The Highway Code was revamped on Saturday with 50 rules added or updated, mainly focusing on the enhanced protection of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders. However, lack of awareness of the new rules among millions of motorists is a major issue, with an AA survey of 13,700 drivers earlier this month finding that 33% were unaware of the changes. This combined with doubts about the common sense of some of the new measures has raised concerns that cyclists, pedestrians and other ‘vulnerable’ road users could now actually be more at risk of accidents than under the previous rules.
One of the controversial new changes is the advice that cyclists ride in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slow-moving traffic and when approaching junctions so that other road users are more aware of them. Cyclists will generally enjoy greater freedom on the road, with motorists obliged to give them priority on roundabouts, for example, while traffic will be forced to give way when pedestrians are crossing or waiting at junctions. The new rules also introduce a ‘hierarchy of road users’ based on the level of risk in the event of an accident. So while drivers will need to be more aware of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, cyclists will in turn need to be more aware of pedestrians and riders.
While the new Highway Code changes do offer enhanced protection for cyclists, pedestrians and others, the potential for confusion when the rules are applied in varying road conditions across the country is clear. Many motorists feel that cyclists, in particular, already enjoy sufficient rights on the roads, and this may make them less than enthusiastic about learning the new rules. The government has been urged to launch a public awareness campaign, as there seems little doubt that all road users are going to take time to adapt to the new regime and face new scenarios and responsibilities on the road in the meantime:
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