The New Highway Code Updates – a Summary for walkers

I know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the new highway code laws, but I personally feel that they are a welcome change, especially for walking groups. The Highway Code was originally established in 1931 and it has been updated hundreds of times since then. The new version is available to read online, but the actual books will not be in the shops until April this year.

I keep hearing “But drivers are not aware of the new rules, so there will be more accidents”. In my opinion, I think we all have a responsibility to educate as many people as we can about the new laws. If you are one of the people who are not sure of the rules, then here is a quick summary of the area of the Highway Code that is relevant for walkers/pedestrians.

#1 – Different grade of responsibility

The government have introduced a tier system for responsibility.

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/taxis
  6. Vans/minibuses
  7. Larger passenger vehicles/HGVs 

The idea is that we all have a right to be on a road, irrelevant if you are a lorry or a pedestrian. The hierarchy simply means that those in the higher numbers (HGV's / Vans /Taxi's etc) need to give more space to those in the lower category numbers by law.

#2 – More obvious priority for walkers! Yippee!

In the new version of the Highway Code, there is a more obvious priority for pedestrians, which is good news for those who like to enjoy a good walk in built-up areas. One of the key areas mentioned in the highway code is at road junctions. The new code lays out exactly where walkers have the right of way over other road users. 

  • Drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into or from which they are turning into or out of.  (this is good news for group walking).
  • The same rule applies to zebra crossings, and pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing. 
  • Cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use cycle routes. 

What happens if you break the rules?

Ignorance is not a defence. Many of the rules in the Highway Code are written into law, the government says, “and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence”. So you can be fined, given penalty points on your licence or even be disqualified from driving if you break the Highway Code. And in the most serious cases, you may be sent to prison.  Saying that I think it will take a while for the new rules to filter through our culture and I also believe it will be hard to police.

In conclusion:

The new rules have been designed for safety reasons. The roads are so much busier nowadays, and not just with more vehicles, but with more cyclists and pedestrians. I truly believe that they will inevitably save lives but it will be a learning curve in the interim. Safety is a matter of common sense, so please do not rely on these rules as not everyone will follow them, let your common sense prevail.