Government announces review of The Highway Code

11.36 | 28 July 2020 | | 6 comments

Image: DfT

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.”



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    I think that tax ‘experts’ who take great pride in dismissing the massive contributions made by motorists though e.g. fuel tax, vehicle license, insurance, running costs like MOTs and parts… all go into a general pot out of which services are paid for and building maintaining roads etc… but that contribution to the ‘pot’ is far more than what goes out back into roads. Comparatively cyclists pay nothing from road use, yet get priority over everyone else. The road network is for transport not built for the leisurely pastimes of cyclists, who are puffing out CO2 and spreading pathogens and are are frequently obstructing traffic flow because of selfishness and ignorance of the highway code as it is.

    Geoff Hall, Manchester
    Agree (25) | Disagree (6)

    The fact is, cyclists contribute nothing to general taxation out of riding on the public highway, yet seem to get to control how it operates to the detriment of the economy and those that pay for it. They should be made to cycle on the rims only, that way we can put more people off and keep the roads clearer for better flow.

    Liz, Cheshire
    Agree (38) | Disagree (5)

    We may need a separate section of the highway code that is different for Wales. The need for one was highlighted a couple of weeks ago by the WLGA default 20 mph speed limit report.
    In Wales we have also seem to have settled on a minimum 1.5m gap when passing cyclists. Not sure what rules would apply for towns and villages straddling the border. After all its not sensible to have two different sets of rules on your route to school.

    And then we have the Wales active travel design guidance already set in place, so it will be interesting to see any further policy and specification mis-match between England and Wales

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    Oh Dear, Andreas has spouted the usual nonsense with regard to Road Safety and Revenue raising. The few that use the road? pedestrians, children, people with disabilities, horse riders etc
    The revenue for our roads is raised through general taxation therefore people that do not own any vehicle contribute (look up VED)
    Cyclists wearing inadequate safety gear. The facts are that more head injuries occur to people inside a motor vehicle than any other user group, therefore they should all wear helmets?
    We have narrower roads than Europe? Most European cities have far narrower roads than ours, have you been to Amsterdam, Brugge etc etc
    This drivel sounds like some anti-cycling BOT.

    aubrey, Bradford
    Agree (8) | Disagree (74)

    The problem here with the proposals is disproportionate favour to the few that use the roads, who’s vulnerability is not disputed. Cyclists are in effect controlling the road network, which is a transport network ant the majority of users are motorists, they pay for it through high taxation (even though it goes into the coffers and pays for more than roads), taxation that’s direct through vehicle licencing and indirect from high duties on fuel, buying parts, servicing etc..

    Cyclists have no need to be tested for competency, can wear inadequate safety gear and obstruct traffic flow at will, and contribute nothing to the treasury. With the current requirements for distancing (and I don’t have great issue with it, but should be common sense to give them, us I ride a bike too), I already see long tail backs because cars dare not pass a cyclist unless the road is completely clear and this is not practical in the UK… France perhaps but we have narrow roads with more congestion.

    Extending this to a legal 2m will cause grid lock and serves no benefit. The speed at which you are overtaken matters as much as leaving a gap, a low speed vehicle doesn’t frighten cyclists and is able to stop in a shorter distance than a faster one, and doesn’t cause turbulence.

    Cyclists should as much as possible be separated from traffic with lanes on pavements where possible. The govt. would save more casualties if it addressed tram lines in Cities where you get trapped in the tracks as your nearside space is reduced to nothing when it comes to a stop.

    Andreas, Sheffield
    Agree (56) | Disagree (5)

    The first paragraph shows the right way of thinking i.e the road users who can do the most harm through the speed and mass of their vehicle MUST take responsibility for ensuring the safety of those further down the ‘food chain’ as it were.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
    Agree (6) | Disagree (32)

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