Highway Code changes to create new road user hierarchy

30/07/2021
Dominic Browne

Planned changes to the Highway Code will create a new 'hierarchy of road users' and give greater cyclist and pedestrian priority at crossings and junctions, the Government has announced.

The new version of The Highway Code, which is subject to parliamentary approval, is due to be published in the autumn, with updates including:

  • a hierarchy of road users that ensures road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others
  • strengthened pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing or waiting to cross the road
  • guidance on safe passing distances and speeds and ensuring that cyclists have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead

The new hierarchy would be:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars/taxis
  • Vans/minibuses
  • Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles

The proposed changes seek to clarify the existing rule that states drivers should watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning and 'if they have started to cross they have priority'.

The new code would make explicit that cyclists and pedestrians have priority when travelling straight ahead at junctions.

The announcement came alongside a £338m allocation to boost cycling and walking across the country.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: 'As we build back greener from the pandemic, we’re determined to keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone.

'This £338m package marks the start of what promises to be a great summer of cycling and walking, enabling more people to make those sustainable travel choices that make our air cleaner and cities greener.'

The Government has also announced today that the delayed Active Travel England (ATE) commissioning body, which will hold the national cycling and walking budget, will begin work later this year.

Xavier Brice, Sustrans Chief Executive, said: 'This funding will bring major improvements to the National Cycle Network in England by linking communities together and enhancing valued and well-used cycling and walking routes. Most importantly of all, this vital boost will further enable those who want to cycle or walk to do so.

'The pandemic has highlighted the huge benefits of active forms of travel to people’s personal health and wellbeing, to local communities and to the environment. We’ve seen a marked increase in numbers using the cycle network and this commitment to funding underlines its importance.'

The Government has also proposed a new scheme aiming to increase awareness of e-cycles and tackle barriers to their use.

An e-cycle support programme will be launched later this year, Department for Transport officials said, and follows funding to help nine local authorities deliver e-cycle initiatives.

A Summer of Cycling and Walking document to be released today will also include plans to publish a new road safety strategic framework and commitments to help train hundreds of new Bikeability instructors and explore how historic railway structures can be converted into cycle routes.

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