Campaigns Manager Martin Key explains the inspiration behind British Cycling’s Turning the Corner campaign, and how one small change to the Highway Code could make cycling safer in Britain for good.
At British Cycling we like to learn from the world’s best, which is why I had the chance to visit Copenhagen a couple of years ago to see how they became the world’s leading cycling capital.
We already know that if you want to make cycling an easy choice for everyone, you need to provide space – networks of segregated and traffic-free routes. It takes lots of planning, commitment and investment, and it’s our main priority.
But what we also learnt in Denmark was that in order to make those networks feel safe, you also need to have a set of supportive rules and policies in place which make cycling feel like a truly mainstream mode of transport.
If you’ve ever tried riding around Copenhagen, you’ll know it’s a pleasantly relaxing experience. You just don’t need to concentrate as much as you do in the UK, where you have to be constantly aware of the traffic around you.
Try riding through a major junction for instance, and you’ll soon realise things are different. The cycle lane continues across the junction and drivers wait for you to pass before turning. They also give way to pedestrians when they’re crossing too.
But it’s not just a case of changing the road markings. Drivers in Copenhagen acknowledge a ‘universal duty to give way’ when turning. Before they turn at a junction, they stop and check. It’s a rule which applies everywhere, and it makes both cycling and walking safer. It turns out that this way of doing things also helps make traffic light junctions more efficient – meaning shorter wait times for drivers. So it really is a win-win.
This simple rule is common across Europe and beyond. It’s part of the reason why European junctions are twice as safe as ours in the UK.
So after some further research we’re now recommending the UK adopts this rule, so that instead of the 14 different rules we currently have about navigating junctions in the Highway Code (yes, 14!) we all apply a single ‘universal’ rule:
‘When turning at a junction give way to people who are going straight ahead.’
We believe that making this change will have a positive knock-on effect on how we all use the roads, making it safer, simpler and more efficient.
We’ve had some amazing support for the campaign so far – at the time of writing our petition has just passed 25,000 signatures – but the louder we can shout about it, the more chance we have of making cycling safer for all of us, and for generations to come.
> Please help us make this change by signing the Turning the Corner petition
> Watch Chris Boardman lend his support to the campaign