Motion to Regret
That this House regrets the draft Revision of the Highway Code because, despite making important changes to protect road users from harm, Her Majesty’s Government has failed sufficiently to educate the public on the changes.
Relevant document: 24th Report of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (special attention drawn to the instrument)
My Lords, I was so sorry to have missed the earlier debate in full: it looked very exciting—and I rather think that this debate might be exciting as well. There might be quite a lot of opposition.
In spite of having tabled a regret Motion, I am, in fact, fully in favour of these changes, and I congratulate the Government on their foresight in actually bringing them in to make our roads safer. It is absolutely brilliant. I wholeheartedly welcome the changes to the Highway Code. They try to create a situation on our roads where those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger that they may pose to others. That means that a cyclist should assume responsibility for the safety of those walking; and a driver has greater responsibility to look out for those cycling, horse-riding and walking. [Interruption.] Shush!
It means that car drivers do not turn at junctions when someone is waiting to cross the road—although I have to say that I thought that was the rule already, and I always stepped out fearlessly, scowling at the drivers. So I am glad that that change is being made. It means that drivers should not cut across people on cycles and horse-riders travelling straight ahead when the drivers are turning at a junction. It means that drivers use the “Dutch reach”, using their left hand to open the door, which makes the driver look over their shoulder to check for nearby road users.
All this is common sense, so I am quite curious about what people perceive as the problem. In fact, of course, the answer is that many drivers believe that might is right: the bigger your vehicle, the more right of way you have. In the UK, drivers are still buying bigger and more polluting vehicles. These are safer vehicles—but only for them, the drivers. Road casualties have fallen a lot over the past three decades, but that is because far fewer car drivers are being killed or injured, because cars are safer for their drivers. The number of pedestrians killed or injured in busy cities such as London has plateaued rather than declined. We made safer vehicles but we did not create safer roads.
Many drivers think that they are beyond the law. In 2018, a staggering 540 people were injured or killed every week in Britain. That is the most phenomenal cost in all sorts of ways. It costs the NHS; it costs the emergency services; it costs social services to mop up after these collisions and injuries, some of which of course are life-changing. We have lawless roads, and the reason for that is that road crime is not treated in the same way as regular crime. I have always supported our amazing traffic police; they do an incredible job against the odds. They make the most astonishing number of arrests because, when they see an illegal car moving around and they stop them, they quite often find that the drivers are criminals: they have drugs and weapons and all sorts of stuff in their car.
The problem is that many drivers will pay as much attention to these changes in the Highway Code and the guidelines as Boris Johnson did to the Covid rules. Our only hope is a massive publicity campaign to convince the majority of people that being a responsible driver or a responsible cyclist—or even a responsible pedestrian—is a matter of courtesy, caring and common sense. We need the same energy that went into the TV ads for the Green Cross Code, drink-driving or “clunk-click”. Without that, I am worried that these changes will escalate injuries on the road. Pedestrians will assert their right to cross the road at a side junction, and car drivers or cyclists will not stop. Pedestrians will be in the right, but that will not stop them being hurt.
These new measures need immediate publicity, including notices, for example, sent with every notification that drivers receive. I found out about these changes only by accident, and if I, who care a lot about road safety and road danger, found out about them only by chance, there are going to be an awful lot of people who have not heard about them yet. So I appeal to Ministers to spend the money to make these Highway Code changes relevant and noisy. I hope they will be a small step towards changing the culture of lawless roads, which leaves so many grieving for lost family and friends and many thousands suffering from life-changing injuries. I beg to move.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this debate and on so ably setting out the changes, on which I will not elaborate. It is not entirely clear whether cyclists or drivers of e-scooters will be covered by these changes as well, so I hope that the Minister might address that in her reply. Does she agree that one of the difficulties of the present Highway Code—and, in particular, with these current changes—is that cyclists can, on occasion, display insufficient regard for other road users. I echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said about insufficient awareness.
I speak from the vantage point of a rural dweller who travels on country lanes a lot by car rather than by bicycle, particularly in North Yorkshire and County Durham. What concerns me is that, if I understand the Highway Code changes correctly and cyclists are to be asked to cycle in the middle of a country lane, it is going to be impossible for other road users to pass them safely. I want to flag this up to my noble friend the Minister, since in the pubs and tea rooms of North Yorkshire people will talk of little else until these come into effect. It would be helpful to know whether that is the case. Also, with regard to cycle lanes in cities, is it the case that cyclists are now requested not to use them if they do not feel safe but to revert to using the lane?
Finally, my noble friend is aware of my Bill to amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, extending the Road Traffic Act 1988 to include the offences of causing death by dangerous cycling, causing serious injury by dangerous cycling and causing death by careless or inconsiderate cycling. The reason why I raise this in the context of the Highway Code is to ask whether we require primary legislation to make these changes. I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State announce that the Government are now prepared to make these changes. Do we need legislation? Can I lay my Bill to rest, or do we actually require primary legislation? If so, when do the Government intend to bring that legislation forward?
My Lords, as a former Secretary of State for Transport and a keen cyclist, I very much welcome the new Highway Code and congratulate my noble friend and her colleagues in the department on producing it. It makes a very sensible adjustment in terms of the trade-off between pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders on the one hand and those driving cars and motor vehicles on the other. As such, it goes with the grain of the Government’s overall transport policy of promoting sustainable forms of transport. My only reservation, which has already been touched on, is not about the measures themselves but about the information vacuum that has been filled by some inaccurate press reporting, which I will come to in a moment.
Four years ago the Government committed to revising the Highway Code to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Cycling UK, along with Living Streets and others, put forward proposals that were then refined by the snappily named Highway Code review stakeholder focus group. These went out to consultation, and what is before us basically reflects those proposals.
I welcome the principle that those using the roads in vehicles with a greater potential to endanger others have a greater responsibility to avoid doing so, which seems to me to be self-evident. I welcome the advice to cyclists to stay away from the edge of the road and from potholes and parked cars. This has actually been the advice given to cyclists for the past 16 years in the government-backed Bikeability training scheme, but it has only just made it into the Highway Code. It does not advise cyclists to pedal in the middle of the road or to ride two abreast all the time, but it does say that that can happen in certain situations when it is safer to do so.
On cycle lanes, which I welcome—indeed, I successfully campaigned for the first one in Hyde Park in the 1970s—perhaps cyclists should be encouraged to use them where we have them. I know that car users are irritated to find cyclists on the road when there is a parallel cycle lane. The relevant rule 140 says:
“Bear in mind that cyclists are not obliged to use cycle lanes or cycle tracks.”
Perhaps an additional few words could have been added, saying, “But they are strongly advised to do so, not least for their own safety.” Related to that, could my noble friend alert local authorities to the opportunity to redesign junctions crossed by cycle tracks, giving them priority over vehicles turning across them?
My concern, shared by others, is that so far there has been an inadequate public awareness campaign to publicise these changes. We have seen stories that drivers will be fined £1,000 for opening a door with the wrong hand, which simply are not true. I welcome the proposed factual awareness campaign. I would be grateful if my noble friend could perhaps concede that there could have been more publicity before the scheme came into effect—as happened, for example, with the publicity before the Covid regulations were passed, so there are precedents. Can she say a little more about the timing and the budget for phases 1 and 2 of the public awareness campaign?
Against that background, I very much welcome the new Highway Code.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for securing this debate. As has been mentioned, this statutory instrument enables the proposed revision of the Highway Code aimed to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders when using the highway, but 71% of the members of IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest road safety charity, feel that it will increase conflict.
I declare my interest: I am a driver, a pedestrian and a horse rider, and there are cyclists in our house- hold. Surely it is important that everybody using the road takes responsibility for themselves and for other people’s safety. I think it is regrettable that these changes are being put through Parliament in such a way as to avoid proper scrutiny and debate. I understand that they are to be introduced almost immediately, but the general public know absolutely nothing about them.
I question whether some of the proposed changes are realistic. For instance, the recommended two metres of space for passing bicycles and horse riders is welcome, but anyone who has been on our single-track country lanes will know that this is simply impossible. Why are cyclists and horse riders not also made to give two metres’ berth to other road users?
Courtesy and consideration need to be exercised on the roads, not just rights. When I am riding a horse on narrow lanes and encounter a car, I find a gateway or a drive to pull into to let the car pass. I notice that HGV drivers often do the same when they find a long queue behind them, but many bicyclists do not, and they sometimes create huge tailbacks.
I am pleased that the revised version says that cyclists must give way to horses on bridleways. Many horses are terrified of bicycles, but off-road cyclists often appear to be completely oblivious to this fact, to the safety of walkers and that of their dogs, and to the fact that they are not meant to cycle anywhere but on bridle paths. How can this be enforced, and how can these cyclists be held to account?
I know that many noble Lords in this House are cyclists, and I am sure they all cycle in a considerate and responsible manner. However, one has only to spend a little time on London’s streets to see that this is not always the case. Indeed, the recent IAM survey found that 57% of cyclists admitted to red-light jumping. Just last night, coming across from my desk to the House, I saw four bicyclists go through red lights. They are never apprehended. Two years ago I was knocked over on that crossing and, even though a policewoman took evidence, nothing was done about the bicyclist.
Roads are going to be safe only if everyone obeys the rules. Surely serious thought ought to be given to bike owners being registered and therefore identifiable. This would also help with crime, as bicycles are often used for getaways, as well as tackling the off-road issues that I mentioned earlier. Of course, the safest way is to separate cars and bicycles, so I applaud the effort to create new bike lanes. Where there are bike lanes, I really think bicycles should stay in them.
Changes to rule 204 emphasise that, in any interaction between road users, those who cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat that they pose to others. The last thing any driver would wish is to be involved in an accident, and especially to hurt someone; that has huge mental health ramifications for everybody involved. But while I recognise that a lorry or car can create the most damage, it feels as if the blame set out by these revisions is always one-way. Sometimes the fault is genuinely with other road users who are not abiding by the rules—going too fast, jumping red lights or overtaking on the inside. When you are in a line of cars it is often impossible to see a bicycle whizzing up the inside or people weaving in and out of traffic, not signalling properly. How are those going to be fairly addressed under this new hierarchy? Can the Minister assure me that those responsible for an incident will be treated equally, regardless of mode of transport?
Following last week’s debate, I trust that e-scooters will not be introduced on to our roads. You do not need a consultation or trial period to see how incredibly dangerous these things are.
I hope the Minister can offer some comfort on these specific issues in her response today.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for raising this important issue. It is not usual for noble Lords to claim in debate that they do not know what they are talking about but that is the position I find myself in. This is despite being, I think, the only person in either House who is an HGV driving instructor, albeit out of date. I will speak from the perspective of a vocational driver.
Yesterday, I tried to obtain a copy of the new Highway Code from WHSmith in Petersfield. I was told that new copies were not due in until April; they had none of the old. I then tried to download an online version but could find only the existing code and the amendments to it, not some form of PDF or the like that would show me the whole code, complete with graphics. Even your Lordships’ Library could not do better and we are grateful for the briefing that it has supplied.
Outside your Lordships’ House, I have detected considerable concern about the new and/or amended rules. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to allay some of that. It is important to read these new provisions in the context of the whole code and with the benefit of the excellent and clear graphics that we have come to expect in it. We do not have that, which is why I claim not to know what I am talking about. Most motorists will be in the same position, yet the code comes into operation on Saturday, if I understand matters correctly.
Notwithstanding my limitations, I have a few points to make, which are shared by many who I talk to. Ever since I first drove an HGV in about 1976, I have recognised, as I was taught, that there is a hierarchy of road users. The HGV drivers were at the top while pedestrians and children were at the bottom, and most vulnerable. I am therefore perfectly content with the new hierarchy. It seems that the whole point of vocational or professional driving is to ensure that the needs of other road users are respected and met. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, made the point that might is not right; she is perfectly correct, and I was always trained and taught that HGV drivers should not abuse their bulk or weight.
On priority for pedestrians at junctions when a vehicle is turning off the main road, it seems that the Minister has placed an imaginary zebra crossing at every such junction. However, a zebra crossing has several other features to enhance safety. There are the flashing yellow lamps and the zig-zag lines that have the effect of prohibiting waiting, unloading, parking or overtaking. When I was training HGV drivers to negotiate a zebra crossing, I would make sure that they identified the hazard in good time and ensured that there was no possibility of any pedestrian getting to the crossing before they did. This is easy enough, because of the layout that I have referred to. There should never be a need for heavy braking, let alone an emergency stop, on the approach to a zebra crossing. However, the same cannot be said for these junctions and, not having been able to study the code properly, I and others are deeply concerned. I hope that my noble friend the Minister can provide reassurance.
Turning to the new rules regarding cyclists, I have always been trained to respect cyclists and take special care with them. As your Lordships would expect, I always do so. I am currently undertaking a lot of driving on rural A roads and unclassified roads. I understand my travel time to within a few minutes on a 45-minute journey. When there is no possibility of safely passing a cyclist or a group of them, I will hang back so that they can enjoy their ride without feeling under pressure. When conditions are more propitious, I will move closer and overtake safely, giving them plenty of room. This is what they expect of me.
Meeting the needs of cyclists, which I am happy to do, never causes me measurable delay on my journeys. Since the Conservative-led Government so wisely increased the speed limit for HGVs on a single carriageway, neither do HGVs. What does cause significant delay is a few older motorists driving at far below the prevailing speed limit. In my opinion, they would fail if on a driving test for failing to make normal progress. Not only can I not pass them safely, HGVs cannot do so either but that is not the problem for today. My concern is that the side-by-side rule for cyclists, which I hope my noble friend the Minister will carefully explain, will have the same effect as a car being driven far too slowly and without the possibility of a safe overtake. It could not only increase journey times but seriously damage the relationship between responsible and skilled motorists and cyclists, as pointed out by my noble friend Lady Hodgson.
I have one technical question for the Minister regarding the code but I expect that she will have to write to me. The code makes it clear that a warning triangle should not be placed behind a broken-down car, especially on a motorway. There must be a good reason for this but it is contrary to advice, and sometimes to the law of many countries on the continent. Our continental friends do not get everything right in terms of road safety. Can my noble friend please write to me and other noble Lords speaking to explain the reasoning for this rule? My greatest concern is the non-availability of the Highway Code in its complete form, so that we could understand what is meant in the whole document.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for bringing this debate to the House today. I agree completely with the concerns expressed by those noble Lords who have already spoken in it. Having said that, of course one welcomes an update to the Highway Code. I welcome the reordering and clarification of the hierarchy of road users and the concept of basing it on vulnerability. I also welcome that there is a precise spelling out of the rules on cycling and safety.
However, it is surreal that e-scooters are not mentioned in this document. I realise that the Minister will tell us that the Government are waiting for the pilot project results but, in the meantime, tens of thousands of them are out there on our pavements and driving heedlessly through red lights. There is a great deal, which is welcome, on how to deal with horses. I live in an urban area; I have lived in my house for 40 years and cannot recall ever seeing a horse walk down the road, but every day I see dozens of illegal scooters going down it. It is all the more concerning because rule 42 refers specifically to mobility scooters being allowed on pavements. That is right, of course, but given the present information vacuum it is likely to mislead people. Even a simple restatement of the current rules—that e-scooters are illegal, except in pilot areas—would have been a welcome clarification.
I also share the concern that, as I read it, having spent many millions of pounds on developing cycle lanes, which was greatly welcome, cyclists do not actually have to use them. One of the great things about cycle lanes is that, as a motorist, I can say that you know where the cyclist should be, so you know how to use them. The fact that cyclists may now feel that they can, rightly, go to other parts of the road is a matter of concern.
My major concern is the timescale because, as noble Lords have said, this comes into force in two days’ time, in the face of almost total public ignorance. How will it be fair if a police officer decides that they wish to enforce some of these new rules in the next week or two, when the Highway Code is not available either online or in bookshops, as the noble Earl just spelled out? When will people doing the written part of the driving test have to answer questions using this new information? Will it be immediately or will there be a time lag before people have to have knowledge of the new provisions?
I realise that there is the 40-day rule about implementation but, to be honest, it is clearly in the Government’s power to change that. I draw attention to the concerns of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Government’s astonishing defence that the printed copies will only be available later on because there is an acute paper shortage—I had not heard about that—and because the price is too low for the booksellers to stock it. I have two points on that. First, increase the price so that booksellers will stock it. Secondly, you do not need to go to a bookshop to buy books any more: you can buy them in supermarkets, which stock an awful lot of things that are less than £2.50. Buy it along with your newspapers and birthday cards, if the booksellers do not feel that it is worth while to stock.
There needs to be a much more ambitious approach to publicity. People will not buy or download something that they have never heard of. We need modern methods of publicity—emails to us all or tweets—as well as the usual visits by police officers to schools and youth clubs. I have some specific questions for the Minister. How much of the Government’s budget is dedicated to publicity? How much extra or additional money will be allocated to police and local authorities so that they can fulfil their essential roles in educating people on this? What publicity methods do the Government plan to use in the modern age, when many people do not watch television news and certainly do not watch public information films? Will they urgently address the need to provide paper leaflets as well, because a lot of the most vulnerable people are elderly and do not necessarily have the skills to find these things on the internet?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for initiating this debate. The changes to the Highway Code are a welcome addition to help cyclists, who are feeling increasingly unsafe. However, without any effort to publicise these changes, they risk being entirely meaningless and, indeed, unsafe. With the changes now imminent, the Government should be leading a national campaign to make the public aware of the new code, as part of a comprehensive national safety campaign. Instead, Ministers are missing in action.
The justification for these changes is in the Government’s own data, which reveals that 66% of cyclists think that roads are too dangerous. As part of the transition to net zero, we all need people to cycle more often than drive, but clearly more people than ever are being put off doing so because of the risk. More and more cyclists are now being killed or seriously injured on UK roads. In 2020, the number killed or seriously injured was 4,320, with the number killed being 140. This is having a knock-on effect on the number of people prepared to bike, given that 66% of people thinking that it is too dangerous to cycle is a 30% increase on a decade ago.
It is worth noting that the same survey, the National Travel Attitudes Study, found that most would be more prepared to cycle if new infrastructure was introduced. Some 55% said that segregated cycle paths would make them more likely to cycle, while 49% said the same for well-maintained road surfaces. This shows that it is entirely within the Government’s gift to encourage people to move from driving to cycling. Unfortunately, the Government are still refusing to release the remainder of the £2 billion of funds promised for active travel.
Although the new changes to the Highway Code are welcome, few people are aware of them. The AA has conducted research that has found that many drivers have no intention of looking at the new rules, while Cycling UK warned of the dangers of a lack of official publicity—no wonder, given that there seems to be no concerted effort to make the public aware of these changes. In response to a Written Question by the shadow Transport Secretary last month, a Minister responded that an awareness-raising campaign would not begin until February, with a broader behaviour change campaign later in the year.
I have discovered in recent days that even those who actively seek to learn about these changes will struggle to do so. I have had a similar experience to that of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. On Monday, I visited the Waterstones bookshop in Trafalgar Square to purchase a copy of the new Highway Code—I thought that, if it is anywhere, it will be there—only to be told that none was available in any store and, further, I was advised that none was expected until April. Can the Minister confirm whether the public are currently able to purchase a copy of the updated Highway Code anywhere?
Although the amendments have been published, I, like the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was unable to find the full amended version of the Highway Code online. Can the Minister confirm that this has not been published online? I reckon myself to be a black belt in googling—that is the only way that I can survive in this role—so I tried again last night just to make sure that it had not crept in in the previous 48 hours. I went on GOV.UK, where, if you simply click on “Highway Code”, you find a Highway Code and you think, “Oh, that’s it”, until you notice that that Highway Code was last revised in 2015. I persevered and moved around that site and I was treated to eight newspaper-type articles about how the new code was changed, but nowhere could I find a copy of the code so that I could view the whole thing holistically.
It is important to understand that this revision is not just a tweaking of the present rules, responding to the changing world of electric scooters et cetera—I wrote that before I discovered in this debate that it makes no reference to electric scooters. It is about—this is crucial—a fundamental change, requiring road users to do things differently. It is not a tweak or a refinement; it is about fundamental change. This is not being adequately communicated.
Consider a scenario where a well-informed cyclist who believes that he or she has the right of way meets an ill-informed HGV driver who believes that he has the right of way. This is exactly the scenario set out in the code, where the cyclist gets run over. The cyclist presumes that they have the right of way to proceed and the HGV driver believes that he has the right to turn. The outcome could be catastrophic: another cyclist death. Were such deaths taken into account in the decision not to prepare a full impact assessment? Given the department’s lamentable performance in communicating the changes, surely the scenario that I have described is credible, as are many deaths in the next 10 weeks. These deaths will be the responsibility of the DfT and its leader, the Secretary of State.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, for giving noble Lords the opportunity to discuss the Highway Code changes today. It has been a good debate with some very interesting contributions, which I will come to. I would first like to set out the Government’s position clearly so that we have a good framework from which to delve into some of the points raised.
I note at the outset there were some changes to the Highway Code just a few months ago which did not attract a debate, and it has not been republished since. Putting that to one side, for any changes there is a parliamentary process which needs to be gone through. At any time, they could be prayed against, in which case those changes would not happen. I could also imagine, had I started communicating this 40 days ago, noble Lords being very cross with me for communicating something Parliament had not yet agreed. There is definitely a balance, but the end of the 40-day period has now come almost to a close.
Noble Lords will note that only yesterday we issued a press note to stakeholders and the media, which essentially kicks off the process of informing and educating the road-using public. I agree with noble Lords that most people do not read the Highway Code; it is not where they get their information from at all. It is all about enabling us to communicate with trusted stakeholders and the public via the media and paid-for promotion, which is also part of what the Government intend to do.
Keeping our roads safe for everyone, in particular those most at risk on our roads, is one of my key priorities. The Highway Code and the rules therein are central to that mission. I noted that my noble friend Lady Hodgson said that the roads will be safe only if everyone obeys the rules. I agree with her; everyone must obey the rules. But I am the Roads Minister, so of course I would think that. That is for pedestrians and cyclists, but it is not just about obeying the rules—that is a very harsh way of looking at it. It is also about respect and consideration for other people travelling on the roads. I will come back to that in relation to rural roads, where I sometimes feel that the motorist feels they have the run of them.
At the heart of these changes is active travel: cycling and walking. The Government would like to increase the number of people doing both and these changes to the Highway Code should ensure that they can do so as safely and respectfully as possible, because everybody has the right to use the road. We want to make sure they do so in a safe, considerate and responsible manner. We want to encourage people to think about how they travel and choose more sustainable and active modes of it. One of the biggest barriers to people choosing to cycle or walk is safety, and the perception of safety. It is often due to the users of motor vehicles of whatever type who also choose to use the roads that that perception—or reality—of a slightly less safe environment comes to pass.
These proposed alterations to the Highway Code seek to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders and make active travel an attractive alternative to using the car. However, they are in no measure anti-motorist. We had an enormous response; I think 21,000 people responded to the consultation and we believe around 60% were motorists. I think that motorists want a calm, respectful and law-abiding road network as well.
There are three key alterations in these changes. The first is on the hierarchy of road users, which was ably explained by my noble friend Lord Attlee. We are all cognisant that those people driving the heavier and faster vehicles are able to cause greatest harm. The second is clarifying the existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements, and that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road. Finally, we are strengthening guidance on safe passing distances when overtaking cyclists or horses. Guidance on safe passing distances has existed for quite some time—this is not a new invention. We have to look at a positive shift in road user behaviour.
I think it might have been my noble friend Lord Attlee who asked whether, if you are turning left, for example, you should give priority to a pedestrian. Yes, you should, but you should not be going around a left-hand turn at 30 miles per hour anyway. You should be able to stop safely if there is a pedestrian waiting to cross. Just stop safely, let them pass and continue with your journey, and nothing bad will have happened.
I take issue with my noble friend Lady Hodgson, who unfortunately cannot see cyclists whizzing up on the inside. They have been allowed to travel up the inside of a car for quite some time; that is why the left- hand wing mirror is there—to enable you to check your wing mirrors before you make a left turn. Just as you would not, if you were on the outside of a car, turn left in front of it to go down a left-hand side street, the same applies to a cyclist. Do not cut in front of them —wait for them to pass, wait for it to be safe, and do not whizz around the corner at 30 miles per hour.
We are going to face some challenges, but it will lead to a much more respectful environment on our roads. It is certainly needed, having suffered some terrible road rage yesterday involving a gentleman throwing an apple at my car. I had done nothing wrong—indeed, I was not even the driver. But let us move on.
I turn to the publicity for the changes, which is incredibly important. I have already said that the Government would not have embarked on a massive publicity campaign prior to the completion of the parliamentary process. That would have been wrong. However, there has been an enormous amount of debate about the proposals dating back to 2018. There was the consultation in October 2020 and the response to the consultation in June 2021; it filled up a lot of column inches in places where they were supportive of the changes and places where they were not. The debate is already out there. I believe that people are starting to become aware that there will be a change.
Now it is up to the Government to set out exactly what those changes are. We have set out some myth-busting summaries of what is and is not changing. For example, we are not saying that cyclists should cycle down the middle of the lane. That is not what the rules will say; they say that you might consider it if it is safer to do so on quiet roads or approaching a junction. Ditto, the rules do not say you should cycle two-by-two down the road; they say you might consider doing so on quieter roads and if it is safe to do so, et cetera. Much of the Highway Code, noble Lords will be aware, is not prescriptive; it is not set in law at all. It is a code for using the road. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said “What are we going to do about the police if they pull someone over on the basis of these new rules on Monday?”, but we have not changed the law, we have changed the code.
Will my noble friend permit me to intervene? I think the concern is this. I was pinged with the press notice, for which I am very grateful, because I subscribe. I would just like to flag up these two sentences:
“Many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you’re committing a criminal offence. If you do not follow the other rules in the code, it can be used in evidence in court proceedings to establish liability.”
We are changing the law here, not the guidance.
That is exactly what I am trying to say. A “should” or “should not” that is in the code can be used. Going back to my noble friend Lord Attlee’s point about an HGV and a cyclist going around the corner and having an incident, whoever is at fault, the fact that they were going against the Highway Code would be a factor if it were ever to reach court. But this is not necessarily about the changes—
My Lords, it was not my point; I think it was made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. But I would like to intervene and point out that an HGV driver is trained to never endanger a vulnerable road user. The only problem arises when the HGV driver, for one reason or another, is not aware of the vulnerable user’s position.
I am grateful to my noble friend for pointing that out. I apologise for assigning the wrong speaker to that point, but it remains the case that noble Lords should be cognisant about what the Highway Code is and is not, and what certain rules in there are or are not. Some reflect what the underlying law says, and others are in the code because they are guidance on how one operates the road system. I will not dwell on that further, otherwise I could go into a long treatise on road safety and how it works. Let us not do that, because I want to come back to communications.
We are going to use the free channels as much as possible, via the press notice and our trusted stakeholders, and we will then use the THINK! campaign. The code will come out over the weekend, once the parliamentary process has been completed. Therefore, our paid campaign will start in February; the noble Lord is quite right. It will be badged under the very successful THINK! campaign, and over half a million pounds has been targeted towards that. The communications plan has been tested with all trusted stakeholders. It is slightly different from the old days—the Clunk Click days—because, of course, audiences have massively atomised, so they may not see something on a terrestrial television network. Quite frankly, I have not heard of many of the channels we use either, but I am reassured that people actually watch them.
I turn very briefly to some of the points raised. On the timing of the communications, there is the initial hit in February. Obviously, we will continue with that and will have another burst as we head into the summer because that is when cycling becomes a greater issue.
Should e-scooters be allowed on British roads, we would revise the Highway Code accordingly.
I will come back to the issue of rural roads. I spoke to my noble friend Lady McIntosh yesterday about this, and she asked if I had ever driven on a rural road—yes, I have, and one of the things I am astounded by is the speed at which people travel on those roads. We know that they were never designed for cars. They started off as tracks from one village to another. Many vehicles hare along them at great speed, and they are some of our most dangerous roads in the country. I am afraid that if you cannot overtake a horse because it is on a rural road—I take my noble friend Lady Hodgson’s point that the horse rider might want to just move over periodically—you will just have to wait behind the horse. It is okay; nothing bad will happen. You should do that instead of trying to squeeze your way past and haring off into the distance on a very dangerous rural road. We have to calm down on those sorts of roads, because they are incredibly dangerous. They kill far more people than cyclists are killed. We really need to get back that respect for cyclists, horse riders, pedestrians—all the people who are out enjoying the countryside.
On my noble friend Lord Young’s point, I can say that we have recently revised LTN 1/20, which sets out how cycling infrastructure should be constructed. That will, of course, enable us to spend the money—about which I am going to write to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, because I sense that I am running out of time and the House has a Bill to be cracking on with.
I will very happily write with further details. On the point on the shortage of paper, I had no idea that that was the reason, but I am aware that we do not update the Highway Code in paper copy very often. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, will be aware, we updated the Highway Code for the smart motorway changes. Again, we would not have reprinted it after that, but most people do not access the Highway Code via a printed copy.
I will certainly go back and look through Hansard, because so many good points were raised and I have not been able to cover them all. I am grateful to all noble Lords.
Before the noble Baroness sits down I ask that, in the letters she will undoubtedly write to us, she will address my very specific questions about budgets for publicity and for the police and local authorities to spread the word on this. Can she also clarify when the new information will have to be known by people taking the driving test written examination?
My Lords, I thank every noble Lord who has taken part in this debate, and I particularly commend the Minister. It is such a pleasure to agree with a government Minister and to hear her spirited defence of old and new regulations.
There are a lot of issues here and, of course, I disagree with quite a lot of what has been said. We always have to remember that car drivers are subsidised by the rest of us. They are subsidised by cyclists, pedestrians and, obviously, other car drivers. Please let us not think that car drivers have the right to do whatever they like on our roads.
There are too many issues to cover, but on the issue of cyclists killing other people and so on, that hardly ever happens. In fact, 99% of pedestrian deaths are from motor vehicles. Please let us not forget that. I was going to refer to what the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, said, but the Minister corrected that. Cycle lanes are often dangerous, and the infrastructure has to be looked at.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, talked about the budget. That is quite important, because I think there is £500,000 at the moment, which will be nowhere near enough. I recommend that if government Ministers could get that out there and notify people on prime TV time—talking about this instead of cake—that would obviously help to spread the word.
The Government have been very slow to produce a draft of these changes. In fact, they were told back in July 2018 that there was a need for a public awareness campaign, yet the relevant people looking at it were given the details only a week ago.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, for his positive and sympathetic response. As somebody who does not cycle any more, because I walk, I am well aware of the dangers of cycling in London and other places, including rural areas, and I commend the Minister for saying that we should show some patience and courtesy. It is perhaps time that we all learned that. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.