Proposed Changes to the Highway Code

There has been some controversy about the proposed changes to the Highway Code with some pro-motoring groups complaining they are both prejudicial and dangerous. See the Daily Mail coverage in the link below for examples.

But are the proposed changes so unreasonable? They do give more priority to pedestrians and cyclists, such as at junctions, but the proposals are not that different to what may already be common practice in reality. Giving way to pedestrians who are crossing at side roads is not unreasonable and giving priority to cyclists who are travelling straight ahead at junctions is hardly a big imposition.

The Code includes specific advice now about passing distances when overtaking cyclists which will clarify what you should allow. But bear in mind that most of the Highway Code is advisory and does not necessarily have the force of law.

The new Code does put some more obligations on motorists but is also puts more on cyclists. For example it warns against passing pedestrians closely at high speed. But it also says “[cyclists’ should] ride in single file when drivers wish to overtake and it is safe to let them do so. When riding in larger groups on narrow lanes, it is sometimes safer to ride two abreast”. The last part of that paragraph may be arguable but is certainly likely to cause frustration to drivers so that is one thing to which I would object. Likewise where it suggests cyclists should position themselves in the centre of the lane at junctions.

The Code also recommends the use of the “Dutch Reach” when moving out from the side of the road, but that is neither practical for some people in some vehicles nor necessary when wing mirrors are properly set and used.

The Code introduces 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. This is surely not unreasonable is it?

The new Code has not yet been finalised and could do with some minor improvements but on the whole, I suggest that it is not unreasonable. You can read about the proposed changes in detail from the link below.

Will the new Code make a big change to road user behaviour? Very unlikely as most drivers have never re-read it since they originally passed their driving test and most cannot remember what it says. Cyclists have no obligation to even read the Code which is a great pity. There is more clamour for cyclists to be licensed than ever before as they so often ignore traffic lights and Highway Code rules so a test for cyclists to ensure they know the Code would surely be a good idea.

Daily Mail Article:

Proposed Highway Code Changes:


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