The latest Highway Code changes are now in force. These revisions establish a hierarchy; putting cyclists as the 2nd most vulnerable users at the top of the road user hierarchy, and HGVs at the bottom in 8th place.
Today, Kate Lester from Diamond Logistics argues in this guest post today that the Highway Code changes are unfair on HGV drivers and perhaps the bicyclist who overtakes an HGV on the inside is potentially the one in the wrong:
Whilst I think it’s appropriate for us to finally establish in law the respect that vulnerable users of the road need (i.e. cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders) the reality is that a hierarchy of road users establishes a preference for a mode of transport. I don’t think it’s fair that HGV and van drivers are polarised from road users because of the size and relative safety of their vehicles.
I acknowledge that vulnerable users need to be safeguarded, but the best thing we can do is actually have all road users appreciate the different challenges that ALL road users face. Has anyone really taken into consideration how difficult it is to be an HGV driver? The skill required to drive this huge vehicle? The challenges you have as a driver in terms of your blind spot? And how challenging it can be when, for example, a cyclist is riding on the inside of an HGV vehicle whilst turning left, which as we know is extraordinarily dangerous, leading to injury and sometimes death. A horrific experience for all involved.
I don’t want to mention the number of times I’ve nearly been hit by cyclists going the wrong way down a one way street. Or how pavements for pedestrians are becoming more dangerous because of cyclists and scooters using them, when they shouldn’t. All ‘road’ users demonstrate rogue behaviour.
But a hierarchy is a dangerous thing to create. I believe the best way for us to move forward is with real understanding of each other’s challenges. That there should be an element of driver training giving you a day-in-the-life-of. A day as a cyclist, so you know how it feels whilst an HGV passes you. Or a day as an HGV driver trying to make a delivery or reverse into a tight spot. A van driver trying to make 100 multiple deliveries in one shift. Or a horse rider, experiencing an Audi TT right up your horse’s backside on a country lane. It’s only when all road users appreciate the challenges of our fellow users, that we can truly develop a Highway Code that supports all road users, so is fair and reasonable.
This being said, it is entirely appropriate that we leave space for cyclists and the road positioning clarification is essential. I know as a motorcyclist one of the first things we were taught was to drive very defensively, and to be seen by sitting 2/3 feet away from the curb. Obviously lights and visibility are incredibly important too. Now they’ve also put into law that riders can cycle two abreast. I think this is a good move, as it will stop road rage towards groups of cyclists.
Ultimately speaking the road is there for all users. I know as an occasional runner I feel incredibly vulnerable on the roads and pavements. It’s just as likely to be a cyclist that nearly decapitates me on a pavement as an HGV on a country lane. But user hierarchy? It smacks of an entirely British system which ultimately speaking ostracises HGV drivers once again. And isn’t it incredible that in the last two years HGV drivers have gone from being the bane of people’s lives theoretically, to the saviours of our supply chain. But now! Lost in the hierarchy of road users, bottom of the pile once again.