Letters: Mythbusting the Highway Code changes

Cycle lane sign

Dear Editor

There’s been some recent media attention on the new Highway Code rules and guidelines, along with some misinformation leading to some disproportionately negative comments especially aimed at cyclists and pedestrians.

While being a pedestrian or a cyclist is mostly safe, the road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, with children, elderly and disabled people being more at risk.

The Highway Code changes emphasise that drivers of larger vehicles have a greater responsibility to look out for them since vehicles can do the greatest harm.

This ‘hierarchy of road users’ does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly, for example, cyclists will need to look out for pedestrians and motor vehicles and pedestrians will need to be vigilant.

But there are to be clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians, and drivers are to give priority to cyclists in certain situations – at junctions, in slow-moving traffic, on roundabouts.

So what are some of the top myths?

Myth: If you open your car door with the wrong hand you’ll be fined £1,000

Fact: Even though the ‘Dutch Reach’ is sensibly recommended to avoid opening a car door right in the path of cyclists, risking causing serious injury, drivers will not be fined £1,000 for ‘opening the door with the wrong hand’.

Myth: Cyclists must ride in the middle of the road

Fact: The revised guidelines do not ‘advise cyclists to ride in the middle of the road’ but to ride in the middle of the lane in some limited situations such as approaching junctions or where the road narrows, for visibility reasons.

I welcome the changes, but for them to be actually beneficial, it’s vital that the public know about and understand them.

The Department for Transport want a ‘more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use’ which would be great to see in Bedford, but a national campaign on these significant changes is what is really needed.

We also need a wider shift to mutual respect and courtesy on the road, which will bring environmental and health benefits by encouraging higher numbers of people to want to walk and cycle more and to drive less.

Best wishes
Lucy Bywater
Green Party Councillor, Castle Ward

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