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Due to be published in the Autumn, new changes to the Highway Code (Published 29th Jan 2022) seek to give cyclists and pedestrians greater priority over vehicles on some parts of the the UKs roads, as well as introducing a new "hierarchal" approach to apportioning responsibility for road safety. These Highway Code updates look to place more onus on the largest/most potentially dangerous road users.
What changes are being made to the Highway Code for Cyclists?
In a bid to enable healthier lifestyles while protecting the most vulnerable road users, the UK Government is proposing updates to the Highway Code - seeking to offer a greater level of protection to cyclists and pedestrians by increasing their "priority" over other road users, while simultaneously making vehicle users more responsible for their safety in a new "hierarchal" system which places pedestrians at the top and the largest of vehicles at the bottom.
The number of people returning to walking and cycling both for leisure and commuting dramatically increased during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns and the Department for Transport, keen to see this trend continue, is actively looking to enable it with a new £338 million funding package for the creation and maintenance of more supporting infrastructure.
When will the Highway Code changes come into effect for cyclists?
The need to review this section of the Highway Code was announced in October 2018 and the consultation period began on 28th July 2020, closing on 27th October 2020. A summary of the consultation proposals was released to the gov.uk website on 30th July 2021. Full details and Parliamentary approval are expected by Autumn, with the proposed changes coming into effect by Spring 2022.
How will the changes to the Highway Code better enable and protect cyclists and pedestrians?
Currently, the Highway Code treats all users of the UK road network as having the same level of responsibility. The proposed changes to the Highway Code will seek to address the level of responsibility each user of the road network has for other others and better "even it out" based on the level of potential danger each user poses.
Stephen Edwards, interim CEO of charity Living Streets says;
"The Highway Code currently treats children walking to school and lorry drivers as if they are equally responsible for their own and other peoples safety. These changes will redress that balance."
He goes on to suggest that people walking are the least dangerous road users but are "often left paying the price of other peoples actions" and that "everyone would benefit, as everyone is a pedestrian on some occasions, even if they drive or cycle at other times"
The new hierarchal method of placing responsibility for safety will now see the largest vehicles being responsible for the safety of smaller and all being more responsible for cyclists and pedestrians. Similarly, cyclists will now take on more responsibility for the safety of pedestrians.
What new rules are expected for cyclists in the proposed Highway Code update?
The "Rules for Cyclists" section will be seeing a raft of new updates, to include the following;
Inclusion of references to cycle tracks, cycle signals and new junction designsAmendment to the wording on Advanced Stop Lines
Clarification of the priority cyclists have over other vehicles when going straight ahead at a junction
Provision of advice on cyclist behaviours when riding on a shared use route and giving pedestrians priority
Recommendation that cyclists give way to pedestrians waiting to cross the road at a side road or junctions
Strengthened advice around the value of cycle training
Expansion of the rules on safe riding and crossing busy roads, including recommended procedures for cycling at roundabouts and road positioning