Highway Code Changes are Set to Prioritise Walkers and Cyclists

Highway Code Changes are Set to Prioritise Walkers and Cyclists

Changes to The Highway Code are due to be published this coming Autumn.

However, in the interim, the consultation outcome in response to the review of The Highway Code was published by the Department for Transport on the 30th of July[1].

The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that the alterations are set to give pedestrians greater priority over cars at junctions and crossings, and will also ensure cyclists have priority when travelling straight ahead at junctions[2]. Additionally, guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders is to be provided.

It is believed that the changes are well timed as more people embrace alternative modes of transport, and we see continue to see an increase in walking and cycling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The government released guidance in January on reallocating road space to cyclists and pedestrians and increased the cycling and walking budget to £338 million[3] , so the forthcoming changes will work alongside this increased investment in a commitment to build back greener from the pandemic.

The Main Changes to The Highway Code

A new rule, Rule H1 ‘hierarchy of road users’, will put more responsibility for road safety on road users who can do the greatest harm, including those in cars, vans and lorries. This was widely supported at the consultation stage, with 79% agreeing with its introduction1.  However, based on feedback the text of this rule will clearly recognise that the hierarchy does not detract from the requirements for everyone to behave responsibly.

New Rule H2 ‘stronger priorities for pedestrians’ was supported by 75% of consultation responses. Those who responded with concerns were worried it may facilitate a false sense of security that could put pedestrians at risk. The wording will therefore be considered in light of the feedback before the final code is published in Autumn.

A number of other rules are proposed to have wording changed, including those relating to horses on the road and cyclists in shared spaces. The majority of respondents were in favour of all the changes proposed during the consultation.

An awareness-raising campaign will also be launched alongside the publication of the updated Highway Code. This is because a strong theme of the consultation responses was to ensure all road users know about the changes and act on them.

Summary of Highway Code changes

A revised Highway Code will be published this autumn, with updates including:

  • A hierarchy of road users that ensures road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others
  • Strengthened pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing or waiting to cross the road
  • Guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders

If you need assistance with your Road Safety project, please get in touch and our team of experts will be on hand to help.


[1] Government response to the review of The Highway Code - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[2] Walking and biking prioritised in new Highway Code - BBC News

[3] £338 million package to further fuel active travel boom - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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