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What changes to the Highway Code mean for different road users

What are the changes?

Three main changes have been made to the Highway Code:

  • A new ‘hierarchy of road users’ is to be introduced in order to ensure that those capable of doing the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.
  • Existing rules around pedestrian priority on pavements have been clarified and drivers and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road.
  • Guidance has been established for vehicles on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders, ensuring that they have priority at junctions when travelling straight on.

In addition, the ‘Dutch Reach’ is now described in the ‘Waiting and parking’ chapter of The Highway Code for the first time. This vehicle exiting technique recommends using the hand on the opposite side to the door you’re opening, increasing the likelihood of you spotting a cyclist as a natural part of looking over your shoulder.

Who will this benefit?

The new guidance is primarily aimed at improving safety for the most vulnerable road users, particularly young, old and disabled pedestrians.

In order of greatest priority, the new hierarchy of road users are described below:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/taxis
  6. Vans/minibuses
  7. Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles

Cyclists, horse riders and motor vehicles should give way to pedestrians at junctions and designated crossings. Furthermore, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use paths.

Additional provisions have also been made for cyclists. New guidance means that motor vehicles should give cyclists priority at junctions and overtake only when a safe gap is available on the carriageway and when travelling on roundabouts.

The Department for Transport has stated that the ultimate aim of these measures is to foster a more “mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.”

Sustrans welcomes these changes and hopes the additional safety provisions made will reassure and encourage vulnerable road users going forward.

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How have towns and cities been making walking and cycling safer travel during coronavirus?

Two cyclists working in Milan, on March 31, 2020. Piero Cruciatti / AFP.

Cities all over the world have come up with a number of ways to promote physical distancing  during Coronavirus.

Changes, such as pavement widening, pop-up cycle lanes and floating bus stops have made it easier for people to exercise and carry out essential journeys safely.

Whilst schemes such as wider provisions for 20mph zones and pedestrian-prioritised streets, have addressed the change in people’s attitudes and behaviour around travel during the pandemic.

Below is a selection of examples of some of the temporary measures taken by towns and cities worldwide. And while the majority of these measures are intended only to be temporary, there are hopes that communities will see the long-term benefit and move towards making them permanent.

Widened Cycle Lanes, Berlin

Temporary bike lanes in Berlin, which have been widened to enable cyclists to keep further apart. Photo by Annegret Hilse/Reuters

New and widened temporary cycle lanes have been created using removable tape, spray paint and mobile signs across Berlin.

A successful pilot of the scheme in the Kreuzberg district at the end of March demonstrated the measures could improve cycling safety without hindering the flow of traffic.

The lanes allow essential workers a safer and quicker daily commute, whilst helping to make rail and underground networks less crowded.

Applications for similar pop-up cycle lanes to be constructed, on behalf of local residents, have been received by 133 other German cities.

Find out more here

Opening Streets, Milan

Like many towns and cities, Milan has seen a dramatic reduction in the use of public transportation. Photo by Andrea Mantavani/The New York Times

Starting with Corso Buenos Aires, one of Milan’s busiest shopping streets, a number of spaces in the city will be reallocated away from motor vehicles to be used by pedestrians and cyclists.

The ambitious plan, the Strade Aperte project, introduced 22 miles of low-cost cycle lanes, new and widened pavements, 20mph speed limit zones, as well as pedestrian priority streets.

Work is set to begin at the start of May and continue over the course of the summer.

Find out more here

Active Travel Fund, Auckland

Widened footpaths make Auckland streets more people-centric. Photo by Greater Auckland

Pavements and cycle lanes are set to be widened throughout Aukland as a tactical urbanism  initiative.

Footpath extensions would use basic materials like planter boxes and colourful paint and wider pavement will come at the expense of existing parking spaces.

17km of temporary cycle lanes will also be created through the reallocation of road space usually reserved for motor traffic.

This follows the announcement of a newly available emergency ‘Streets for People’ fund by the New Zealand government in support of urban active travel projects.

Councils will be able to receive 90% funding for successful project applications to implement in their districts.

New Zealand is the first county to implement such a scheme.

Find out more here

Bus Network for Bikes, Bogota

Crowds gathered at a TransMilenio bus stop prior to coronavirus. Photo source unknown

In an attempt to reduce both congestion and overcrowding on public transport, the Columbian capital has designated 47 new miles of temporary cycle lanes to its residents.

This is in addition to the 340 miles of paved roads already made available to cyclists throughout the city.

Operating between 6.00am and 7.30pm each day, the cone-demarcated lanes are staffed by police and government officials to provide safety assistance and control measures at intersections for users.

The new cycling network has been designed to mirror the bustling TransMilenio city bus routes, providing people with a safer but still familiar commute.

As the first major city to introduce such widespread infrastructure changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Bogota has been able to serve as a pioneering model for other cities to emulate.

Find out more here

Repurposing Parking Spaces, Dublin

Traffic cones and signage placed by locals declaring a “temporary footpath” on Manor Street. Photo by The Irish Times

After local residents began widening pavements through the use of traffic cones, Dublin City Council announced a host of infrastructure changes to assist with physical distancing.

Loading bays and parking spaces are currently being repurposed throughout the city in order to provide extra space to pedestrians.

A counter flow cycle lane has also been implemented on Nassau Street, in the heart of the city centre. This is expected to be vital for allowing essential workers a safe commute.

Find out more here

Corona Cycleways, Paris

A cyclist rides in the empty streets of the Champs Elysees in Paris following lockdown in France. Photo by EPE-EFE

650km of new post-lockdown cycle routes, colloquially called ‘Corona cycleways’, are set to be introduced on May 11th.

This is being done to address fears of severe congestion on the roads following the easing of lockdown measures, as commuters attempt to avoid the close quarters of public transport.

Nine permanent segregated cycle lanes will be installed in total, linking up 30 separate Parisian districts.

In addition to this, 72% of the parking spaces are to be temporarily removed and many of the city’s boulevards will be converted into pop-up cycle lanes. 

The project sees an acceleration of Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo’s, “Plan Vélo”, which aimed to triple bike journeys in the capital by 2024 through new on-street infrastructure.

€300 million is to be made available by the Ile-de-France region, covering 60% of the total cost. The remaining shortfall will be provided by local councils and the national bicycle fund.

Find out more here

Slow Streets, Oakland

Local residents have added a personal touch to road closures signs on Brookdale Avenue. Photo by David Campbell/Twitter

A ‘Slow Streets’ programme has seen 74 miles of road closed to motor traffic in Oakland.

This has been done in order to give residents additional space to exercise, whilst also reducing the congestion that has been experienced in local parks.

Due to the ‘soft closure’ nature of the measures, which relies on the voluntary compliance of drivers, emergency vehicles are still permitted to pass beyond the barriers.

Compliance with the scheme has been particularly enhanced through the involvement of neighbourhood and volunteer groups adding crafted signs and personal effects to barriers in order to deter those from ignoring the closures.

Discussions are already taking place, in Oakland and elsewhere in the region, about how these community-driven measures could be used to shape the future of urban landscape design through, for example, weekend closures or modified block parties.

Find out more here

Linking up, Lima

Wide footpaths in one of Lima’s largest parks, Bosque del Olivar. Photo by Checo890/WikiCommons

The Peruvian government is dramatically boosting the cycling infrastructure in its capital, Lima, in an attempt to curb the city’s heavy reliance on public transport during coronavirus.

The ambitious project, ‘Pedal against the Pandemic’, will attempt to implement the five years’ worth of cycling infrastructure plans in only three months.

The project will be implemented in two phases.

301 kilometres of temporary emergency bike lanes will initially be installed to link up more than 70 existing cycle lanes in Lima, with an aim to making these permanent routes post-pandemic. This would double the number of bike lanes currently available to cyclists.

The second phase of the plan is to develop a new inexpensive bike which, while being affordable, also meets the necessary minimum safety requirements. It is hoped this Peruvian bicycle will make cycling more accessible to the residents of Lima.

Find out more

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Why we need to adapt travel infrastructure for genuine sustainable travel choices

by Chiquita Elvin, Sustrans Scotland Infrastructure Manager, Places for Everyone

Our transport infrastructure and built environment needs to adapt in order to provide people with genuine sustainable travel choices.

We need fundamental changes to the way we travel.

In order to respond fully to the climate crisis we need to reduce our dependency on cars altogether, not simply change the type of cars we use. The importance of this cannot be over emphasised enough.

Too often electric cars are seen as the answer to how we respond to the climate crisis, be that as individuals or within the transport planning and design community.

But although electric vehicles appeal to our sense of newness and novelty, whilst keeping the status quo, they do not address a number of the key issues faced by professionals working to ensure climate adapted infrastructure is integrated into master planning and regeneration.

Ultimately, an electric car is still a car, and they impact on place, safety and sedentary lifestyles in the same way as conventional cars.

People need genuine sustainable travel choices

Our transport infrastructure and built environment needs to adapt in order to provide people with genuine sustainable travel choices. And not just in Scotland, but across the UK and across the rest of the world as well.

Not only would this bring many positive environmental impacts, from lowering net carbon emissions, reducing noise pollution and the environmental cost of building and maintaining news roads, but active and sustainable travel infrastructure offers improved health and economic benefits too.

Designing for everyone

In practice, this means accounting for the most vulnerable groups in society first in the design process. By designing our streets and public places to be accessible to all, we end up with places that work for everyone.

So, for example, if we make our footpaths safe, attractive and appropriate for the setting, then this has a knock on effect for other road users and the natural environment.

Slowing and/or reducing traffic volumes and the types of vehicles which use our streets then makes them safer and more pleasant for people to walk, wheel or cycle through.

Making sure we include green and blue infrastructure, such as trees, rain gardens or other sustainable urban drainage systems, means that our streets and public places are more pleasant to spend time in.

Thinking about the context

As planners and designers we must also consider the context in which people travel and how their lives can often dictate this. Responding to the needs of women as a group, for example, means taking into account travelling with children, fears around personal safety and recognising that women more often trip-chain than men.

By then, for example, ensuring there is widespread, affordable public transport which is more accommodating of all users, would provide people with a realistic option to leave their car at home for more (if not all) of the journeys they make every day.

Equally, creating an extensive network of continuous, safe walking and cycling routes in an urban area would enable parents with children, along with everyone else, to travel more actively and sustainably. This could be through addressing the way traffic flows through our streets, as above, or by incorporating protected cycle lanes where this is more appropriate.

The knock on effect of this would allow all groups access the vast range of benefits that active and sustainable travel brings. From a boost in health and wellbeing through increased physical activity, air pollution and carbon emission reduction, inclusivity, economic benefits (can we add a hyperlink?) and a number of other outcome areas.

The best way to ensure that future urban transport systems support people’s wellbeing, and support flourishing, healthy communities, is to invest in infrastructure that can be shown to make a positive impact.

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Behaviour Change Case Studies News Places for Everyone

Reaching new audiences along the South City Way

Two women stand, talking at a counter in Bike for Good's shop. A third woman stands behind the counter smiling. The women to the left of the image is holding a green and white bike.
The new Bike for Good Hub provides servicing, repair and a community base

A proactive approach to reaching new audiences has seen a surge in the number of people trying cycling for the first time along the South City Way in Glasgow.

The South City Way project is a partnership between Glasgow City Council and Sustrans, funded through Transport Scotland. The 3km route, from Queen’s Park into the City Centre, seeks to rebalance the streets in favour of people walking and cycling and to make journeys in the area more pleasant.

Local charity Bike for Good were funded by Glasgow City Council to deliver behaviour change measures before and during construction of the project.

They offer bike recycling, cycle training, outreach activities and maintain the city’s Nextbike public bike hire fleet.

The charity has strong partnerships with local organisations around the cycle route and provided tailored support activities to different audiences. 

Focused Impact

Bike for Good’s purpose was clear: to reach people new to cycling and help them to overcome their barriers to being more active.

By organising a wide range of events that mixed food, music, films and socialising they reached people who would not have been interested in purely cycling-focussed activities.

 As a result, two-thirds of cycling activity participants were new to cycling.

Removing barriers

A section of text is written on a blackboard: "Changing lives through cycling! Our Glasgow South Community Hib offers a range of services for..."
Bike for Good run a wide range of programmes from their two Glasgow centres

Bike for Good worked hard to make it easier for more people to come along to their engagement sessions.

The sessions are free to attend and the charity proactively took their services to different areas along the route. 

As well as reaching new audiences by partnering with other organisations working on health, integration and rehabilitation programmes, they offered activities for specific audiences including:

  • Women only rides and cycle skills training
  • Kids afterschool club with occasional trips away
  • “Spokes Not Blokes”, a monthly maintenance session for women and non-binary people

Finally, Bike for Good also ran a pilot project aimed at giving people affordable access to bikes. Aimed at people on low or no income and population groups who are less likely to cycle the “Bikes for All” pilot provided access to Glasgow’s Nextbike public hire scheme for £3 year – a discount of 95%.

This meant that as well as Bike for Good activities being accessible to a wider range of people, they have increased their understanding of ways to effectively encourage participation in cycling among under-represented and minority population groups.

In a two-year period (July 2017 – July 2019), 414 people were signed up, representing 8% of all new annual members of the nextbike scheme in Glasgow during this time. In the same period, 10,253 bike rentals were made by Bikes for All participants, representing 2.3% of all nextbike hires in Glasgow. (from the Bikes for All impact report, November 2019).

Key learning

Tapping in to existing social and support networks helps increase engagement with a bigger range of audiences, especially those who may be seldom heard.

Activities that encourage people to use new infrastructure should be tailored for different target groups or individuals. As a person starts to make more journeys by bike, their needs will change. This means that there needs to be a range of ways to support them.

Local Authority Support

Glasgow City Council provided funding to Bike for Good through Smarter Choices Smarter Places funding. This two year agreement has enabled them to provide a visible and welcoming community space to promote active travel to those living and working around this new route.

The targeted use of this fund to support this significant new route is to be commended. It has supported and complemented the  changes to the built environment carried out by Glasgow City Council and, by coming from a trusted, local organisation, will help lead to longer, more impactful changes in the community.

Key learning

Just as individuals will have specific active travel needs, different infrastructure projects will require different approaches to how they encourage people to walk and cycling more in the surrounding area.

Based on the reported success of Bike for Good’s activities, a relatively small investment in providing support activities can have a large impact. The number and type of people using the route will be key measures of success, so the benefits of supporting a wider audience to be cycle-ready are clear.

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Shoreditch Parklet – An urban jungle

Shoreditch Parklet

Shoreditch is not the first area of London you think of when you think “parks”. Shoreditch High Street is a hub of trendy shops, with high tech start-up stretching off to either side and on fleek bars peppering the area. It’s the place to go in London for an artisanal coffee or a craft beer rather than relaxing in the sun.

In 2017, the urban greens and design agency Meristem was commissioned by three local authorities to create a modular system which would bring park life to Shoreditch’s Calvert Avenue. Taking over just two parking bays, an outdoor seating area for up to fourteen people was created outside the paper&cup coffee shop. .

The seating alone isn’t the biggest impact on the local area. The parklet contains twelve meters of planters with hardy shrubs, which screen the seats from the road and help to adsorb pollution in the local area. There are also two trees providing shade and increasing urban biodiversity, as well as parking for eight bikes.

The new seating created by the parklet provides more space for customers visiting local businesses and encourages people to linger in the area, helping the local economy. More cycling spaces encourages people to cycle or use public transport rather than driving to their destination.

A Parklet for People

The Shoreditch Parklet is one example of what can be done in a small space to open it up to the community. Temporary parklets, as Friends of the Earth created on George Street, Edinburgh, can help show the impact that reduced traffic can have on an area, while we can support the creation of permanent or semi-permanent parklets through the Community Links scheme, to let communities create a new space for relaxation.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out how a parklet can be added to your town, street or village through Places for Everyone.