IT is the bible for drivers on Britain's thoroughfares, containing the guidelines required to obey the rules of the road. But changes to the upcoming revised edition of the Highway Code have sparked furious debate.


What’s happening?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a series of updates to the Highway Code that look set to be included in a new version to be released this autumn, but they have sparked consternation amongst some road users.


How so?

The changes are part of a £338m package that acknowledges the uptick in cycling and walking as a result of lockdown life during the pandemic and, as well as boosting funding for the construction of hundreds of miles of new cycle lanes and initiatives to encourage walking, also included is a “hierarchy of road users”.


A hierarchy?

The pecking order in the new updated code - which is subject to parliamentary approval - aims to ensure “road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others”.


So how is it structured?

The new hierarchy would be pedestrians first, followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists, cars and taxis, vans and minibuses and large passenger vehicles or heavy goods vehicles.


What does this mean?

The Department for Transport said the hierarchy would ensure "road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others”.



Motoring groups are concerned, in part over the new rule that strengthens pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing or waiting to cross the road, saying motorists should give way to pedestrians about to cross at junctions. Under the current Highway Code, drivers only need to give way if the pedestrian has started to cross.



The new code would clarify that cyclists have priority when travelling straight ahead at junctions too, while cyclists are told to “ride in the centre of your lane to make yourself as clearly visible as possible” when on quieter roads, but to move in if a faster vehicle comes up behind.


The response?

The RAC welcomed the proposals that “should make cycling and walking safer” but stressed “a concerted effort must now be made to communicate the changes to drivers because as we know, many do not read the Highway Code for long periods after passing their test”. Meanwhile, Howard Cox, founder of the Fair Fuel UK campaign, said: “This anti-car government continues to pander to a massive minority of non tax paying road users.”


What do the government say?

Mr Shapps said: “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. This £338m package marks the start of what promises to be a great summer of cycling and walking, enabling more people to make those sustainable travel choices that make our air cleaner and cities greener.” The government stressed that “feedback will be carefully considered as we finalise the changes to The Highway Code to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders”.