Blackpool cyclists welcome new road rules: "Drivers literally get away with murder. This will signal they have to respect us."

Fylde Coasters cycle club in Poulton hope the changes to the highway code will make it safer to ride on resort roads

By Lucinda Herbert
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 3:45 pm

Since Stuart Mann set up Fylde Coasters cycle club in 2014 he’s seen more than his fair share of insults, aggression and ‘punishment passes’ - where a motorist deliberately drives too close because a cyclist held them up.

The 51-year-old Poulton man took up cycling 12 years ago and said Blackpool roads have got busier, drivers are less patient, and potholes make riding more dangerous.

At the end of the month the Highway Code will be updated with new rules aiming to protect vulnerable road users.

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Stuart Mann, chairman of Fylde Coast cycle club, with his wife, Sally Mann, owner of Breeze ladies' cycling club in Blackpool

Drivers will have more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse, and cyclists will have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians.

And Stuart welcomes the changes.

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The changes will give clearer guidance for drivers to leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and instructing drivers turning into a road to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross.

There will also be a recommendation for car users to use the ‘Dutch Reach technique’; reaching to open a door with the opposite hand to force the driver/passenger to look behind.

Stuart meets with his club every weekend at the Poulton Elk and cycles around the Fylde coast. They also visit Lancaster and Beacon Fell frequently.

“I see this a lot,” he said, “A driver opens their door without looking, and the cyclist goes smack into the side of the door. We call it dooring.”

There will be clearer emphasis on cyclists being able to ride in the middle of the road, and that they don’t need to stick to cycle lanes.

“This was always the case. Our members often get abuse from car drivers who think we should be in cycle lanes.”

Stuart hope it will lead to safer roads, but thinks it will take time.

“The highway code is taught to newbies, so existing drivers probably won’t even take any notice. But hopefully we’ll see a change through the courts. As cases are treated seriously it will signal that motorists need to respect us.”

A recent survey by the AA of more than 13,700 of its members, however, has revealed that 33 per cent did not know about the imminent changes to the code with four per cent having “no intention” of looking at the details.

Martin Crane, a driving instructor at Wheelz Driving School in Fleetwood agrees that most of the rules are a good idea.

He said: “Cyclists positioning in the centre of the lane to make them more visible, and drivers being encouraged to open doors using a “Dutch reach”, to make them more aware, are not a bad thing as long as common sense is applied.

But he’s not happy with the rule that drivers should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross when turning into junctions or side roads.

“Unless these rules are very publicised I think these changes will lead to accidents. Also, it is interesting to note that the new rules are written as SHOULD rather than MUST, so they will not become law. That means some road users will follow them, and others will not, this creates grey areas and uncertainty, and that can never be a good thing.”

The AA accused the Government of being “far too silent” on the changes, but the Department for Transport (DfT) insisted it will ensure “all road users are aware”.

AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens said: “With a week to go, too many drivers are unaware of the new rules of the road.

“While the Government formally announced these changes last summer, they have been far too silent in promoting them.

“Shockingly, one in 25 drivers say they have no intention of looking at the new rules.

“These changes affect everyone, so we encourage people to read the updated code now so we can make our roads safer.”