lengths by 43%.

The research, undertaken by transport planners Phil Jones Associates, is based on traffic data for the Lea Bridge Road/Orient Way junction in Waltham Forest, Greater London.

British Cycling says the time saving and reduction in queuing can be largely attributed to rule changes which would enable moving from a three-stage traffic light sequence to a two stage sequence (allowing pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles to all go in the same stage).

The findings also suggest that the rule change would reduce the amount of time all road users spend navigating a typical set of traffic lights, with delays reduced by 23% for motor vehicles, 38% for pedestrians and 21% for cyclists.  

Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy adviser, said: “Simple changes to the Highway Code and regulations would not only make junctions safer spaces for all road users, it would also make them much more efficient, saving lots of time.

“The time saved at this single junction amounts to around six hours every year for regular car commuters – that’s a whole season of Line of Duty – and would reduce exhaust emissions by 17%.

“Beginning the process of changing these rules to bring us in the line with the rest of the world would not be an onerous task – it is simply a case of updating the Highway Code, something that the Transport Secretary could action tomorrow.”

Dame Sarah Storey, who recently became a policy advocate for British Cycling, added: “We’re about 50 years behind most other countries in the world in solving this and it staggers me that our Government is still dragging its feet.

“Bringing in this rule change is a no-brainer and I hope this research goes some way to educating decision makers on the way forward.”

Related stories

British Cycling launches phase two of ‘Turning the Corner’ campaign
16 March 2017

Want to know more about cycling and road safety?
Online library of research and reports etc – visit the Road Safety Knowledge Centre
Key facts and summaries of research reports – visit the Road Safety Observatory


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    Coming back from Barcelona, I realise how well this system works. It results in shorter wait times for pedestrians and cyclists too. As a result, thousands of people walk and cycle in the city.

    Adrian Berendt, TN4
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Almost all other countries operate signal junctions with give way on turning rules. Why? Because they reduce delay for all road users, increase pedestrian crossing times, reduce congestion and air pollution and enable high quality facilities for pedestrians and cyclists to be installed in most locations.

    Yes it would require investment in changing behaviour but I believe that the benefits are worth it.

    If our system is so good, why does hardly anyone else use it?

    Phil Jones, Phil Jones Associates
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    “Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy adviser, said: “Simple changes to the Highway Code and regulations would not only make junctions safer spaces for all road users, it would also make them much more efficient, saving lots of time.”

    This would work if it was read, understood and followed by all road users. How many drivers haven’t looked at the book since passing their test and how many cyclists haven’t even looked at it at all.

    This would need a major expenditure in publicity over quite a long time and would need consideration for driving tests, rectification courses and cycle training all of which would cost. It isn’t as easy as they seem to think.

    Peter, City of Westminster
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    You have to laugh don’t you. With everything we are doing to improve safety for cyclists, here we have a proposal to remove the protection that cyclists have through the use of turn signals and to replace it with a principle that vehicles in turning manoeuvres at junctions should give way to cyclists.

    Seems to me that it just makes cyclists more vulnerable to driver selfishness, inattention and error.

    I note that the technical report mentions “Investigations into feasibility of changing road user behaviour, as well as the potential effects on people with disabilities would need to be undertaken as part a further research study.” – No doubt about that.

    Motorcyclists are very familiar with SMIDSY but cyclists will be more so if this happens. Our attitude to driving in the UK is different to the rest of Europe (and USA), so behaviour change must precede any such proposal to change signalisation. So, who is it exactly who is the no-brainer?

    Pat, Wales
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