I’d change one thing about the new Highway Code – and put SUV drivers in their place

There has been a new Highway Code since the end of January, as anyone who listens to a lot of phone-ins will know. Unfortunately, if you get your information from phone-ins, the only detail you will pick up is that drivers are very annoyed about it. In fact, it’s not so much a technical rewrite as a whole new code of ethics.

There are, of course, new rules, including something called the Dutch Reach, which sounds like a cross between a rugby tackle and a contraceptive. But the main thing is the hierarchy of road-users, which goes, in descending order: pedestrians, cyclists, horses, motorbikes, cars and cabs, vans and mini-buses, HGVs. The principle, which you have probably worked out for yourself, is that those most likely to be injured in a collision take priority.

Sure, quibble if you like: I’d make a special separate category for SUVs, below the heavy goods vehicle. Even though they are not as large, nor are they as useful – they are nothing but a wasteful display of wealth, and therefore should go to the bottom of the pile, giving way to everybody and taking responsibility for everything. Also, I would put a horse above a bike; sure, it’s bigger, but it’s also jumpier, and so easily freaked out there’s a saying about it. Nobody was ever warned not to frighten the bicycles.

It’s actually quite radical, although it’s radicalism under the radar, since nobody ever said out loud what the hierarchy was before. But we all knew it: in descending order, people who had spent a lot of money on their vehicle; people who spent a lot of time in their vehicle for work-related reasons, and existed in a state of perpetual rage as a result; people who had a vehicle at all; and then everyone else. For brevity, it was the law of the jungle, except that money could stand in for physical prowess if circumstances required.

My observations from pootling about on my bike are that nobody has really internalised these changes yet; drivers will still merrily turn left on you without indicating, buses will pull out in front of you, and horses have no idea about their status boost. The journey from jungle to civilisation is a long one, and begins with a single step.

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