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Cycle safety in focus as Highway Code changes revealed, including setting out hierarchy of road users

Government also announces £338 million for cycling and walking schemes across England

An updated edition of the Highway Code to be published in the Autumn will see the introduction of a hierarchy of road users, as well as setting out guidance to motorists on issues such as safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists.

People on bikes will also have priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead, while there will be greater pedestrian priority on pavements and when crossing the road or waiting to do so.

Under the hierarchy of road users, those with potential to cause the most danger to others will be deemed to have greater responsibility to those who are more vulnerable than them.

For example, a motorist will have greater responsibility for ensuring the safety of a cyclist, who would likewise be responsible for safeguarding any pedestrians with whom they come into contact.

The concept is well-established on the continent, including in countries such as the Netherlands, where it also applies in insurance through the application of presumed liability, although that will not be brought into force under the changes, which apply to England, Scotland and Wales but not Northern Ireland.

The changes, which follow a consultation launched last year, were announced today by transport secretary Grant Shapps, who also unveiled £338 million in funding for cycling and walking scheme in England.

> Consultation launched on proposed changes to Highway Code

“Millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit, ease congestion on the roads and do your bit for the environment,” 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 £338 million 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,” he added.

> Department for Transport say councils must give walking and cycling schemes time

Also announced today are a new scheme that aims to increase awareness of e-cycles and help overcome barriers to using them, with an e-cycle support programme to be launched later this year, plans for a new road safety strategic framework, and looking at how historic railway infrastructure can be turned into cycling routes.

Xavier Brice, chief executive of Sustrans, said: “This funding will bring major improvements to the National Cycle Network in England by linking communities together and enhancing valued and well-used cycling and walking routes. Most importantly of all, this vital boost will further enable those who want to cycle or walk to do so.

“The pandemic has highlighted the huge benefits of active forms of travel to people’s personal health and wellbeing, to local communities and to the environment. We’ve seen a marked increase in numbers using the cycle network and this commitment to funding underlines its importance.

“We welcome the government’s continued focus on cycling and walking,” he added. “The time is right to ensure we’re able to carry on working with our volunteers and other organisations in our role as a proud custodian of the network, to create and offer a safe, accessible and traffic-free travel environment for everyone’s benefit.”

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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