The Highway Code is set to undergo a huge shake-up that means cyclists and pedestrians get priority over motorists at junctions.
The government announced today (1 Dec) that a statutory instrument has been laid before Parliament, and that the updated Highway Code will become law on 29 January 2022. The move follows pressure from the cycling lobby, and a public consultation process the Department for Transport (DfT) says shows a majority of people support its moves.
Pedestrians currently have priority over cars only if they are already crossing a road into – or from which – a car is turning, but a new Rule H2 gives priority to pedestrians who are waiting, mandating vehicles stop to let them cross.
A new Rule H3 is arguably more controversial. It states: “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, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle. 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.”
The new rule means drivers in traffic planning to turn either left or right into side-roads, must give way to cyclists overtaking them on either side.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is also introducing a “hierarchy of road users”, which aims 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 changes to the Highway Code are intended to promote walking and cycling by making life on the road safer for them, and they follow a public consultation. Some respondents voiced concerns during the consultation process, however, that some of the rule changes could actually increase risks in some circumstances, with cyclists and pedestrians potentially taking greater risks when drivers are turning left, for example, or want to cross roads.
“Respondents were in broad agreement that all the changes should be implemented with percentages ranging from 76% to 91% in agreement with all the changes proposed,” the DfT says. “Disagree comments mainly reflected on the notion that cyclists would take greater risks due to having priority in certain circumstances. There were also concerns about cyclists passing road traffic on the left. As before, where valid concerns have been identified, we will amend the text to address these points.”