The Government has announced plans to introduce a hierarchy of road users to ensure those who can do the ‘greatest harm’ have the ‘greatest responsibility’ to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.
The move comes as part of a review of The Highway Code, announced on 28 July, which seeks to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
Among the other alterations are:
- clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements, to advise that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road,
- providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions to advise drivers to give priority to cyclists at junctions when travelling straight ahead
- establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders
The review of The Highway Code, which has been put out for consultation, is one element of a new £2bn plan to make England a ‘great walking and cycling nation’.
The plan, announced by prime minister Boris Johnson on 28 July, aims to build on the significant increase in the number of people cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It sets out a ‘comprehensive, long term vision’ to embed the benefits of walking and cycling into daily lives – including building ‘thousands of miles’ of protected cycle routes in towns and cities.
Questions over right-of-way changes
The RAC says it is broadly supportive of the proposed changes to The Highway Code, but has expressed some doubt over the practicalities of the right-of-way advisory changes.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “Overall the ambition behind the proposed Highway Code changes is to make the roads safer for everyone.
“A part of that is making it crystal clear we all have a shared responsibility to ensure one another’s safety on the road – after all, whether you are travelling on foot, on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle, everybody simply wants to get to their destination as safely as possible.
“But we do feel there is some detail that needs to be looked at more closely. For example, we need to consider just how practical, and indeed safe it is to advise drivers to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a road at a junction when traffic from another direction may be approaching.
“It’s vital now that every change made to the Code is well communicated – while drivers should keep up with changes to the Highway Code, our research suggests only half (49%) have consulted it at any time in the last 10 years.”