New Highway Code rules protecting more vulnerable road users set to arrive on January 29

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Changes to the Highway Code look set to come into force later this month, giving greater focus to the safety of vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.

Proposed by the Department for Transport, the alterations to the rulebook will likely appear from January 29 2022, pending approval from MPs.

Amongst the changes will be a new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ concept, which places those most at risk in a collision at the top of the hierarchy. Pedestrians will sit at the top of the pile, with children, older adults and the disabled recognised as most vulnerable. This is then followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists.

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Although everyone is still expected to know and follow the rules as before, operators of vehicles capable of doing the greatest harm have the biggest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they pose to others on the roads.

The principle will apply most strongly to heavy goods and passenger vehicles, followed by vans and minibuses, cars and taxis, and then motorcyclists. A gap of at least 1.5 metres is needed when overtaking cyclists up to 30mph and you should allow at least two metres for horses, or pedestrians walking in the road.

Alongside this, road users should also give way to pedestrians crossing, or waiting to cross a road you are either turning into or exiting. What’s more, you must give way to pedestrians on zebra crossings and also walkers and cyclists on a parallel crossing.

Motorists should also not cut across a cyclist, horse rider, or horse drawn vehicle when  turning into or out of a junction, or changing direction or lane.

Likewise, you also shouldn’t turn into a junction if it will cause these road users to stop or swerve and you must stop and wait for a safe gap to pull out. Essentially, you need to treat them as you would any other motor vehicle, with them being more vulnerable road users.

Highway Code to support bikers

First published on 30 July 2021 by Jordan Gibbons

Motorbikes riding on UK roads

The Highway Code has been given an update to be published in the autumn that will create a hierarchy of vehicles designed to protect vulnerable road users.

In the current Highway Code everyone on the roads is given equal responsibility for their own (and each other’s) safety, which doesn’t really take into account the danger a HGV poses to a motorcyclist and not the other way around.

In the updated code road users will be instructed that the onus is on less vulnerable users to look out for the interests of more vulnerable users. So HGVs should look out for cars, cars should look out bikes, bikes for cyclists and cyclists for pedestrian etc.

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This concept has been popular in European countries, with some even going as far as assumed liability in a collision for the more ‘dangerous’ vehicle unless there is clear evidence the more vulnerable user is at fault.

There are also minimum passing distances introduced for the first time with a minimum of 1.5m under 30mph or 2m over 30mph to be observed when overtaking a motorcycle or scooter.

Most of the changes have been developed to protect cyclists and pedestrians after a significant increase in both in recent years – something the pandemic has only accelerated.

Highway Code review for vulnerable road users doesn’t include motorbikes

First published on 30 July 2020 by Ben Clarke

Driving theory textbooks

On Tuesday, 28 July, the Department for Transport (DfT) announced their Review of The Highway Code to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, which the DfT says is a “consultation seeking views on proposed changes to The Highway Code to improve safety for vulnerable road users, particularly the groups of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders”.

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The Highway Code, however, also lists motorcyclists as vulnerable road users leading some to question why bikers have been left out of the review.

“This is a shocking demonstration of the lack of care for the welfare of the most vulnerable road user group on the roads,” said Colin Brown from the Motorcycle Action Group.  “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”.

However the DfT say that this is actually a review specifically for pedestrians, cyclists and horseriders and that motorcycling considerations can be found elsewhere.

“The safety for all users is at the core of our road safety strategy,” they said. “The Road Safety Statement published in July 2019, includes a section on motorcycles and safe riding.

“This review is part of a two-year process that began in 2018 looking specifically at the safety issues that cyclists and pedestrians face when travelling on the roads.”

The DfT added: “One of the top priorities identified was to review the guidance in The Highway Code to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. This consultation is a direct response to that action. We have not undertaken a full-scale revision of The Highway Code at this time.”

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Dan Sutherland

By Dan Sutherland

Senior Writer (motorcycling), sportsbike nut, currently riding a FireBlade