The British Highway Code is undergoing significant changes, which will come into force on 29 January 2022. Amongst these changes, new rules introduce a ‘road hierarchy’ to provide a greater degree of protection for vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists etc.) and offer clarification on priority at junctions.
This rule establishes a hierarchy of road users as follows:
1. Pedestrians (especially children, older adults and disabled people)
3. Horse riders
7. Large passenger cars/Trucks
It also enshrines the principle, already seen in case law, 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”.
This rule reinforces pedestrian priority at junctions and clarifies the issue of right of way.
This new rule confirms that vehicles turning left or right at junctions no longer have priority but must give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road.
It should be noted that cyclists will also have to give way to pedestrians on shared cycle paths.
This rule concerns priority for cyclists. Once this rule is in force, cyclists will have priority in the majority of cases when at a junction.
The driver should not try to turn into a junction if this would cause the cyclist to stop or brake, but should wait until the lane is clear.
In some situations, this rule also advises cyclists to ride in the middle of the lane rather than on the left-hand side, in order to be more visible. In addition, cyclists may sometimes ride two or three abreast to be safer.
These new rules certainly give better protection to road users who are “the most at risk in the event of a collision”, which is most welcome.
Is this the first step towards a strict liability regime, as it exists in other countries?
We are not there yet, as Rule H1 does remind the principle that: “None of this detracts from the responsibility of ALL road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, to have regard for their own and other road users’ safety”.