The Department for Transport (DfT) is currently reviewing major policy and guidance changes, including those covering network management and traffic regulation orders, as well as deciding its next move on pavement parking.
Sally Gibbons, head of traffic signs and street design policy at the DfT, gave an update this month on some of the key reform projects civil servants are pouring over at Horseferry Road.
Speaking to members of council directors' body ADEPT, the experienced DfT boss noted that following a consultation on banning pavement parking the 'analysis is complete and we are waiting on a ministerial decision'.
Pavement parking is not always illegal
The options on the move, which in particular is designed to support vulnerable groups including the disabled and children as well as parents with pushchairs, have been narrowed down to two.
Ministers are considering whether to create a civil obstruction offence or implement a national ban, which could extend restrictions already in place in London across the country.
'Neither of these options is easy,' Ms Gibbons said. 'It is not an easy solution by any means.'
She also revealed that the Government was working on its commitment to refresh the network management duty guidance related to the Traffic Management Act 2004.
'We are scoping a research project at the moment to look at updating and refreshing this and bringing it into line with where policy is going now. There will be plenty of opportunity for people to get involved in drafting that document. It is a good opportunity to look again at how we manage our roads,' she said.
This follows on from the additional statutory guidance around reallocated road space released in May 2020 in the first wave of the pandemic.
Ms Gibbons said the DfT was considering if 'the network management duty guidance from 2004 was still fit for purpose'.
'Does the way we are managing our network take into account moving people and not just boxes. Does it reflect the duty to all traffic?'
The previous guidance states it is a traffic authority's duty, so far as may be reasonably practicable to secure 'the expeditious movement of traffic' on the road network.
The Government's 'Gear Change' cycling and walking plan for England released in July 2020 stated that the government wants to: 'Look afresh at the statutory guidance about the duty that is now over a decade old. We want it to reflect much more clearly the current imperatives of decarbonisation encouraging healthier forms for transport and emphasis on technology
'We will also look again at the duty itself in the Act to see whether it adequately reflects what we now believe good network management should be.'
Speaking to Transport Network, Ms Gibbons also revealed work was being done on potential reforms to Traffic Regulation Orders. These are legal documents that restrict or prohibit the use of the highway network, in line with The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
TROs also became a hot topic during the pandemic as local authorities used experimental orders to reallocate or close road space away from motor vehicles and encourage modal shift to active travel.
Councillors and council officers have suggested there is not enough flexibility in TROs to give authorities a chance to trial new schemes, especially considering timescales and the pressures of local consultation and engagement duties.
Ms Gibbons told Transport Network: 'There is a project to reform the TRO process being run by a colleague. We want local authorities to trial new things but engagement with residents is absolutely key to getting those right. But there is an ongoing programme of wider TRO reform. I can’t say exactly what that might include.'
She added: 'Councils are allowed to do engagement alongside the experimentation. That is the point of the experimental TRO in practice. I think the DfT has acknowledged there is a very short timescale for some of those – some have been truncated. We have learned from that.'