Highway Code review for vulnerable road users

A new consultation is underway to propose amending The Highway Code to protect vulnerable road users.

The consultation ends in October 2020 and is likely to result in three new laws. A new "Hierarchy of Road Users" concept will mean that those road users who can do the greatest harm will have the biggest responsibility to reduce road danger.

The DfT says the new hierarchy system is not set to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation but will ensure a “mutually respectful” and “considerate culture”.

The new legislation will apply most strongly to drivers of large vehicles, followed by cars and taxis.

However, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles will also have a responsibility to pedestrians if there are no cars nearby.

As well as clarifying the hierarchy of road users, other alterations to the code being proposed are:

  • clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements, to advise that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road,
  • providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions to advise drivers to give priority to cyclists at junctions when travelling straight ahead
  • establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders

Motorcyclists excluded from the vulnerable user group

Colin Brown of the Motorcycle Action Group criticised the omission of motorcyclists from the review’s vulnerable user group: "This is a shocking demonstration of the lack of care for the welfare of the most vulnerable road user group on the roads. As motorcyclists, we have to face the accusations and vilification of our legitimate choice of transport mode, while simultaneously suffering a near complete lack of interest in making the roads safer for us.”

"We take no issue with moves to improve safety for other road users, but this systemic and sustained process of turning a blind eye to the needs of motorcyclists is unforgiveable."

Meanwhile, the Motorcycle Industry Association called the omission of bikes "of particular concern".

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