Opinion

Highway Code changes: ‘Those who pose the most risk are best placed to manage it’

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An increased focus on protecting the most vulnerable road users as part of changes to the Highway Code should be welcomed by construction, says Sophie Hamilton.

It’s important to understand how new changes in the Highway Code that came into play on 29 January will affect the construction industry.

The industry needs to ask itself how it can work together to be proactive in implementing these changes to reduce collisions and create leaner and greener logistics throughout projects and initiatives across the whole of the UK.

Construction Logistics and Community Safety’s (CLOCS) Strategy, Standards and Governance Board discussed the proposed changes and submitted a formal response to the government in October 2020. 

At CLOCS, we welcome the increased focus on protecting the most vulnerable road users recognising that many of the measures were already in the Highway Code.  

One of the most significant introductions is a “hierarchy of road users” which allocates greater responsibility to those who can cause the most harm, something already adopted in many EU countries. This means the lorry driver – in charge of a vehicle most likely to cause harm – has most responsibility to those cycling, walking and on motorbikes.

CLOCS has always acknowledged that those who pose the risk are best placed to manage the risk. In the vast majority of collisions involving an HGV the driver states they have not seen the victim, this is why CLOCS has campaigned on improving direct vision for cabs, increasing driver competence and advancing leadership, management and planning of construction logistics.

“One of the most significant introductions is a “hierarchy of road users” which allocates greater responsibility to those who can cause the most harm.”

Adoption of the CLOCS standard ensures that every stakeholder in the construction process is implementing best practice to reduce risk to the community in which they operate. This is done through planning and procurement: clients specifying CLOCS criteria in procurement documents, planning regulators requiring construction logistics plans as a condition of permission. Such contractual requirements driven from the top of the supply chain, combined with robust audit and enforcement, ensure operators servicing construction sites are the safest possible.

A second point to note is while the old Highway Code said motorists should allow that same passing distance for a cyclist as they would for a car, this was often ignored. The new rules provide more specific advice: “Leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.”

CLOCS, at the time of inception, called for on-bike driver training which is now in the form of the very successful Safe Urban Driving course, which helps HGV drivers empathise with fellow road users who do not have the safety and protection of a cab and understand the fear and danger of the ‘close pass’. In London the Metropolitan Police hold ‘close passing’ sessions where they caution or fine drivers who endanger cycle users. The new advice should make it very clear to drivers that 1.5 metres is the minimum passing distance.

The changes to the Highway Code reinforce the original objectives of CLOCS, to reduce HGV risk to keep our communities safe. It’s important that all the changes are communicated thoroughly throughout the industry, allowing all stakeholders to drive the positive change these codes aim to achieve.

Kate Cairns, CLOCS SSGB member and CLOCS adviser, said: “CLOCS works to protect our communities by creating safer, leaner, greener logistics. These changes will help clarify responsibility of all road users, making our streets safer, especially for active travel so needed in the vital drive towards more sustainable transport.”

Sophie Hamilton is business development manager at CLOCS.

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