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Recent changes to The Highway Code and what you should know

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The government have published proposed changes following their review of The Highway Code to improve road safety for vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, (particularly children, older adults and disabled people), cyclists and horse riders. There has been a huge increase in walking and cycling since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic and it is important that these groups feel safe while sharing space with other road users.

The Highway Code will be updated to include a ‘hierarchy of road users’, ensuring that those who can do the most harm will have the greatest responsibility, to ensure a mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that will benefit all users. They will create clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians, particularly at junctions, and clarify where pedestrians have right of way. They will place requirement on drivers to give priority to cyclists when they are turning in or out of a junction, or changing lane or direction, just as they would to other motor vehicles.

Rules for pedestrians

The ‘rules for pedestrians’ chapter of The Highway Code will also be updated. This will embed the new ‘hierarchy of road users’ concept and tackle some of the safety issues pedestrians encounter when walking. It will also introduce a responsibility for drivers and riders to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross at a side road or junction, or waiting to cross at a zebra crossing.

Rule 13 will be updated to advise that pedestrians may share cycle tracks with cyclists. The cycle tracks may run alongside footpaths or pavements and be separated by a feature such as a change of material or a white line. The rules will also state that cyclists must respect pedestrians’ safety, while pedestrians must take care not to obstruct or endanger them. Some areas will be shared between pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles.

Rules about animals

There will also be changes to the ‘rules about animals’ chapter, to suggest that those that are new to horse riding, or those who have not ridden for a while should consider undertaking training.

Rules for cyclists

The ‘rules for cyclists’ chapter will be updated to include references to cycle tracks, cycle signals and new junction designs. They will clarify the priority cyclists have over other vehicles when going straight ahead at a junction and provide advice when riding on a shared route, and give pedestrians priority. It is recommended that cyclists give way to pedestrians waiting to cross the road at side roads or junctions. They also advise on the value of cycle training and expand the rules on safe riding and crossing busy roads.

Cyclists will be advised that the evidence suggests that wearing a cycle helmet will reduce the risk of sustaining a head injury in certain circumstances.

They will merge existing rules to expand on the description of cycle lanes and will advise that some routes for cyclists will be physically protected or located away from motor traffic, as well as some other changes.

The new changes will be part of the £338 million ‘build back greener’ initiative which could help the UK reach its net zero emissions target by 2050. The government are encouraging people to walk or cycle when they can and hope that these changes will ensure that when driving motorists accommodate vulnerable road users.

We deal with many types of road traffic accident claims at Stephensons and so if you have been injured on the roads and it was not your fault call our friendly personal injury team on 0161 696 6235 or complete our online enquiry form.

By Donna Wilkes, new business advisor