Highway Code Revision: Who Now Has Priorities at Intersections?

Cycling in the UK -

Highway Code Revision: Who Now Has Priorities at Intersections?

From this Saturday, January 29th, the Highway Code will undergo a significant update - representing one of the most far-reaching revisions of the code in recent years. It is important, therefore, that all road-users, including pedestrians and cyclists, take note of the changes, to ensure that we remain safe on UK roads.

One of the changes is that a hierarchy of road user priority has now been introduced. In this system, road users with the most potential to cause harm, buses, lorries and cars, etc., will have the most responsibility to protect those around them. According to the Department for Transport, the desired objective of this new measure is to cultivate a more “mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.”

The second change targets the priority of pedestrians in particular, clarifying in which they situations they have right of way over other road users. With this being the most major shake-up to the original code, vehicles will no longer have priority at intersections, which will instead be awarded to pedestrians. As per these new rules drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing at roads into which or from which they are turning (along with at zebra crossings, on a parallel crossing or at light controlled crossings when they have a green signal). In addition, cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle tracks.

The last update addresses cyclists and their safety. According to the DfT, drivers must not turn at a junction if to do so would cause a cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve, but “should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if needed.” This includes when cyclists are approaching, passing or moving off from a junction, moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic, and travelling around a roundabout. Alongside this, drivers must leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and are also encouraged to use the 'Dutch Reach' technique when opening their door. This describes the method of using the hand on the opposite side of the door to open it, resulting in the driver looking over their shoulder for oncoming cyclists and reducing the chance of an accident.

The timing of this move by the DfT is important, coming after the government body released figures that revealed 4,290 pedestrians and 4,700 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads from 2020 to June 2021, even despite the reduction in traffic over the lockdown. In fact, the evidence suggests that the pandemic made matters worse, with drivers adopting careless behaviours when the roads were that bit clearer, and cyclists and pedestrians likewise becoming a little less vigilant. We hope the revision to the code, along with further measures like more cycle lanes and pedestrianized areas, will help simmer down the aggressive driving culture that exists in Britain, by putting greater onus on those who can do the most damage.


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