Highway Code victory for walkers

walking by road

Ramblers are celebrating today as the Government have announced changes to the Highway Code that will make the roads safer for walkers. The news was announced as part of a Department for Transport announcement that a further £338m has been allocated to boost cycling and walking across the country.

The biggest change is that there will be the introduction of a hierarchy of road users putting walkers at the top. This new rule will ensure that road users who can do the most harm – drivers of motor vehicles – have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to other road users.

A new version of The Highway Code will be published in the autumn and will include the following changes:

  •     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 and ensuring that cyclists have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead

Ramblers’ supporters played a leading role in advocating for the Highway Code to put walkers first with over 2000 campaigners responding to the Government’s consultation last autumn.

Gemma Cantelo, Ramblers Head of Policy and Advocacy, said: “The changes to the Highway Code are good news for all of us, whether we walk for fun or to get to school, the park, the local shop or to work. For too long, the Highway Code has treated all road users as if they have equal responsibility for their own and other’s safety. The new hierarchy of road users is common sense: those who have the greatest potential to do harm, have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose.

“We’re pleased that government has listened to the Ramblers, our supporters and all those who spoke up for walkers and road safety.”

Dr D E Hobson

"Well children, when you are walking along a busy road and come to a junction, take care, but remember that you have right of way over cars turning round the corner and, if you are knocked down, it's not your fault."

This change to the Highway Code does make it safer for either pedestrians or drivers. Do we really expect drivers to stop on a busy road and let pedestrians cross the sideroad. It makes sense for cyclist travelling straight on but this has always been the case case as they are on the carriageway not the pavement.

The changes are not based on any evidence let alone analysis and it is disappointing to see Ramblers and others endorse them in such an uncritical way.

When I am walking, I propose to ignore this bit of the Highway Code.

Richard Hellewell

Dr Hobson - I agree with your implied view that your putative advice to children should finish at the word "care". However, it's my view that the new priority brings us more closely in line with practice in many other countries where we see drivers slowing and waiting for pedestrians crossing the side road before they turn. Something I have noticed in Edinburgh in recent years with more Europeans and North Americans living here has been that increasingly pedestrians habitually (albeit arguably mistakenly until now) assert their priority.

Driving in Canada a couple of years ago I was struck by the generous and considerate driving culture - for example, at many crossroads there is no designated priority; everyone expects to have to stop and wait. Anyone just blindly driving across British-style without slowing will get hooted. If this new code instils that more circumspect and humble mindset into UK drivers it will be a welcome advance.

Mike G

Without wishing to comment on any changes, can I just clarify the existing rule. Drivers must give priority to pedestrians who are already crossing the road when they turn into it. "Watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way" - rule 170.

Desmond Fry

While I welcome the changes, I worry that once drivers pass their test, many never look at the Highway Code again. Some even seem totally ignorant of past changes. I hope the government can find an effective way of educating them about the new code.

Derek Watkinson

"road users that ensures road users who can do the greatest harm " Who can do most harm can depend on the circumstances. My first thoughts are based on cyclist vs. pedestrian circumstances. E.g. On tracks split between cyclist and pedestrians a very near miss with a dog walker's almost invisible dog lead and the smoker swinging an arm armed with burning cigarette.

Thinking further though will the new code make it clear that drivers behind a driver turning left or right may need to cope with the turning driver stopping suddenly due to somebody crossing a side road?

Bill Price

There is a strong risk that pedestrians and cyclists will come to believe that they have no responsibilities. The emphasis seems to be upon urban roads, with little emphasis upon country roads/lanes where Ramblers frequently walk and cyclists often ride two or more abreast on narrow roads where visibility is limited.

Norman Farrer

Having heard about the rule 'changes' there seems to be a lot of confusing info flying about. Driver claiming pedestrians etc. willl have total right of way to just step out at the last second and expect cars to stop whether or not they have time and they are not happy with that.
Pedestrians seem to think now they can do what they like & the driver will be to blame if something goes wrong. They seem to expect a 'free for all'.

Looking at the 'changes' I see very little change from what a good road user will understand from the current rules. All they seem to do is clarify what they should have been doing for a great many years.

Only an idiot would turn left in to a side road if the wasn't clear and that has always included a pedestrian crossing the road. A driver one a different road (turning from) has NEVER had priority over a road user using the road he is turning in to and if anyone thinks they have they should retake lessons & their test before they drive again. That goes for many of these (so called) changes.

In my opinion the term 'right of way' should be referred to as 'priority over'.

As for Dr D E Hobson's comment, His first paragraph is enclosed in quotes implying that it was copied for an official source. In the "Summary of the consultation proposals on a review of The Highway Code. Updated 30 July 2021" on the GOV.UK site I can't find it, Can you link to where this quote came from? As for ignoring that bit of the HC, have you been ignoring it all the time you have been driving as this has been 'the rule' for 50 years or more!

The HC contains the 'rules' with the minimum explanation of what they mean and should be enough. If you want fuller explanations then get "the official DSA guide to DRIVING the essential skills". Make the HC look like and advertising flyer.

Mike Z

Cycling and walking are often grouped together, but this is often not helpful, in my opinion. Personally I find that the biggest danger to me comes from cyclists riding aggressively, with no concern for others, or their own safety. In towns, cyclists on footpaths and pavements seem to show little regard for other users, with their main concern seemingly maximum speed. Similarly in the hills, when you are out for a peaceful walk, encountering a group of cyclists descending a narrow footpath at great speed is a frightening experience. It happens all too frequently. One of the problems is that cyclists are totally unregulated. In my opinion, there should be some form of licencing, and compulsory training and insurance, just as there is with any other wheeled vehicle.

Alan Rinaldi

Any revised guidance for walkers using roads which do not have pavements?