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Issue 61
March 2006

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New Highway Code threat to safety and justice
extract from CCN News

The Government is consulting on a new version of the Highway Code. But what should be a publication to enhance road safety and to promote harmony and equality between road users threatens to have quite the opposite consequences for cyclists if proposed changes go ahead. Added to existing injustices, it is time to take action.

The most significant change is to old Rule 45, new Rule 58. Cyclists were previously told to 'Use cycle routes when practicable. They can make your journey safer.' – in itself controversial. Now it reads: 'Use cycle routes when practicable and cycle facilities such as advanced stop lines, cycle boxes, and toucan crossings where they are provided, as they can make your journeys safer'.

'Use cycle facilities' does not have the discretion applied to cycle routes, and the 'such as' does not exclude other types of facility. If this rule stands, cyclists will therefore have to use facilities, irrespective of the consequences for personal safety or convenience [Ed. - which presumably includes acting on cyclist dismount signs]. You will no longer have the discretion to cycle in the way most appropriate for enhancing your safety in the prevailing circumstances. In effect, it is compulsory use of facilities by the back door.

This is not just an academic nicety. Insurance companies are increasingly taking advantage of the Highway Code to resist claims from cyclists by citing contributory negligence. Many, many cyclists have already lost thousands of pounds after crashes that have not been their fault for fear of facing what can be a traumatic challenge through the courts. Some solicitors, poorly informed about the issues, encourage this and reductions of 20 to 50 percent are typical.

Existing rule 49 (new 60) instructs cyclists to keep within cycle lanes 'wherever possible', and has already been used to deny cyclists their rights. It conflicts with good practice on cycling technique as taught to the National Cycle Training Standard and set out in Cyclecraft. Rule 62 (new 74) that advocates as an option cycling to the left on roundabouts is another example, directing less competent cyclists to the very places where risk of conflict is greatest. The caveats in this rule create legal uncertainties no matter where you ride.

It is rule 45 (new 56) that says that you 'should' wear a cycle helmet that has given insurance companies the greatest excuse to avoid meeting their obligations. Although no case that has proceeded to court has yet decided in their favour, insurers now routinely offer reduced damages to unhelmeted cyclists with head injuries. This has created enormous additional distress to victims and their families. The Government has no evidence that helmet wearing reduces head injuries serious enough to be of concern and the courts have not yet been so persuaded either. Neither pedestrians nor car occupants are told to wear helmets although, if helmets were effective, many more of them would benefit than cyclists. This rule must be removed or greatly circumscribed.

There are other rules that are poorly considered. Rule 51 (new 63) tells cyclists to ride in single file on narrow or busy roads, to which is now added 'and when riding round bends'. There are circumstances when this is good advice but at other times riding two abreast on narrow roads and round bends can dissuade following drivers from overtaking dangerously in places where there is insufficient space or visibility to pass. The police advise horse riders to ride two abreast where it is in their interests to restrict the actions of others; the advice can be good for cyclists too.

Probably in response to pressure from pedestrian and disabled groups, rule 63 now says that 'It is strongly recommended that a bell be fitted'. Good advice, perhaps, if you use off-road paths, but why if you don't? Moreover the rule suggests that ringing a bell is an appropriate action to warn any other road user, failing to acknowledge that it will not be heard by the driver of a motor vehicle. When will insurers claim that a cyclist was hit because he didn't ring his bell to warn a motorist?

A fundamental failing of Highway Code advice for cyclists is that it is too prescriptive and not based on practical experience in the real world. It is perverse to suggest that cyclists should follow a rigid and poorly informed set of rules irrespective of the consequences for their safety. On the other hand, some of the most important advice to give to cyclists, such as the importance of positioning and not using unsafe facilities, is conspicuous by its absence.

CCN and CTC have launched a campaign to rid the Highway Code of such bad advice and to put in its place more sensible guidance to cyclists and motorists on how to share roads safely. A meeting with Road Safety Minister Dr Ladyman is a high priority.

The campaign needs the help of all cyclists. Please:

Please act soon; the deadline for the consultation is 10th May 2006 but we need the Minister to be acting on our concerns as soon as possible.

Ashby Road Proposals

Leicestershire County Council is proposing to improve pedestrian facilities along Ashby Road, between Epinal Way and the town centre. Personal injury accident records show that pedestrian and cyclist related accidents are occurring on a regular basis. The proposals include footway widening on various parts of the route, junction realignments to improve crossing facilities for pedestrians, vehicle speed reducing measures to encourage more use of the existing cycle lanes and a signal controlled junction to provide greater accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians to local amenities.

Details of the proposals can be viewed at:
Leicestershire County Council Web Site

An invitation to Cycling Derby on Saturday 6th May!

The Derby Cycling Group (DCG) is planning on holding a cycling event on Saturday 6th May to which it is inviting cyclists from Chesterfield, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Northampton.

Derby was awarded Cycle Demonstration Town status last November and so the city should be the focus of many new initiatives in cycling over the coming years. At the same time the Derby Cycling Group is also trying to expand its regional links with a view to campaigning for cycling on a regional rather than just strictly local level. So with this in mind it would seem to be a good idea to have a meet up with cycle groups around the East Midlands region.

The venue will be the Flowerpot. 25 King Street Derby DE1 3DZ.. Click here for map

There is plentiful, secure cycle parking available there.

First, there will be a short presentation about cycling in the city, the work DCG are involved in and how it hopes to see cycling develop in the city and its environs. They would also like to share some of their positive and negative experiences both as a group internally and also in their choice of campaigns and methods.

The presentation will be followed by a cycle ride to some interesting parts of the city - so do bring your bikes along. After the ride there will be a general social get together where some light refreshments will be available.

Provisional programme:

Members of the DCG will be at Derby Railway Station to meet the trains arriving between 10.50 and 11.10 and will then escort the riders to the venue. They will also provide an escort back to the railway station at the end of the afternoon, and if anyone needs to leave early (ie while on the ride) they will also see that you get back to the station in time for your train.

Although the event is still a while off, they would like to know how many are likely to be coming in order to ensure that the arrangements are adequate.

For further information please vistit www.derbycyclinggroup.org.uk or contact John Stubbs: john.stubbs@ derbycyclinggroup.org.uk

Please let John know if you intend taking part.

CTC Small Adds on line

The CTC Web site now features small adds for bicycles and related equipment at: http://www.ctcforum.org.uk/listTopics.aspx?bcid=2

Sponsored Ride – 18 June 2006

The main event for Bike Week this year will again be the Sponsored Bike Ride across Garendon Park. Please mark out in your diaries for between 16-00 and 20-00 if possible as we will need help on the day. Both Holywell and Mountfields have confirmed that they will be supporting the event again and Shelthorpe has expressed interest. We are still hoping that other schools will decide to support the event.

Any letters or articles for inclusion in the newsletter should be sent to
the Editor at 32 Bramcote Road,Loughborough, LE11 2SA or E Mailed to john.catt@ldNOSPAMPLEASEcuc.org.uk .

(Please remove NOSPAMPLEASE).

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