Highway Code changes spark conflict and confusion on roads

Cycling charities welcome the changes to the Highway Code but say increasing public awareness of them is vital

Zoe Tidman
Monday 31 January 2022 21:45
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<p>New Highway Code changes came into force over the last weekend of January</p>

New Highway Code changes came into force over the last weekend of January

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians have faced conflict and confusion on the roads after new Highway Code changes came into force over the weekend.

Social media users reported experiencing or witnessing clashes as travellers got to grips with the new rules.

The Highway Code brought in changes from Saturday, including a new “hierarchy of road users” with pedestrians and cyclists at the top, which is based on the principle that road users who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility to avoid it.

Vehicles are also now expected to give way to people crossing or waiting to cross at junctions, and cyclists are being told to make themselves as visible as possible by riding in the centre of lanes on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and when approaching junctions.

But the new changes have sparked conflict on the roads in the first days after they came into force, with road users sharing experiences of confusion or disagreements over the rules.

One man said he saw a car have to brake sharply as a pedestrian stepped out to cross the road. “Needless to say the young man got some abuse,” he tweeted.

Another Twitter user said: “Just had a cyclist argue with me that I should’ve given way to him on a roundabout when he was coming from my left.”

Some said people seemed unaware of some changes.

“Pedestrian completely baffled when I stopped before turning into side street to let him cross. Your right of way – use it,” one man wrote on social media.

Another tweeted that four cars failed to give priority to his wife at a junction. “Needs urgent publicity to avoid accidents,” he said.

Others celebrated the new rules, saying it made them feel safer while travelling by bike.

Cycling and road safety charities have also praised the overhaul of the Highway Code as supporting road safety with the new hierarchy of users.

Jason Wakeford from charity Brake said: “It means it is clear that road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk they pose to more vulnerable users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.”

He added: “It’s vital that government works hard to promote the Highway Code changes, to help all road users understand the new rules and our shared responsibility to reduce deaths and serious injuries.”

Cycling UK said the new rules were an “excellent start” but communicating the changes was “equally important”.

The Department for Transport says there will be an awareness campaign over the new rules, which will run across radio and social media channels. Further activity will take place in the summer, the department added.

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