A major reform of the Highway Code to increase the protection of cyclists and pedestrians comes into force today (Saturday) amid concerns that millions of drivers are unaware of the changes.
The new guidance means traffic must yield when pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross at crosswalks.
Bicyclists are advised to ride in the center of lanes on quieter roads, with slow traffic, and when approaching intersections, to make themselves as visible as possible.
A hierarchy of road users is also being introduced, meaning that someone driving will have more responsibility for looking out for people on bicycles, on foot or on horseback, and cyclists will have more responsibility for looking out for pedestrians.
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The Highway Code contains advice and rules for people on Britain’s roads. Nine sections have been updated, with 50 rules added or changed. The changes are advisory in nature, so failure to comply will not result in a fine.
AA President Edmund King raised concerns about the potential impact of the yield guide for pedestrians at crossings.
He suggested drivers are likely to be “hit by another vehicle from behind” if they stop on dual carriageways or fast-flowing A-ways to let someone cross.
He also warned that pedestrians could be in danger if one vehicle yields but another traveling in the opposite direction fails to stop.
“Drivers will have to make their own judgments about what to do in the scenarios they find themselves in,” King told the PA news agency.
“However, if the judgments of the driver and pedestrian are at odds on a busy road, this could lead to problems.”
An AA survey of more than 13,700 drivers earlier this month found that 33 percent were unaware of the changes, including four percent who had “no intention” of seeing the details.
The RAC’s chief of road policy, Nicholas Lyes, warned that “substantial” changes carry the risk of causing “furious clashes and, worse, unnecessary collisions” unless all road users are made aware of them.
He added: “No one wants to be on the right side of the Highway Code changes but rather be in the back of an ambulance due to confusion on the part of a driver or any other road user.”
The road safety branch of the Department of Transport will launch a communication campaign Think! in mid-February, with more activity later in the summer.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere said this week that the updated Highway Code will make Britain’s roads safer and encourage people to “respect and consider the needs of those around them”.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the new instructions for road users “will help us make London the best city in the world for walking and cycling”.
Charity Cycling UK said the changes must be “communicated with simple, precise and memorable messages”.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.