Highway Code is changing
Changes prove controversial for trade body, but welcomed by others
As part of a £388m package of Government improvements to cycling and walking, changes to The Highway Code are being made.
In an effort to enhance safety for cyclists and pedestrians, a new version of the Highway Code will be published next year. Updates include a hierarchy of road users, intended to ensure road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others. It will include strengthened pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing or waiting to cross the road, as well as guidance on safe passing distances and speeds and ensuring that cyclists have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead.
“The new priority rules for cycling are wrong” – RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett
The RHA is extremely concerned at these changes to the Highway Code.
RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett, said: “As far as we can see, there is little, if any, justification for these changes.
“The new priority rules for cycling are wrong. We have been campaigning for years to make cyclists aware of the dangers of undertaking turning HGVs but it now appears that they have right of way.
“This will encourage a known unsafe manoeuvre by cyclists who are then absolved of responsibility for their actions towards motorists.
“Making a driver (motorist or commercial vehicle driver) who has no control over how a cyclist is trained to use the roads responsible for the safety of others is inherently unjust. The rules around pedestrian priority make sense, the change for cyclists increases road danger and collision risk.
“The hierarchy of risk created by the operation of cars, vans, coaches, buses and lorries is already reflected in the additional ongoing training undertaken by lorry and coach drivers.”
“The government has to be careful to ensure that there are sufficiently robust and thorough advertising campaigns to make sure these new rules are made clear to the public” – Paul Laughlin, a solicitor specialising in motoring law at Stephensons
However, some have welcomed the changes. Paul Laughlin, a solicitor specialising in motoring law at Stephensons, said: “Better protection for more vulnerable road users has been long overdue and this is certainly a positive step forward.
“In motoring law terms, there could be more of a marked difference between how the courts deal with different road users who commit the same offence. The test for careless driving, for example, is to consider whether the standard of driving has fallen below that of a competent and careful driver.
“We may now see a clearer distinction between how a motorcyclist’s driving is assessed compared to that of a HGV driver given their different positions in the new ‘hierarchy of road users’. There is already a distinction within the sentencing guidelines for this offence for those driving heavier, more dangerous vehicles. It may be that the new structured hierarchy sees the need for new, more structured sentencing guidelines for this offence.
“With this in mind, the government has to be careful to ensure that there are sufficiently robust and thorough advertising campaigns to make sure these new rules are made clear to the public. Education will be key in order for this to work successfully.”