Highway Code changes welcomed by Road Safety GB

07.23 | 18 October 2018 | | | 11 comments

A ‘new and improved’ Highway Code, announced today (18 Oct), will help keep cyclists and pedestrians safe on the roads, according to the DfT.

The new Highway Code will highlight how to avoid the dangers of close passing a cyclist, and encourage people to adopt the ‘Dutch reach’, a method of opening a car door with the hand furthest from the handle, to force drivers to look over their shoulder for cyclists and other passing traffic.

Jesse Norman (left), the minister responsible for cycling and walking, said: “Cycling and walking are increasingly being understood as crucial parts of an integrated approach to issues of health, obesity, air quality and town and city planning.

“But this will only happen if people feel safe on the roads.

“These measures are part of a steady process of improvement and reform designed to achieve just that.”

The changes to the Highway Code have been welcomed by Road Safety GB, campaign groups including Cycling UK and Living Streets, and the road safety charity Brake.

Steve Horton, director of communications for Road Safety GB, said: “The Highway Code sets out the basic rules for safer road use and how we should all share the benefits and challenges of keeping ourselves and others safe.

“Most road users see it as something you have to learn about in order to pass a test and then forget about – but these changes show that the document evolves and approaches change over time, and it’s our responsibility to be familiar with such changes.

“These changes are very much welcomed by Road Safety GB and in many cases formalise what all good road users will have known already, like the importance of giving cyclists space.

“Overall I’m pleased that Government recognises the need to focus on the safety of our most vulnerable road users and thereby help promote their much wider health benefits.”

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said: “Close overtakes and people opening car doors in front of cyclists are not only dangerous, they also put people off riding a bike.

“That’s why Cycling UK has been campaigning for changes to the Highway Code rules for many years, to make the requirements to give enough space when overtaking a cyclist, wait if you can’t, and look before you open your car door crystal clear.

“We’re delighted the Government has listened and we hope to contribute to the discussions regarding the amendments required to prioritise the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”

Describing the Highway Code changes as a ‘major victory’, Joe Irvin, chief executive of Living Streets, said: “When we walk our streets, we should not have to feel endangered by traffic.

“People walking and cycling do not cause road danger, congestion or toxic air levels, and yet they’re the ones who too often pay the price on our roads. Last year, there was a 5% rise in pedestrian fatalities – this cannot continue.”

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “For far too long, the rules of our roads have prioritised motor vehicles over cycling and walking.

“This has resulted in a vicious circle of increased risk for pedestrians and cyclists, fewer people opting to walk or cycle, and limited Government investment – not to mention the devastating impact on public health and the environment.

“We applaud the Government’s planned changes to the Highway Code as a welcome step in the right direction, but more must still be done.

“We need safer speed limits, greater investment in segregated cycle lanes and a justice system which keeps dangerous drivers off our roads.”

In other moves to improve cycling safety, the Government launched a new UK-wide initiative in June to help the police crackdown on close passing, which leads to collisions and casualties and puts people off cycling.

West Midlands Police was the first force to introduce roadside educational input on safe overtaking for drivers, in the form of ‘Operation Close Pass’, which has been linked with a reduction in cyclist KSIs in the region. The scheme has subsequently been adapted and taken up by a number of other police forces across the country.

The DfT is also publishing an updated National Standard for Cycling Training manual, which includes the latest best practice on safe cycling, and a summary of responses from the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy Safety Review consultation.

In addition, Highways England is announcing a £3m contract with Sustrans to help deliver a national programme of improvements to the National Cycle Network.


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    Pedestrians do not cause danger on the road in and of themselves, if there were no vehicles on the road then stepping into the road would in no way be dangerous. The only reason that pedestrians can cause road danger is due to the presence of vehicles on the road. Therefore the danger is created by the presence of the vehicle, not the occasion of a pedestrian walking into the road. The vehicle always creates the danger, the actions of a pedestrian may exacerbate the danger but do not create it. Therefore it should be the duty of the vehicle user to ensure, as far as possible, the safety of others. I also think that all light controlled crossings should change immediately that they are pressed by a pedestrian.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (2)

    Again, in an ideal world that would be nice, but is just not going to happen. In the meantime I’ll stick with catching offenders and using the justice system to get them off the roads – much quicker.

    ‘Failure to bother complying with the Highway Code’ doesn’t exist as an offence but perhaps it should be!

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (0) | Disagree (3)


    How could the DVSA and the DVLA and the Insurance companies verify that the person on line taking the test and presumably passing it is the bona fide candidate and not some other person with experience taking it for them?

    Secondly it appears that the knowledge of the Highways Code is no longer a requirement in the driving test. I have spoken to a number of new drivers and they have no knowledge whatsoever of the information contained within Highway Code.

    Rod.. back to Your last comment about the kerb. I am fully aware of the differences between the safe position of a pedestrian on a kerb and the more dangerous position one might place themselves in if they were wishing to cross over a road.

    The circumstances to make themselves safer is the option to use any of the 9 or 10 safe way’s to cross. That does not include the crossing of anywhere on any road by using the ‘green cross code’. A simple lesson learned in every classroom for children to make a transfer from one side of a road to the other side safely and reducing the risk of injury or death to themselves. Therefore exercising both free will and common sense and instructions learned from an early age or experience which lead to a greater degree of safety. For all road users.

    Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

    Hugh, what I had in mind was a compulsory education system which would require every driver to log on with their licence number and watch a presentation which would include multiple choice testing. The interval between training sessions could be every 3- 5 years. The use of e-training is already widespread in industry for a whole range of topics, fire safety, manual handling, COSH etc. The insurance companies could review the training records of the drivers that they insure at policy renewal dates. Proof of safety training is a insurance requirement for a whole range of operations in the workplace, so it could also be a requirement to driving a vehicle. Also the introduction of an e-training process of this type could also dissuade elderly drivers who for safety sake should be hanging up their car keys.

    If you think about it, the lack of any continuous training process for vehicle drivers is a fundamental failing that could be a significant contributory factor in the current levels road death and injury. I took my test 40 years ago and as is the case for nearly every other driver on the roads, I’ve not looked at the highway code since. There was also no mention of drink driving, using mobile phones or speed awareness made back then.

    Derek, Hertfordshire
    Agree (1) | Disagree (3)

    In an ideal world Derek, all motorists would want to learn and improve – in the real world few do, and for many, passing the driving test is just something they have to get out of the way to enable them to get behind the wheel legally. The sad reality is few want to subsequently be ‘informed and kept up to date’ .

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

    Whatever is written in the Highway Code will make little difference if it is only read by people taking their driving test.

    It is time that we had a training scheme in place for all qualified drivers so that they can be informed and kept up to date. With widespread availability of internet access we could have a comprehensive e-training programme. Designed to update drivers on all new concepts such as the ‘smart’ motorways, red X and refuges and also include a refresher test to ensure knowledge of standard road signs, markings and signals. Informative well-produced presentations that would engage the public in the road safety process and reinforce the key messages about intoxication, speeding and mobile phone use.

    Derek, Hertfordshire
    Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

    Whoops. Third sentence should read

    “Hence whilst motor vehicles do not need to cross pavevents to change direction a pedestrian often has to do so.”

    That’s “productive tax” for you!


    Rod King, LYMM
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Rob fails to appreciate one of the most obvious characteristics of our roads and streets. Pavements are built at the side of roads and motor vehicles travel on the inside of them. Hence whilst motor vehicles need or need to cross pa events to change direction a pedestrian always have to do so.

    Expecting pedestrians to always stay on pavements is therefore not a practical proposition.

    Rod King, Lymm
    Agree (0) | Disagree (5)

    “Motorised vehicles in the wrong hands, cause the greatest danger on the roads”. I don’t believe this statement as it should read “Drivers of motorised vehicles cause the greatest danger”. The vast majority of collisions or incidents happen to quite normal persons and what may be referred to as ‘being in the wrong hands’ is a somewhat melodramatic statement merely used for effect.

    Everyone using the road space has a duty and responsibility to themselves and others, drivers and pedestrians alike. We should all be safety conscious and everyone should be accountable for their own actions and sometimes its a case of the pedestrian,for whatever reason walking off the pavement and into the path of an oncoming vehicle rather than the vehicle attacking the pedestrian and mounting pavements to do so.

    We have, in most cases a kerb that easily denotes and distinguishes where pedestrians and vehicles should keep to their own side of. Doing that would lead to a greater degree of safety if only pedestrians kept to their side of that line.

    Agree (9) | Disagree (1)

    Yes, pedestrians do walk into the road without looking, but it is the motorist who has the greater responsibility not to hit them! Motorised vehicles, in the wrong hands, cause the greatest danger on the roads.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (2) | Disagree (10)

    It is stated in this article that pedestrians do not cause a danger on the roads. I beg to differ. I have lost count of the number of pedestrians I have witnessed who have walked into the road without looking and are usually using a mobile telephone. Also the number of cyclists who disregard the rules for cyclists in the Highway Code. It infuriates me no end when the blame for all road traffic collisions is laid at the feet of the motorised road user.

    Alan Collins (former Road Safety manager) and current motorcycle instructor.

    Alan Collins, Luton
    Agree (14) | Disagree (7)

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