Govt gets Highway Code changes underway 'to make roads safer'

03/12/2021
Chris Ames

A new hierarchy of road users, where those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility, has been included in changes to the Highways Code now laid before Parliament.

Ministers have laid documents before Parliament outlining the proposed changes to The Highway Code that aim 'to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders'.

The proposed changes encompass three key concepts:

  • introducing a hierarchy of road users which ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others;
  • clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements and that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road;
  • establishing guidance on safe passing distances when overtaking cyclists or horse riders, and ensuring they have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead.

An explanatory memorandum states that the changes are being made because one of the greatest barriers for people choosing to cycle or walk is safety, and perceptions of safety.

It adds that the changes will ‘clarify responsibility, improve safety, and give pedestrians and cyclists priority in certain situations’.

The changes were welcomed by charity Cycling UK, which has campaigned for an update of the Code for the last 10 years.

Head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore said: ‘These amendments bring not just much needed clarity on key areas of reducing danger on our roads, such as safe overtaking distances of people walking, cycling or horse riding, but also through the new hierarchy of road users challenges the current mindset that might is right on our roads.

‘It enshrines in law the need for those who present the most risk on our roads to look out for those who are the most vulnerable. This can only make the roads safer for everyone.’

The charity noted that the changes mean that someone cycling will have greater responsibility to look out for people walking, while someone driving would have greater responsibility to look out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.

Subject to scrutiny by peers and MPs, the changes will become part of the Highway Code in 40 parliamentary days’ time.

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