Stakeholders call for rule change to improve safety at junctions

12.00 | 8 December 2016 | | 5 comments

British Cycling has joined forces with the AA and the RAC Foundation to call for the Highway Code to be updated in order to create ‘simpler, safer junctions for all road users’.

The three organisations say existing rules within the Highway Code fail to cover all situations and need ‘consolidating and strengthening’. They are calling for a ‘universal’ rule which would force road users of all types to give way when turning, giving priority to those who are travelling straight ahead.

However, the call has not been welcomed by all quarters, with Duncan Buchanan, deputy policy director of the Road Haulage Association, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme the rule would  set an "incredibly dangerous precedent".

British Cycling says the Highway Code has not been fully refreshed for nine years and currently contains ‘at least’ 14 rules about junctions, often with a different emphasis.

It points to Rule 170 as an example, which requires drivers to give way to pedestrians already crossing, but there is no direct equivalent rule regarding cyclists.

The new proposal follows research conducted on behalf of British Cycling, based on ‘successful’ existing models in place in countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

British Cycling says in practice the changes would see:

  • Drivers turning at a junction giving way to people cycling and walking who may be on their nearside, or crossing the road they wish to turn into.
  • Cyclists turning at a junction giving way to people walking who are crossing the road cyclist wishes to turn into.
  • Pedestrians getting increased protection when crossing a side road or other junction.

British Cycling says the research suggests that implementing the new rule could create ‘an estimated 15% to 40% increase in signalised junction efficiency’, reduce congestion and improve air quality.

British Cycling has launched a petition to enable members of the public to support the call, which has already been signed by, among others, Chris Boardman and Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey.

Chris Boardman, British Cycling’s policy adviser, said: “Whether driving, cycling or walking, negotiating a junction is the most hazardous manoeuvre you can make on the road – this is evidenced by the fact that nearly two thirds of motor vehicle collisions take place at junctions.

“The proposals put forward by British Cycling and partner organisations would eliminate confusion, improve efficiency and reduce congestion, while giving cyclists and pedestrians greater protection – therefore encouraging more people to take up greener transport options and making our streets healthier.”

Edmund King, AA president, said: “It would be beneficial for all road users if the Highway Code simplified the rules at junctions where a disproportionate amount of injury crashes occur.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “As pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists we all need to recognise that the road is a shared space which works best when we all respect each other.

“The clearer we can make the rules of the road the easier it is for us all to see what’s expected of us and to comply. The rules also need to be complemented with the right streetscape engineering, with markings, surfaces and road geometry all telling us the same story.”



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    Surely the primary rule should remain that the overtaking road user has the responsibility for ensuring that it is safe to overtake. The secondary rule is that when a road user changes direction by turning at a junction then it is that road user’s responsibility for giving way to any other road user who is either approaching from the opposite direction or already using the road in the direction of turn. The tacit, and ill advised, acceptance of overtaking and undertaking by, particularly, cyclists and motorcyclists as being the responsibility of the vehicle in front has done no more than allow the term ‘vulnerable’road user to subsume and include the implications of the term ‘irresponsible’ road user.

    Patrick Moore Hampshire
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    Isn’t it commonly understood that the vehicle in front has priority. If a cyclist on the nearside approaches and almost overtakes a car travelling at the new 20 mph speed limit and the car turns left then isn’t the cyclist blameworthy? After all he has a duty of care not only for himself but for other road users. If a cyclist is overtaken then he becomes the vehicle behind and as such must exercise caution and give way to the vehicle in front. In the event of a collision it’s always been considered that the vehicle at the rear was to blame. Are we saying that the vehicle in front should now at all times give priority to any following vehicle? If so are we to rewrite the Highway Code fully to accommodate this new principle that the vehicle behind has right of way at all times.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    As a generalisation would it not be correct to say that two thirds of all collisions occur at junctions? Be they traffic lights, T junctions, cross overs or roundabouts. It’s not just cyclists that have to beware it is all road users!

    Being rear ended happens at junctions, smidsys happen at junctions, at roundabouts 60% plus of two wheeled vehicles are involved in an incident with other traffic. So there is nothing new there.

    We do not need a new rule specifically for cyclists. That would mean that there would be 15 and not 14 to try and understand.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    And having re written the Highway code, whose going to read it? I’m sure you will find that the average driver who has been driving for any amount of time will not have read or re-read the Highway code since passing their driving test and many don’t read it “before” taking their driving test. Do we really need to re-write, “don’t knock people down, whether they are walking or cycling when turning or dealing with junctions”.

    Jack Cook Doncaster
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    I don’t think they read far enough, personally I believe Rule 182 & 183 spell it out clearly. What the British Cycling article doesn’t make clear is if they are talking about left turns only, as right turning vehicles are already required to give way to oncoming vehicles. If it is (left turns) would they be expecting a vehicle turning left to stop and give way to a cycle approaching from behind, or simply to reiterate rule 182/183? Seems a case of introducing new legislation where existing legislation and codes of practice provides sufficient cover and more enforcement would be a better deterrent.

    Tony, London
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