“Confused? You will be,” ran the catchphrase at the end of the plot summary that opened each episode of the cult late 1970s US comedy TV series, Soap – and it’s one that 40 years on could equally be applied to the issue of parking motor vehicles in cycle lanes in the UK.
As we reported on the live blog this morning, the charity Cycling UK has joined other members of the Cycling & Walking Alliance in welcoming a House of Commons Select Committee report into pavement parking – but with one important caveat.
That caveat is that a 2016 update to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions has created a situation whereby the illegality or otherwise of a motorist parking their vehicle inside a mandatory bike lane – one delineated by a continuous white line, rather than a broken one – depends on whether or not the lane in question was installed before or after the update to that legislation.
So, if the lane was there before the update, no parking is allowed; if afterwards, it’s fine – unless there is a double yellow line (which, of course, often get ignored by many drivers anyway).
Clearly, it's frustrating when you're riding in a cycle lane, mandatory or otherwise, and have to move out into the main carriageway to avoid parked vehicles, and certainly until now we've assumed that if it's a solid white line, they are there illegally.
But next time you’re riding in a mandatory cycle lane without double yellows, ask yourself the question, was this built before or after 2016?
If it’s a route you’ve ridden regularly over the past few years, you may know the answer – if not, it’s pure guesswork, and the same would apply to any motorists (a minority, we suspect) who would wonder about whether or not it is legal to park in a cycle lane.
We wouldn’t be too hopeful of local authority enforcement officers – you know, the council operatives formerly known as traffic wardens – knowing the difference either.
Roger Geffen, Cycling UK policy director, is calling on the Department for Transport (DfT) to revert to the pre-2016 situation, saying that it “made this change without letting local authorities or other stakeholders know, let alone consulting on it.
"We're now in the situation where the 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,” he added. “Cycling UK is keen to re-engage with the DfT to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency."
Author’s note: I snapped the contraflow mandatory cycle lane in the picture accompanying the article in Acton, West London earlier this year; but given I’ve only been coming to this area since late 2017, I have no idea whether or not it pre-dates the 2016 legislation, though it does have double yellow lines ...
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.