New cycling policy will require fleet planning

New Government cycling policy designed to increase the incidence of cycling to work across the UK could require careful planning by fleet decision-makers to fit the proposals within their fleet policies and ensure they are fully risk-assessed and compliant.

So says Derby-based Licence Check, the UK’s fastest growing provider of corporate licence checking and compliance services, which says fleets may need to take onboard the proposals of a new Department for Transport (DfT) plan to increase the use of cycles and get the nation fitter.

Entitled ‘Gear change: a bold vision for cycling and walking’, its implementation in England falls under the remit of a new Government inspectorate, Active Travel England, formed to oversee the spend of £2bn pledged by Government for active travel over the next five years.

The plan proposes to see cycling and walking moved to the heart of transport decision-making with better accommodation for bikes on public transport networks, safer routes to stations and adequate cycle storage facilities.

Planning permission for new housing and business developments in future will be granted subject to the provision of safe routes and adequate facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Climate change and improved air quality will be addressed with better cycling and walking infrastructure planning at all levels of local and national government. The new Active Travel Commissioner will have powers to refuse or demand the return of funding for non-compliant projects.

Concerns about the vulnerability of cyclists will be tackled by strengthening the law as well as providing appropriate training for adults and children. There will be a new offence of causing serious injury, rather than death, through careless or inconsiderate driving, while sentences for dangerous driving and driving under the influence of drink and drugs could be extended to make cyclists and pedestrians feel safer.

To better protect cyclists from heavy goods vehicles, vision standards for lorries would be extended, in line with ongoing work by Transport for London, together with new rules for sideguards to be fitted to HGVs. Vehicle safety testing bodies are encouraged to urge manufacturers to make HGVs safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

A new approach on health will be piloted in selected places with poor health histories to encourage GPs to prescribe cycling, with patients able to access bikes through their local surgery. Stocks of cycles would need to be made available and training provided where cycling would be considered beneficial to patient health.

To combat theft, currently running at around 300,000 bikes a year, the plan envisages a national system of numbering all bicycles and consolidating existing bike registers, with more bikes to be fitted with deterrents such as GPS tracking chips.

The proposals also include the creation of a ‘national e-bike programme’ as the Government believes that e-bikes could be the answer for people who need to travel in business clothes or travel slightly longer distances particularly in major conurbations.

Terry Hiles, General Manager at Licence Check, said: “The new cycling action plans raise some interesting issues for fleet decision-makers and may require more than just a cursory or passing thought.

“For example, should the company carry third-party insurance, or where cycles are numbered and registered with an employee or surgery, should they be included in a database in the same way as other vehicles used in the course of employment to meet duty of care obligations in terms of fitness and safety?

“If a cycle is company owned and fitted with a tracking chip, are there the same issues of privacy with ‘out of hours use’ as with cars that have telematics fitted?

“Where cycling has been prescribed on the NHS for an employee, could there be an obligation for the employer to support the rider in line with general employee health and welfare provisions? And if an e-bike is being used, the company may have to look at providing charge points for cyclists to use.

“With increased incidence of cycle lanes, temporary street closures and other traffic controls, we are likely to see more drivers receiving fines for driving offences linked to them. Local authorities are much better resourced in this respect than the police. In that case, companies may need to update fleet policy documents to consider fines of this type and what the consequences are for drivers who incur them,” he said.

“Of course, the cynic may point to the fact that the budget for the new five-year cycling plan is £2bn spread over more than 340 local authorities, while that for roads is around £27bn for the same period. It is also fair to point out that cycling may not prove to be quite as attractive or practical when the traditional British winter weather arrives,” he added.