Cycling and walking groups have called on the government to reverse laws allowing people to park in bike lanes, whilst commending a parliament paper recommending a ban on pavement parking across England.
The current law means people can park in mandatory bike lanes created after 2016, but not those created earlier – despite no visual difference between the two.
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National charity for cycling, Cycling UK, has called the situation “an absolute mess” and highlighted a clash with Highway Code.
The House of Commons Transport Committee published its report on September 5, aiming to raise awareness of the negative impacts of pavement parking.
In response, the Walking and Cycling Alliance (WACA), a coalition of leading active travel organisations, has used the report to draw attention to the ambiguous bike lane rules.
A little published amendment to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions meant that it became legal to park in mandatory bike lines (assuming there was no double yellow line) created after 2016. The change did not affect cycle lanes created before 2016.
The change undermines rule 140 of the Highway Code, which states “you must drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation.”
Cars parked in the bike lane can force cyclists to move out into moving traffic, and can also block a driver’s view of a cyclist in the upcoming lane.
“The Department for Transport made this change without letting local authorities or other stakeholders know, let alone consulting on it,” said Roger Geffen, Policy Director at Cycling UK.
“We’re now in the situation where DfT has to reverse these changes or else amend the Highway Code in a way which would worsen cycle safety as part of a review that’s meant to improve it.
“It’s an absolute mess, as we’ve now two different types of mandatory cycle lanes that look identical but legally are very different. Cycling UK is keen to re-engage with the DfT to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency.”
Parking on pavements is currently covered by criminal and civil law, but the rules differ depending upon where you are in the country.
Though parking on the pavement is not illegal in many areas, driving on the pavement is, regardless if you intend to park – and whether it’s legal or not, the practice is rarely clamped down on.
“The laws around pavement parking are confusing and vary across the country. Clear pavements need clear laws,” said Living Streets Chief Executive Joe Irvin, on behalf of WACA.
Irvin supported the report, adding that the cost of repairing pavements damaged by parked cars was costly as well as the practice having a negative impact for wheelchair users, those pushing buggies and living with sight loss.
“The Government needs to act urgently on the findings of the Transport Select Committee report. We need safe streets which encourage people to choose healthier and cleaner ways to travel if we’re to tackle some of our biggest public health crises, including illegal levels of air pollution, social isolation and inactivity,” he said.