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Highway Code Update

by Nicholas Hellen, Sunday Times – 23rd January 2022
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Updates to the UK's Highway Code come into force this Saturday, 29th January – are you familiar with the key changes?
The overriding principle is for the least vulnerable road users to give priority to the most vulnerable.

The priority order now looks like this:

1. Pedestrians
2. Cyclists
3. Horse Riders
4. Motorcyclists
5. Cars/Taxis
6. Vans/Minibuses
7. HGVs

Here's an article lifted from the Sunday Times, 23rd January 2022. The author is Nicholas Hellen.

Cyclists will be told to ride in the centre of the lane to make themselves more visible to motorists under far-reaching changes to the rules of the road intended to improve safety and "unleash our nation of cyclists".

The updated Highway Code, which takes effect on Saturday, will also encourage cyclists to ride two abreast and require motorists to leave a minimum of 1.5 metres (nearly 5ft) when overtaking.

Even if there are adjoining cycle lanes and tracks, cyclists will not be obliged to use them.

The rules make it clear that cyclists, including children, are not permitted to ride on the pavement. Only pedestrians and wheelchair or mobility scooter users are allowed to do so.

Neil Greig, the director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, a road safety charity, said: "We're talking about overturning the way people have been trained to drive for their whole lives, how some have been driving for 30 or 40 years, so you're talking about a fundamental change in priorities."

Until now, there has been no official guidance for motorists on where cyclists should ride. The new rules advise that they should ride in the centre of the lane on quiet streets, in slow-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake.

On faster roads they should keep left, allowing vehicles to overtake. They should also move to the left if a faster vehicle comes up behind, if they can do so safely. Cyclists should always keep at least half a metre from the kerb.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the changes would "introduce a hierarchy of road users to ensure that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others".

Boris Johnson said when the policy was announced that it would help "unleash our nation of cyclists".

Pedestrians, placed at the top of the hierarchy as the most vulnerable, will have priority at junctions, with drivers and cyclists told they should give way if they are crossing or waiting to cross.

Road safety charities and personal injury lawyers said the government had not done enough to raise awareness about the new rules.

Greig said the Highway Code has gone from being "a document about road safety to being a document to promote active travel, but road design is going to take years to catch up".

He added: "A lot of drivers are going to think that somebody cycling in the middle of the lane in front of them is doing it to deliberately slow them down. That leads to conflict and road rage and inappropriate overtaking. Everybody needs to know all of these changes at the same time for it to work."

The DfT will begin a £500,000 campaign to boost public awareness in mid-February. An opinion poll on behalf of the AA in December found that only 19 per cent of people were aware that the new Highway Code would set out where cyclists could ride two abreast or in the centre of the lane.

Duncan Dollimore, the head of campaigns at Cycling UK, said the new rules would usher in a "generational, cultural change". He said they meant that "the person in charge of the vehicle that has the capacity to cause the most harm has more responsibility".

Official statistics show that 141 cyclists were killed in the UK in 2020 as more took to two wheels during the pandemic, with 4,215 seriously injured.

Leticia Williams, a partner at the law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, said the government had failed to include e-scooter riders and had failed to make helmets compulsory for cyclists.

Nicholas Hellen, The Sunday Times
23 January 2022

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