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Traffic signs reform signal better cycling infrastructure

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After years of pressure from CTC, the Department for Transport has unveiled a major reform of the traffic signs and signals regulations, which will allow better quality cycle facilities to be built, and much greater flexibility for local authorities to adopt their own approaches.
Trials of new cycling infrastructure have fed into these new regulations
Trials of new cycling infrastructure have fed into these new regulations

The proposed changes mean that cycle priority crossings of main roads will be easier.

Other changes bring into force trialled measures, such as low level signal heads, long-awaited changes to Advanced Stop Lines and the use of "elephant's footprints" markings to designate cycle-priority crossings.

Traffic signs and road markings used across the UK are controlled by regulations issued by the Department for Transport. These dictate the size, width, height and lighting requirements for each sign or line used by local authorities.

The Department has started to rationalise and simplify the system, with local authorities now given more freedom to use different signs, lines or signals to achieve the outcome, rather than following the narrow, prescribed approach adopted previously. 

We are cutting red tape that has been a brake on cycle infrastructure. There's the potential for nothing less than a cycling revolution in Britain - let's make that happen."

Robert Goodwill
Minister of Transport

Announcing the consultation on the changes at the Leeds Cycle City Expo, the Minister for Transport, Robert Goodwill, explained that the changes gave much greater flexibility to local authorities, and "with great power came great responsibility."

The changes have been discussed for over a decade and will result in huge changes in the way local authorities can plan for cycling.

Changes include:

  1. New priority crossings for cyclists and pedestrians - until now cyclists have not been allowed to use zebra crossings, but the changes will mean cycle routes can be placed next to zebra crossings markings with drivers obliged to give way to cyclists when crossing. Priority crossings are absolutely vital to ensure any off-carriageway cycle tracks are safe and continuous. The anachronistic Belisha beacons and zig-zag lines will remain, however, which adds unnecessary street clutter.
     
  2. Cycle streets - these are widely used in the Netherlands (see right, "cars are guests") and Germany to give priority to cyclists over motor traffic on minor streets which also act as major cycling corridors. The Department proposes allowing trials of this as "a bold initiative, which is being considered by some of the Cycle Cities and London, possibly including a ban on overtaking on lightly trafficked roads where cycle flows are high." However, in the Netherlands, cycle streets are only used where cyclists outnumber motorists by two to one, and those conditions rarely exist in Britain. 
     
  3. Pedestrian and cycle zones - instead of marking zones as 'no motor vehicles', town centres which permit cycling can now be signed as such. This is a tiny change, but will make a difference to attitudes and make it clearer that cycling is permitted in these areas.  
     
  4. Removing traffic order requirements - when banning traffic movements (ie, one-way streets, no right turn) cyclists can now be exempted without requiring a specific traffic order. This will greatly help to reduce the bureaucracy and costs of making simple changes which enhance permeability for cycling.

Other small changes include deeper Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs) and the definition of an advanced stop line has been changed to make it an option to omit the lead-in lane or gate completely, and allow cyclists to cross the first stop line at any point along its length. The requirement to use fiddly lead-in lanes or gates makes ASLs unnecessarily messy and often places cyclists in a more vulnerable position on the inside of left-turning traffic.

Low level traffic signal heads and advanced cycle signals are already being trialled and could be rolled out more widely.

Once in place, these regulatory changes will make making Space for Cycling a great deal easier, but this will still require funding from central government and political will at a local level."

Chris Peck
CTC Policy Coordinator

Presently the changes are out for consultation and will not be brought into force until 2015, which will be too late for many of the cities which have received funding but are hamstrung by out of date regulations.

Come 2015, more funding will need to be found if we are to capitalise on the improved regulatory environment, while local authorities will still have to be bold in reallocating roadspace from motor traffic to cyclists and providing the junction capacity to install the new crossings.  

CTC's response to the Government's consultation, setting out the ways in which we feel the regulations can be further improved, can be downloaded below. Also available below is the excellent response from Bedford Borough Council, which compares UK's provision with better signs available in other European countries.

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