The government has responded to a petition calling for laws to protect horses on the road – but riders are being urged to keep signing and sharing in order to have it debated in parliament.
The petition, launched by Pass Wide and Slow founder Debbie Smith, asked the government to make sections 163 and 215 of the Highway Code law. This would mean drivers must only overtake when safe to do so, pass horses wide and slow, at a maximum of 15mph, and abide by riders’ requests to slow down or stop.
The government responded on Friday (20 March) after the petition reached more than 10,000 signatures in a week.
The response said the government is carrying out a review of the guidance in the Highway Code and a consultation on proposed changes is planned for later this year.
It also said in 2018 a review, the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, was carried out which gathered information on the safety issues that cyclists, pedestrians and riders face on the road – and subsequently a two-year plan of action was set out to address the key themes and issues raised.
“The Department for Transport has been working with key stakeholders, including the British Horse Society, to conduct a review of the Highway Code to improve the guidance to help keep vulnerable road users safe on the roads and make sure they are at the forefront of motorists’ minds when they are travelling,” said the statement.
The statement added although the Highway Code does not create additional legal rights and obligations, it can be used as evidence when penalising drivers for road traffic offences.
Debbie Smith told H&H the government response was an “easy way out”.
“The response says they are including riders, but then the review they refer to is for cycling and walking – there is no mention of riders, they seem to be blinkered,” she said.
“We know the advice in the Highway Code doesn’t work – until it is made law drivers will carry on doing what they want.”
Debbie has urged people to keep signing and sharing the petition, which now has more than 16,000 signatures. At 100,000 signatures the petition will be considered for debate by parliament.
“We got to 10,000 in a week but it has slowed down so we have to keep it ticking along,” said Debbie. “I know it’s a difficult time right now but we have to signing and sharing – we can’t sit back and take this response, we have to get it debated.”
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“People should also keep writing to their MPs; if every MP receives a letter it shows them there is an issue – if we stay quiet then they don’t. The government needs to hear the stories we’ve collected of horses being killed on the road because they don’t see what’s happening.”
Debbie added the PWAS awareness rides due to take place on 10 May, which had more than 130 rides planned around the UK, have been postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic but said a new date is being planned.
“It’s heartbreaking we’ve had to postpone as we had done so well and so much work had gone in, but we hope to set a new date in September,” she said.