We now have the long-awaited updated version of the Highway Code, which has some improvements relevant to us cyclists. In the main, the changes spell out what ought to be self-evident. For example, we now have a “Hierarchy of Responsibility”, which says that the more powerful and able to cause harm have a responsibility to those who may be harmed. This means a lorry driver has a higher responsibility than a car driver, a car driver higher than a cyclist and a cyclist has a responsibility towards people on foot. One might say this is obvious but it was clearly necessary to counter the common perception that the more powerful own the roads and the rest of us should cow-tow to them.
One of the other changes is the notion that we give way to those going straight ahead whose path we cross must be applied to all road users and not just to motor traffic. It’s obvious to us that we give way to oncoming traffic when turning right. Now we have to give way to anyone going straight on when we want to cross their path, e.g. to pedestrians, cyclists and others on our left side before we can turn left. This again should be self-evident, as indeed it is in other countries.
In Southampton, the council is spending a lot of money putting in infrastructure in certain locations that suggests the above change but without the necessary education to drivers. It can therefore cause confusion and hence more hazard. This infrastructure consists of a “continued walkway” across a junction (indicating pedestrian/cyclists have priority) and a give way set back from the road junction, behind the “continued walkway”.
During the Covid time, we have seen how easy it is to get the majority of the public to comply with public information instructions, so this could clearly be applied to road conduct if indeed there were sufficient will to improve the experience and safety of all road users. So here’s a simple plea: all road users, regardless of your means of propulsion, be alert and considerate to all people on the roads. Take care to protect yourself and others. If we all look out for each other, we can avoid our own or others’ mistakes becoming disastrous. Here’s a link to the Sustrans article about the changes: https://www.sustrans.org.uk/our-blog/news/2022/january/new-changes-to-the-highway-code/