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As part of the Government’s plan to boost cycling and walking, several changes to The Highway Code have been announced. The planned update is expected to get parliamentary approval in the autumn, and a new version of The Highway Code is due to be released.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has plugged £338million into its package to boost cycling and walking across the country.

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 £338million 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.”

What are the new Highway Code rules?

According to the Department for Transport, the three main proposed changes to the Highway Code are:

  • The introduction of a hierarchy of road users ensures that road users “who can do the greatest harm” will have the “greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others”.
  • Clarification of the existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements, and that “drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road”.
  • Establishing guidance on “safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders”, as well as ensuring they have “priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead”.

The new rules will ensure pedestrians have priority at zebra crossings and junctions, along with raising awareness about the dangers of speeding.

The “Dutch reach” method for opening vehicle doors is thought to be included among the changes to prevent cyclists from being hit with doors.

This method involves car users opening doors with their far hand rather than their hand closest to the door.

By opening doors in this way, drivers and passengers have to check over their shoulders for approaching cyclists or traffic.

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Proposals have also been made to the ‘Rules about animals’ section in the Highway Code.

Inexperienced horse riders or those who haven’t ridden a horse in a while will be advised to consider taking the Ride Safe Award from the British Horse Society.

Road users will have access to the full list of changes to the rules later this year when a revised version of The Highway Code is expected to be released.

The Government’s summary of the consultation proposals on a review of The Highway Code can be found HERE.

What does ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ mean?

The Government explains in its summary of proposals to The Highway Code review that the new introduction text is proposed to read: “The ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ is a concept which places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy.

“The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, in particular children, older adults and disabled people, followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists.

“The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly. The following H rules clarify this concept

“Rule H1: It is important that ALL road users are aware of The Highway Code, are considerate to other road users and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.”

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