Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Wherever possible"

First the executive summary, since time is short:

If you are a UK voter and have any interest in the future of cycling in the UK, go here, print out and sign the petition and send it off urgently to arrive by Thursday. Despite what the page says, you don't have to be a Cambridge resident (and I'm sure that Stoat will have already done it).

Now the longer version:

Many UK-based cyclists are extremely unhappy about the proposed revision to the Highway Code - for non-UK residents, this is an official booklet which, while not legally binding, is generally considered an authoritative guide to proper behaviour on the roads. In particular, failure to follow the Code can be used as evidence in court to establish liability.

The really problematic bit in the new proposal is the advice with respect to cycle facilities (or farcilities as they are popularly known). Every experienced and competent cyclist will realise that these are generally shoddily designed and built, inadequately maintained, inconvenient and often downright dangerous. A selection of the Best of British can be found here and also here. The proposed highway code says that cyclists should use these farcilities "wherever possible". That is, any failure to use them can be used as evidence against cyclists in establishing liability if they are involved in a crash. Previously, the advice was to use the facilities where practicable - a clearly weaker level of instruction that would be much easier to defend agains in the general case where the cycle lane was inconvenient, circuitous, slow and dangerous. But if the proposal goes through, the only defence would be that it is actually impossible to use the facility. That might be possible in some of the most extreme cases, but isn't generally the case.

This proposal would effectively strip every cyclist of legal protection on many of Britain's roads.

There is more information here, and an on-line petition here.


Heiko said...

After an accident where I was riding on a main road, and a driver decided that cars always have right of way, no matter what the signs say, I eventually decided to stop cycling in Britain. And most cycle paths are atrocious. I remember trying to get home along a canal one aftertoon, and the cycle path got progressively worse, and worse, eventually it was all brambles.

It looks like I'll be moving to the Netherlands shortly, and that'll enable me to go back to cycling.

It's a major quality of life issue as far as I am concerned, and is one of the reasons I am moving there.

William M. Connolley said...

I've signed the petition (and even wrote an email to my local MP).

Having visited Amsterdam recently... I cannot but agree with H. Ordinary suburban streets have cycle lanes on each side of the street off the road. OTOH whilst the appartment blocks have cycle racks all along the fronts they aren't under cover so anyone with a decent bike has to carry it all the way up the steep stairs inside.

James Annan said...

The main difference between Amsterdam and the UK is not the quality or amount of their cycling infrastructure, but rather in the way that cyclists are treated like normal human beings. Another excuse for drivers shouting "get off the f!$#ing road" won't help.

Japan is much the same as Amsterdam (as is most of western Europe, for that matter). Mind you, a lot of old people die in cycling-related crashes here (probably low-speed falls, with their reactions being too slow to protect their heads).

John Fleck said...

Here in New Mexico, our traffic law is explicit in allowing cyclists to use the roadway if they prefer, rather than requiring them to use adjacent paved bicycle paths.