I’d like all car drivers to have to take a driving test every five years.

Many of the drivers with whom I share the road (including some whom I know) seem to have forgotten the Highway Code over time, and have adopted a sort of law of the jungle instead.

For example, here are some rules in the Highway Code which few drivers seem to recall, and many use vivid language to dispute:

  • pedestrians crossing a side street have priority over cars turning into that street (HC170)
  • use of cycle lanes is not compulsory (HC61) and cyclists are specifically allowed to ride two-abreast (other than in particular circumstances such as on narrow roads) (HC66)
  • neither cars nor motorcycles should stop in the advanced stopping area reserved for cyclists, and they should allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows (HC178)

Here is a poster which has appeared on London bus stops to remind cyclists (and drivers) that they should not cycle close to parked cars:

parkedcars

I was glad to see these posters appear, because they endorse my approach of cycling in the middle of the lane, rather than alongside parked cars or in the gutter where I would be more vulnerable to car doors, broken glass, and cars and pedestrians emerging unexpectedly from the side. But blimey, drivers don’t like it. They seem to think that I should be staying out of their way.

And while we are at it, I think it would be helpful if all car drivers were taught that there is no such thing as road tax. The old Road Tax was abolished in 1937, replaced by the Vehicle Excise Duty, which is a tax on cars and is paid in proportion to the size of engine and emissions.  The revenues do not go specifically to roads: like other taxes, they go into the general Exchequer. Bikes are not cars, do not have engines nor do they emit CO2. That is why we don’t pay VED.  Car drivers do not pay for the roads any more than people who pay income tax or VAT, and they do not have a particular claim on the road.

Please don’t give me grief about cyclists running red lights. I know: they shouldn’t break the Highway Code either. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

G reminds me that it is no good being within your rights under the Highway Code when you are the one who ends up in hospital.  That’s true. But still I think car drivers really ought to know what the rules are, especially if they are going to give other people grief.

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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3 Comments

  1. Another unknown rule to add:
    * In slow moving traffic cyclists may pass cars on either side (HC 151)

    Great post. I don’t think it is realistic to expect driving test resits every five years, or even if it would help, and bus stops don’t seem the best place to put ads for drivers to see, but advertising these rules on the back of buses would be a great idea.

  2. I ride a bike and drive a car in London and I reckon that in general most cyclists and most car, van and truck drivers behave equally recklessly. It’s amazing that there aren’t many more fatal accidents.
    Your recommendations are counsels of defensibility but not, I think, of perfection: I agree with G. Acting legally on a bike is liable to drive drivers crazy.

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