Last reviewed 12 October 2020

Proposals to introduce a hierarchy of road users, clarify pedestrian and cyclist priority and establish safer overtaking are including in a consultation on a review of the Highway Code launched a few weeks ago by the Department for Transport (DfT).

With full details available at assets.publishing.service.gov.uk, the consultation is open for comments until 27 October.

The main alterations to the Code being proposed are:

  • introducing a hierarchy of road users which ensures 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;

  • 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; and

  • establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders.

The ‘Rules for drivers and motorcyclists’ chapter of the Highway Code will be updated to make certain that audible warning systems, and camera and audio warning systems are used properly and correctly when driving.

Rule 97 will be updated to state that before setting off drivers should ensure that “any fitted audible warning systems for other road users, and camera and audio alert systems for drivers are all working and active (and should be used appropriately on the road).”

The DfT makes clear that the ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ and new Rule H1, which ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users, is not meant to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation.

Rather it should ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.

The ‘General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders’ chapter of the Code will be updated to reinforce the guidance outlined in new Rules H2 and H3 to clarify when drivers of motorised vehicles should give way to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

References to 20 miles per hour (mph) speed limits will be added together with stronger advice around inappropriate speed.

Overtaking

Drivers of lorries, coaches and buses will be particularly interested in the section of the Code relating to overtaking.

They are advised to give motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles at least as much room as they would when overtaking a car: leaving a minimum distance of 2.0 metres in all conditions and passing horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 15 mph while allowing at least 2.0 metres space.

In addition, drivers should allow at least 2.0 metres space where a pedestrian is walking in the road (where there is no pavement) and should pass them at low speed. They should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse-drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.

They should not cut across cyclists going ahead, including those using cycle lanes and cycle tracks.

Finally, drivers should take extra care and give more space when overtaking motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians in bad weather (including high winds) and at night.

The revised Code will advise that cyclists may pass slower moving or stationary traffic on the right or left, including at the approach to junctions.