The UK's updated Highway Code prioritizes walking and cycling

·2-min read
In the UK, the Department for Transport plans to invest £338 million to "boost cycling and walking across the country" in the coming months.

With cycle journeys on the up, the British government is planning to change the rules of the road to bolster the safety and priority of pedestrians and cyclists. This new measure is part of a government program to promote cycling and walking, while also pursuing the trend for green mobility.

An updated version of the UK Highway Code will introduce a new "hierarchy of road users." The initiative is one of the flagship measures of a government program announced July 30. Some £338 million (or approximately $470 million) will be invested in boosting cycling and walking across the country, encouraging Britons to adopt sustainable modes of travel.

From now on, road users who can do the greatest harm -- such as motorists -- have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others, such as cyclists or pedestrians. This change comes after more than a year of living with the pandemic, during which cycling and walking have played a key role in the daily lives of many in the UK. In fact, the number of miles cycled on British roads has increased by over 45% in one year, according to the Department for Transport, reaching five billion miles.

"Millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit, ease congestion on the roads and do your bit for the environment. As we build back greener from the pandemic, we're determined to keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone," said Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps.

Updating the Highway Code

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable to other road users. However, under current regulations, the Highway Code does not require vehicles to stop if a pedestrian is not already present on a zebra crossing. However, as the BBC reports, "at the same time, pedestrians are told they should not start to cross until the vehicles on the road have stopped."

The updated rules will bolster pedestrian priority on the sidewalk, on the crosswalk, and when waiting to cross. Guidance will also be provided to users regarding safe passing distances and speeds, "ensuring that cyclists have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead," explains the Department for Transport in its news release. The program also includes infrastructure improvements, such as the construction of hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes.

This amendment to the Highway Code, which should be approved by Parliament in the fall, will apply to England, Scotland and Wales.

Louis Bolla

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