Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Street code": A World Streets Campaign for 2009

The Highway Code: a collection of laws, advice and best practice for all road users, which mainly functions as a written basis for learning to drive as well as stipulating the letter of the law (licensing, required safety equipment, default rules, etc.) In Europe this happens at a national level, with room in some places for stricter local ordinances. In the US mainly a state prerogative. In all cases the code itself is the creature of the automotive age and is primarily concerned with defining the role and characteristics of motor vehicle driver and owner behavior.

Many European cities are of late starting to advance on the idea of establishing a far tougher "street codes", specifically adapted to the special and more demanding conditions of driving in city traffic. This is becoming especially important as we start to see a much greater mix of vehicles, speeds and people on the street. If streets are for cars, well this is probably not a priority. But if they are "public spaces" and open to the full range of uses and users, then perhaps something along these lines is called for.

The idea is works is that legal responsibility for any accident on street, sidewalk or public space, is automatically assigned to the heavier faster vehicle. This means that the driver who hits a cyclist has to prove his innocence, as opposed to today where the cyclist must prove the driver's guilt (not always very easy to do).

This is not quite as good as John Adams' magnificent 1995 formulation whereby every steering wheel of every car , truck and bus would be equipped with a large sharp nail aimed directly at the driver’s heart-- but it can at least help getting things moving in the right direction.

We propose to make this a major campaign theme of World Streets in 2009 and invite our readers to submit their reports, ideas and comments over the course of the months ahead.

If you look over toward the top of the left menu here, you will see that we have opened up a reader poll in an attempt to get your views as well. We also invite comment here on the results.

The editor

Livable Streets discussions of Street Code
What is Street Code? (Thanks for use of your graphic)
Code de la rue - Belgium (Use Translate here as needed)
Code de la rue - France
Code de la rue - Wikipedia

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  1. Street Codes are all well and good to have: we in the UK are taught our "Highway Code" when we learn to drive (but sadly only when/of we learn to drive, parts of it if we learn to cycle at school, and none at all if we are pedestrians). However, nobody takes any notice of it - signalling when turning does not appear to be mandatory, but it is; and the same goes for driving at low speeds and leaving room for cyclists... all in the Highway Code, but nobody pays any attention.

    So what's the point of a "street code". Well, none at all if nobody appplies it and nobody enforces it. Traffic vigilantes might be a good start...

  2. Not forgetting the European Parliament adopted (?) a/the Pedestrian Charter in 1988.

    Thats only 21 years ago ...!

    Michael Yeates

  3. For creating a safe street environment for pedestrian and cyclists,
    I don't believe in law enforcement - how much traffic police man power do you need to get it enforced in every street?
    I also don't believe in relying on the goodwill and good behavior of the drivers. If it is not part of their natural behavior, at some point they are going to endanger the other road users.
    I do believe in good (restricting) street design such that, from the driver's view, it feel dangerous to go fast. (e.g. tight turning, humps etc.) In such street, drivers naturally slows down. When the car speed slow down, it's safety for all.

  4. Due care laws in the UK and in a number of US states do already provide a legal basis for assigning the responsibility to the driver, regardless of the other road users' behavior. Unfortunately, this is rarely acted on in the US.

    That there is already a legal basis is great news and makes it possible to directly proceed with the task of shifting norms.

  5. Here's a link to the Australian Road Rules, another street code -

    Australian Road Rules - Updated: 18 February 2009

    This is the latest version of the Australian Road Rules and incorporates the amendments approved by the Australian Transport Council (ATC) up to and including January 2008. Please note that the Australian Road Rules are model Rules only and have no legal effect. They form the basis of Road Rules of each Australian state and territory.

    Amendments to the 2008 version of the Australian Road Rules were drafted by the National Transport Commission (NTC). Please note that this consolidated version of the Australian Road Rules has prepared by the NTC for the convenience of readers.

    The National Transport Commission has taken care to ensure the accuracy of this version; however readers are advised that the official version of the Australian Road Rules with all amendments is located in the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (Commonwealth)

    The Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI) was established on 1 January 2005 under section 20 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 and is maintained by the Attorney-General's Department. The FRLI is a repository of Commonwealth legislative instruments, explanatory statements and compilations of legislative instruments in electronic form. The FRLI is an authorative source for legislative instruments and compilations of legislative instruments.

    FRLI accommodates a requirement under the Inter-Governmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Road, Rail and Intermodal Transport for the Australian Road Rules and amendments to have a single reference point.

    It is possible to download the Rules here (2.93 MB). However, it should be noted that the entire set of the Rules is very long (around 400 pages) and contains many colour diagrams.-

    Anzir Boodoo,
    Leeds UK


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