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Changes to the Highway Code will prioritise cycling and pedestrian safety


By David Porter

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The Highway Code is set to undergo a major revision at the end of January which will see motorists giving way to cyclists and pedestrians at junctions.

It will create a new hierarchy of road users, which implies that drivers of vehicles that can cause the greater harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger to others.

This principle applies most obviously to drivers of HGVs, cars and motorcycles, but cyclists will also have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.

A further change requires drivers and cyclists to give way if a pedestrian is waiting to cross a road they are turning into.

Under the old code, pedestrians only had right of way at a junction if they were already on the road.

Cyclists will also now have priority when cars are turning at a junction.

This rule means that cars indicating to turn left or right will have to give way to cyclists coming from behind and going straight on.

The car may only turn once the cyclist has passed.

A statutory instrument has been laid before Parliament that means the updated Highway Code will come into effect on January 29 but there’s no official plan as yet to communicate the changes until they actually come into force.

Highway code changes
Highway code changes

The main changes -

Rule H1: New Hierarchy of Road Users. Drivers of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger to others. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of HGVs, LGVs, cars/taxis and motorcycles. Cyclists and horse riders likewise have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.

Rule H2: New priority for pedestrians at junctions At a junction, drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning. You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing (currently you only have to give way if they’re already on the crossing), and to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing.

Rule H3: New priority for cyclists when cars are turning You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This applies whether they are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road and you should give way to them. Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist, horse rider or horse drawn vehicle going straight ahead to stop or swerve. You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary.

According to the RAC, the Highway Code itself is not a legal document and the rules outlined in it are not official road laws.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be fined if you break one of the more than 300 regulations set out in the government-issued book.

A number of the points outlined in the code are backed up by official traffic laws, meaning you can be fined, prosecuted or disqualified if you ignore them.


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