The consultation draft of the Highway Code issued in February 2006 included the following wording for the rule on use of cycle facilities:
“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 journey safer.”
Many responses to the consultation objected to the use of the words “where they are provided” and so these words were removed from the version of rule 61 laid before Parliament on 28 March 2007, which read:
“Use cycle routes and cycle facilities such as advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings whenever possible, as they can make your journey safer.”
As well as removing “where they are provided”, the qualification on the use of facilities was moved towards the end of the sentence to make clear that it applies to all the types of facility mentioned in the rule and not just cycle routes. This was intended to avoid any false misapprehension that there is any degree of compulsion in the use of such facilities. As the introduction to the Highway Code makes clear, only rules that include the words “Must” or “Must Not” are mandatory.
The wording of that qualification was been changed from “when practicable” to “wherever possible” in the interests of clarity and the use of plain English. This change does not in any way affect the substance or status of the advice.
Rule 63 of the version of the proposed revised Highway Code laid before Parliament also included the words “wherever possible”. This rule was unchanged from rule 49 of the current version of the Highway Code first published in 1999.
However, cyclists remained concerned by the new wording. Following discussions with CTC, the cyclists' organisation, we have now proposed further changes to both rules 61 and 63, as follows:
61 Cycle Facilities. Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
63 Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). When using a cycle lane, keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
We are currently seeking views from road safety, cycling and walking representative groups on these proposals. Subject to considering their views, we intend to include these revised versions of rules 61 and 63 in the new edition of the Highway Code, which we now expect to issue in September.