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Government Announces Travel Strategy in Lockdown Easing

Significant Changes To Highways To Be Introduced Within Weeks

The Department for Transport has published a document outlining guidance to the highways authorities who are being asked to make “significant changes to the road layouts to give more room to cyclists and pedestrians.”

COVID-19 restrictions has meant that public transport is running on at reduced capacity, further compromised by the need to follow social distancing rules. Some parts of the UK have seen an increase of up to 70% in people travelling on foot or by bike, now categorised as ‘active travel’. The government is planning that as more people return to work, alternatives must be available for those who would ordinarily rely upon public transport as capacity will be around 10% only, according to Grant Shapps, at the daily briefing on 9th May.

What does this mean for motorists?

Although public transport use will be restricted due to capacity, it is unlikely that car use will be restricted once the ‘essential journey’ criteria is eased. Car use may be less, however, due to increased numbers working from home and if local authorities implement the guidance as directed, motorists will find roads a very different place post lockdown.

The guidance encourages the use of ‘pop up’ cycling lanes which may be created by barriers sectioning off part of the road or converting existing parking bays. Footpaths are likely to be widened¬† using road space, in many places to allow for the 2 metre social distancing, again making use of barriers and cones to separate the road and pedestrian areas.

We may see temporary road closures. These must be sign posted, and will be a notice period before and afterwards. Speed limits may also be reduced to 20mph in busy ‘active travel’ areas.

Local Authorities are to be guided by existing rules regarding signage, although it is inevitable that in some cases there will be errors in placement and use of signs. This will take some adjustment for motorists and also for law enforcement agencies who will be tasked with monitoring compliance and issuing penalties for breach of the rules. We would hope that there is a gentle approach to this with advisory actions as opposed to punishments in the first instance, whilst the changes are bedded in.

Motorists will need to be more vigilant than ever with increased numbers of pedestrians and cyclists and more restricted roads. Many ‘active travellers’ will be new to cycling and this could lead to conflicts in the use of road space and potential allegations of careless driving for motorists. The Highway Code is often used by local police forces as a basis of careless driving prosecution. Cyclists are encouraged to report inconsiderate motorists and helmet cameras often provide footage which is used in a criminal prosecution. Rule 163 Highway Code suggests that when overtaking cyclists, there should be a gap of 1.5m between the car and bike. If the vehicle is travelling over 30moh, this distance should be increased to 2m.

If you receive a penalty or Notice of Intended Prosecution relating to any of the new measures, we offer a free initial review and may be able to assist you to challenge a prosecution. Call our team of motoring lawyers today on 01332 987420.


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