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Pedestrians and cyclists to be given greater priority under new Highway Code

Pedestrians and cyclists will be given greater priority over cars under changes to the Highway Code, it has been announced.

It means drivers should quickly get up to speed with the new rules or risk careless or dangerous driving offences.

If you are a road user, here’s what you need to know.

What’s changing?

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the Highway Code has failed to keep pace with the way the roads are being used today.

Embracing alternative modes of transport, the revised rulebook will introduce new measures designed to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.

Road user hierarchy

The updated code will include a hierarchy of road users, ensuring that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.

The hierarchy places vulnerable road users before motorised vehicles so the top of the hierarchy would be:

  • pedestrians, in particular children, older adults and disabled people
  • cyclists
  • horse riders
  • motorcyclists

The DfT said the purpose of the hierarchy is “not to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but rather to ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users”.

Pedestrian crossings

Contrary to popular belief, drivers are only currently required to give way when a pedestrian steps onto a crossing. But the new rules will give pedestrians greater right of way when on pavements and when crossing the road.

Cyclists to be given priority at junctions

Cyclists will also be given priority at junctions when travelling “straight ahead”. According to the most recent statistics, 75 per cent of all bicycle collisions occur at junctions.

New safe passing distances and speed guidelines will also be issued.

Will larger vehicles be automatically held liable in the event of a road collision with a road user higher up the hierarchy?

Addressing concerns, the DfT said the introduction of the hierarchy does not “detract from the requirements for everyone to behave responsibly”.

It adds that the text of this rule will be amended to ensure it is “clearly recognised and emphasised”.

The proposed new text is: “It is important that ALL road users are aware of The Highway Code, are considerate to other road users and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.”

“Proposals should make cycling and walking safer”

Commenting on the changes, RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “These proposals should make cycling and walking safer, and this is to be welcomed.

“A concerted effort must now be made to communicate the changes to drivers because as we know, many do not read the Highway Code for long periods after passing their test.

“Ultimately, the aim should be to ensure that everyone using the roads understands the new rules, because any confusion is likely to lead to avoidable collisions.”

When will the new rules come into force?

The new rules will be published this autumn.

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