Highway Code changes give priority to cyclists and walkers

10 Feb, 2022

New changes to the Highway Code finally came into force in the UK on 28th January.

There’s now a ‘hierarchy of responsibility’ for anybody using the roads, including motorists, cyclists, horse riders and walkers.

According to the government website, the new hierarchy will mean that ‘road users who can do the greatest harm [will now] have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.’

This is a big change, especially when it comes to anybody driving a vehicle, as they’ll now have a greater overall responsibility for road safety than anyone walking, cycling or riding a horse. This is because those driving a vehicle are capable of causing more damage than, say, someone having an afternoon stroll.

There are a few more changes to the Highway Code which motorists should know about, including:

Hierarchy of road users. Image from Sky News
Image from Sky News
  • Greater priority given to pedestrians at junctions and crossings (they currently only have priority at zebra crossings).
  • Priority given to cyclists at junctions if they are travelling straight ahead.
  • Cyclists making themselves ‘as visible as possible’ by riding in the middle of quieter lanes, when approaching junctions and when traffic is moving slowly.
  • Cyclists being permitted to pass vehicles on either the right or left side in slow-moving or stationary traffic.

The rules have changed because of the Cycling and Walking investment strategy safety review, which took place in 2018. A 12-week consultation was also held in July 2020, with 21,000 people taking part to give their say on what changes were needed for the Highway Code in the UK, including rules on pedestrian priority on pavements and guidance on safe passing distances for vehicles overtaking cyclists.

A mixed response to the new UK Highway Code changes

The changes, which were first announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on 29th July 2021, have been met with mixed responses by road users across the board.

infographic showing new Highway Code priority for pedestrians and walkers
Image from This is Money

Lots of road users have reported confusion on the roads as both motorists and cyclists get used to the new rules. Jason Wakeford, from road safety charity Brake, said: ‘It’s vital that government works hard to promote the Highway Code changes, to help all road users understand the new rules and our shared responsibility to reduce deaths and serious injuries.’

The need for wider knowledge on the Highway Code changes in the UK is clear, especially in the early stages of these changes taking place. The Department for Transport has announced an awareness campaign taking place for the new rules, which will take place across radio and social media, with ‘further activity [taking] place in the summer.’

Hopefully, as people on the road become more aware of the new changes, we’ll move towards everyone feeling safer on the roads no matter what form of transport they take.

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