According to this report, a petition asking for a law requiring motorists to allow at least 3 feet when overtaking a cyclist has been rejected by 10 Downing Street.
Frankly, I was never overly impressed by this petition. 3 feet is not actually much roadspace. Other countries have laws that require at least 1.5 metres (5 1/2 feet). Also, the context is crucial. I would not like to be overtaken by a 38-tonne truck at 60 MPH that allowed me only 3 feet, or even 5 1/2 feet, but a slowly, carefully-driven car on a narrow lane might be a different matter.
But passing distance is just one of a myriad of different areas where the Highway Code, and the law and justice system in general, fails to protect cyclists and fails to act against bad driving. Why is it (usually) legal to park in a cycle lane? Why is it (usually) legal for a motor to enter a cycle lane? Why is it almost impossible to get a conviction or even a prosecution for dangerous driving, and why are the penalties in many cases so risible? Why is there no general duty of care assumed for motorists?
Downing Street's view is that the Highway Code, and the law, is adequate. Well sorry Gordon but it isn't, which is why 2500+ people die on the roads each year, 95% of them due to driver error. If drivers knew the chances of getting caught for bad driving where higher, or even simply that if caught they would face a lengthy ban, it might focus their minds on the road and away from their mobile phones. Instead, we're stuck with wishy-washy ambiguous laws that do little to protect the public. It is time the Government - and indeed all parties - woke up to the fact that if they are serious about encouraging active modes of travel (walking and cycling) and getting people out of their cars, the law as it stands is woefully inadequate and out of step with the times.
We need another petition. A more ambitious one this time.
Friday, January 29, 2010
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