This article was written for the News & Star.
When I first passed my driving test, the Highway Code looked quite a bit different than it does today (and yes, there was indeed a Highway Code back then if you were wondering!). This is why it is always a good idea to refresh yourself as to its contents, and why I recently met with Richard Ingham, Bicycle Mayor for Cumbria, who wanted to discuss the major changes to the Highway Code that were implemented in January last year.
I know Richard is concerned that people are still a little unaware of the recent changes. It is important that both cyclists, pedestrians, and other road users know what the code updates are, so that we can all enjoy a safer road system.
The most important aspect of the changes is the codification of the idea of a hierarchy of road users. At the top of the hierarchy are pedestrians, followed by cyclists, horse riders, and then motor cyclists. The principle is that those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.
So, what does this hierarchy mean? Basically, it means road users should have an understanding that there are different levels of vulnerability on the road and that we should all acknowledge this when travelling. Of course, it does not mean that those at the top of the hierarchy are allowed to ignore the rules or behave however they like!
But practically, there are some things to keep in mind as a result of this. At road junctions, for example, drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists must give way to pedestrians crossing the road onto which the road users are turning.
Similarly, motor vehicles should not turn into a junction or new lane when it would involve cutting in front of a cyclist.
But cyclists should be aware that on shared cycling/walking routes, pedestrians have priority according to the hierarchy of road users – this means that cyclists must take care when overtaking or turning.
A more comprehensive detailing of the Highway Code changes can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-highway-code-8-changes-you-need-to-know-from-29-january-2022
A lot of this is, of course, pretty common sense. But it is always worth refreshing your knowledge of the Highway Code. As we continue to encourage cycling, and as more varied and differing modes of transport (such as e-scooters, electric bikes and cars, etc.) become normal we need to always be sure that as we share the road, we do so courteously and safely!