Pedestrians and cyclists prioritised under planned Highway Code changes
Pedestrians will be placed at the top of a new ‘road user hierarchy’ under planned reforms of the Highway Code.
The proposed changes, which are expected to be approved by ministers in the autumn, will give those on foot the right of way at zebra crossings and junctions, with motorists responsible for stopping.
Campaigners have criticised the existing rules, which advise pedestrians not to cross if there is oncoming traffic.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said the new version of the Highway Code will include a ‘hierarchy of road users’ that ensures those who can do the greatest harm, such as those in vehicles, have the ‘greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others’.
Pedestrians will be placed at the top, followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcycles and cars, with vans, HGVs and buses at the bottom, The Times reports.
The pecking order will effectively place the burden of blame for accidents on motorists and make them responsible for minimising the danger they might pose to cyclists and walkers.
The ‘Dutch reach’ method will also be included in the changes, whereby drivers and passengers use their far hand to open doors, enabling them to check over their shoulder, according to Sky News.
Planned updates to the Highway Code include:
- a hierarchy of road users that ensures road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others
- strengthened pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing or waiting to cross the road
- guidance on safe passing distances and speeds and ensuring that cyclists have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead
The announcement has been welcomed by everyday walking charity Living Streets, which says the proposed changes will ‘redress the balance’ of road user responsibility.
Stephen Edwards, interim chief executive at Living Streets, said: ‘The Highway Code currently treats children walking to school and lorry drivers as if they are equally responsible for their own or other people’s safety.
‘These changes will redress that balance.
‘People walking cause the least road danger but are often left paying the price.
‘Road users who have potential to cause the greatest harm should take the greatest share of responsibility to reduce the danger they pose.
‘Whether we choose to also drive or cycle, we are all pedestrians. These proposed revisions will benefit us all.’
It comes as part of a £338 million package to boost cycling and walking across the country from the DfT.
The increased funding aims to encourage the public to make ‘sustainable travel choices’ to make ‘air cleaner and cities greener’.
The DfT said the investment would also be used to cover infrastructure upgrades such as the construction of hundreds of miles of new cycle lanes.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘Millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit, ease congestion on the roads and do your bit for the environment.
‘As we build back greener from the pandemic, we’re determined to keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone.
‘This £338 million package marks the start of what promises to be a great summer of cycling and walking, enabling more people to make those sustainable travel choices that make our air cleaner and cities greener.’