Stewart Paterson: Changes to traffic laws should end car driver’s divine right
There are important changes to the Highway Code from today that every road user should be aware of.
They affect everyone, whether you walk, ride a bike, or drive a car or other motor vehicle.
This also applies to horses. I know you don’t have many horses on Dumbarton Road or Duke Street, but when we’re out of town it’s essential that we know the rules.
The changes have been a long time coming and while some people might not agree with them, they make sense.
For years far too many people have thought that because they are in a car they have the right of way and that their right to traffic is more important than anyone else’s.
Over the past two years, changes to some junctions to give more space and a safer space for pedestrians and cyclists across Glasgow, have motorists angrier than ever.
They cause congestion, we are told, when obviously it is too many cars on the road that causes congestion.
No one ever uses the bike lanes, we are told. Although there has been a huge increase in cycling since the start of the pandemic.
Bicycle sales have exploded.
Perhaps the reason some motorists haven’t seen cyclists using the bike lanes is that they didn’t look properly.
Changes to the traffic laws are designed to help solve this problem.
Who has the right of way is clarified in the updated Code.
How many times have you had someone eagerly honk your horn if you dared walk across the street.
The new rules clarify the hierarchy of road users.
It places the “most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy”.
This means that pedestrians come before cyclists and motorcyclists. Cyclists and motorcyclists above motorists.
A brief summary of the changes is that when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other vehicles must yield.
If people have started to cross and traffic wants to turn onto the road, the people crossing have the right of way and the traffic must yield.
This means no more honking at pedestrians and yelling at them to ‘move’ or sarcastically telling them to ‘take your time, mate’.
Other changes affect cyclists and have already angered some people.
Cyclists should ride in the center of the lane on quiet roads, and in town where there are parked cars, they should adopt a position that keeps them far enough apart if a car door is open.
Cyclists are told to stay out of the gate area.
This means no more angry beeps if you get “stuck” behind a cyclist on a main road that isn’t right on the side where there are parked cars.
There are changes regarding roundabouts and intersections.
There are also tips for drivers when opening the doors on a busy road to do what is called a ‘Dutch Reach’. This means opening the door with your left hand to force yourself to look behind you to see if a bicycle or motorbike is coming next.
It’s not just about drivers changing their behavior. Many cyclists also need to up their game when it comes to considering others.
There are many shared paths for walking and cycling, some are pavement, others are completely off the road, such as the canal paths and the Clyde footbridge.
In these cyclists must respect the safety of people walking and not endanger them.
That means if you want to speed up like Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins, then find somewhere else to do it. Shared paths are not race tracks.
On the road, cyclists can ride two abreast but must safely move in single file to allow motor vehicles to overtake.
I’m sure the new rules, while they’re understood, are going to lead to a lot of arguments, angry fists and people yelling at each other like they’re MPs in the House of Commons arguing about Boris Jonson, Birthday Parties and Cake.
It will also undoubtedly amplify calls from cyclists to pay for something that does not exist, namely the mythical “Road Tax” accompanied by the requirement of insurance.
Spoiler: cyclists and pedestrians pay as much tax for road maintenance as motorists.
Rather, the vehicle excise duty means that it is based on emissions and that bicycles produce no emissions and are therefore exempt.
In addition, many have insurance, the same as motorists, covering civil liability, it is simply not mandatory.
It is not mandatory because, in almost all cases, when a cyclist has an accident, it is not his fault.
So now that we’ve agreed that we all pay for the roads no matter how we choose to travel. (we all agree, don’t we?) so we must respect everyone’s right of use and follow the rules of the road
Whatever means of transport we use to get around, whether it’s a van, car, motorbike, bicycle, pony or Shanks’ pony, we should all do one thing as soon as possible.
Please read the Highway Code. Read it and understand it.