The Ranty Highwayman)
SATURDAY, 16 JUNE 2018
What is the point of the Highway Code? It seems to me that the only people who read it are those who want to point out how people are wrong in an argument about some obscure detail to win an argument.
OK, so I have been known to use it the same way, but I’ve not read it from cover to cover since I passed my driving test in 1991 – even for this blog, I haven’t read it from cover to cover because it’s just a pointless waste of time.
The main problem with the Highway Code is not the Highway Code (HC) itself – the issue is how we design and manage the streets and how risk is apportioned. In introducing the HC, the Government suggests:
“The most vulnerable road users are pedestrians, particularly children, older or disabled people, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. It is important that all road users are aware of the Code and are considerate towards each other. This applies to pedestrians as much as to drivers and riders.”
This is the heart of the problem because while on the face of it everyone knowing the “rules” might seem a good idea, we perhaps end up having the wrong impression that everyone has an equal responsibility which patently isn’t matched by the capacity to inflict harm by whichever mode someone is using at the time.
For example, take Rule 170;
Take extra care at junctions. You should
- watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, powered wheelchairs/mobility scooters and pedestrians as they are not always easy to see. Be aware that they may not have seen or heard you if you are approaching from behind
- watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way
- watch out for long vehicles which may be turning at a junction ahead; they may have to use the whole width of the road to make the turn (see Rule 221)
- watch out for horse riders who may take a different line on the road from that which you would expect
- not assume, when waiting at a junction, that a vehicle coming from the right and signalling left will actually turn. Wait and make sure
- look all around before emerging. Do not cross or join a road until there is a gap large enough for you to do so safely.
The way in which the the HC is written, the word “should” is essentially guidance whereas “must” relates to the legislation quoted in the text. Rule 170 is guidance and I am not entirely sure anyone is going to be shouting it as they scatter from the mobile phone wielding SUV driver who hasn’t seen them crossing. Oh, and the photo with Rule 170 doesn’t even have decent dropped kerbs to help everyone to cross.