Concerns are being raised about the new changes to the Highway Code coming into force this month.

The changes, confirmed by the government in December, cover pedestrian priority and best practise when passing cyclists and horses.

Cycling UK is adding to the calls on the Government to clarify the changes. They are also calling on government to ensure the British public are fully aware of the changes .

Priority calls

The changes will see the introduction of a hierarchy of road users to ensure. The idea is that ‘those who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others’.

The changes also:

  • clarify existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements and reaffirm that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road
  • establish guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders, and ensure they have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead

They will come into effect later this month.

On change in particular has exercised driver trainers and road safety professionals. The new rule requires drivers to give way to pedestrians ‘waiting to cross the road when you turn left. It has the potential to cause incidents as drivers stop abruptly on beginning to turn left and then spotting pedestrians wanting to cross the road.

Despite concerns, the DVSA and DfT have yet to respond.

Who knows?

Cycling UK says it is concerned that not enough has been done to communicate the changes. Without awareness for existing drivers of potentially significant changes it can undermine them and also make the changes potentially dangerous areas of road user conflict, not to mention potential injuries.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns says the changes should be “change for the better”. However, without making the general public aware of them, he states that  “these changes will be of limited benefit”.

“Many people won’t have read the Highway Code for years, so it’s essential that the key changes are clearly explained, with simple, accurate and memorable messages.

“These changes have legal implications. Just as we saw with the introduction of other road safety measures like mandatory seat belts and stricter drink driving laws, the public needs to be accurately informed about the new rules.

“The hierarchy of responsibility and changes to junction priority need to be explained and communicated properly, regardless of whether or not everyone agrees with them.”

Positive and proactive

Cycling UK believes the new rules could benefit vulnerable road users, including cyclists. However, public ignorance will undermine their very purpose. They say it’s imperative there is a long term and well-funded communications campaign behind them.

Mr Dollimore added: “At Cycling UK far too often we see the potential for conflict that comes from a lack of awareness of the Highway Code.

“This puts the most vulnerable on our roads at unforgivable risk. Now is the time to right the misunderstanding on our roads, not tomorrow when it is too late. Any awareness campaign needs to be viewed in years, not months, and it needs to be well-funded.”

Check the changes

You can read all the new changes to the Highway Code here.