The latest changes to the Highway Code are a “hugely important step” towards making the roads safer for everyone, Cycling UK has said.
The changes, which are designed to enhance safety for all road users, particularly those most at risk, are set to come into effect from 29th January.
If approved by Parliament, a hierarchy of road users will be introduced this weekend, ensuring quicker or heavier modes of travel have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others on the road.
Cyclists will also receive fresh guidance to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions in order to make themselves as clearly visible as possible. They’ll also be reminded they can ride two abreast – as has always been the case and which can be safer in large groups or with children – but they must be aware of drivers behind them and allow them to overtake if it is safe to do so.
Meanwhile, motorists will be encouraged to adopt the ‘Dutch Reach’ – opening the door next to them with the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder, meaning they’re less likely to injure passing cyclists and pedestrians.
Cycling UK’s head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore said these changes now need to be communicated with “simple accurate and memorable messaging”.
“The AA put out startling figures about the amount of people who don’t know about the forthcoming changes,” said Dollimore. “These changes will help save lives but people need to be informed – they can’t be expected to telepathically know about them. That defeats the purpose of the new rules.
“Over the past weeks, there has been considerable confusion and some erroneous reporting about these changes. While the government is late to the party in correcting these, Cycling UK is pleased to see a financial commitment, at least in the short term, to communicating the changes.
“People didn’t change their attitude to wearing seat belts and drink driving overnight, and many won’t change their behaviour the next day simply because new Highway Code rules have been introduced. This Think campaign must herald the beginning of long-term well-funded awareness campaign to ensure the new rules and the reasons for them are understood and accepted.”
The government’s Think! campaign will soon launch a communications drive, backed by over £500,000 in funding, raising awareness of the changes and ensuring road users across the country understand their responsibilities. The campaign will run across radio and social media channels, with further campaign activity to follow later in the summer.
The new updates are advisory, so non-compliance will not result in a fine.
“I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone,” said Roads Minister Baroness Vere. “These updates to The Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road users know the rules of the road.”
The DfT engaged with key stakeholders while developing the changes, and a Highway Code Communications Working Group has been established with industry working alongside the government to raise awareness. The changes will be made to the digital version of The Highway Code this weekend, followed by an update to the printed version which is due to be published in April 2022.
Active travel commissioner for England, Chris Boardman, said: “It shouldn’t take bravery to cross a road or ride to school with kids, but sometimes it feels that way. These changes to the Highway Code clarify our responsibility to each other and simply reinforce what good road users already do. This refresh does more than offer guidance though, it makes our towns, cities and villages nicer places to live.”
The government said it recognises the importance of The Highway Code keeping pace with the way in which people get about, as well as with changes to transport infrastructure. For example, the updates recognise new cycle-friendly signals and cycle junctions, so people know how to use modern carriageways. Cyclists are also encouraged to consider training in order to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to ride safely and responsibly on the road.
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Last year, the Transport Secretary provided £18 million for Bikeability cycle training for children and families. Emily Cherry, chief executive at The Bikeability Trust, said: “We welcome these changes to The Highway Code because they encourage all road users to share their space, whilst protecting the most vulnerable.
“Millions of children in England have been taught how to interact positively with other road users, thanks to Bikeability cycle training. We are pleased the updated Highway Code will now reflect the lessons we already teach children and help the next generation grow up as confident, competent and courteous road users.