2nd February 2022

Road Space for all – Highway code changes come into force


We all need to reduce our carbon footprint. With transport accounting for a quarter of total emissions, choosing to walk or cycle local journeys is one of the very tangible ways we can contribute. .So surely changing the highway code in favour of increased priority for active travel can only be a positive step forward?

This week sees changes to the highway code come into force. The aim of these changes is to formalise a hierarchy of road users that puts greater responsibility for ensuring the safety of all road users on those who can do the most damage.

The onus is now on drivers to act in a way that can protect pedestrians and cyclists more, especially in urban areas.

As designers of transport infrastructure, engineers have a responsibility to design safe and suitable facilities for all road users. Recent publications of Manual for Streets, Gear Change and LTN 1/20, provide a good framework for street design to address user priority. It is however unrealistic to assume that our infrastructure design alone can change behaviour overnight: hearts and minds need to be won over.

We have seen the design of our road infrastructure in urban areas slowly changing to provide improved continuous routes for active travel users. However, there is still so much work to be done to change the mindset of all road users so they understand that improving priority for vulnerable road users will actually assist in encouraging more people to step out of their cars and use more environmentally friendly modes of travel.

We will continue to challenge infrastructure design to better support active travel users, but if we can all be more considerate of other road users, our next generation will certainly have a greater understanding of the basis of the highway code and therefore be more willing to travel in a healthier, more environmentally friendly way.

At Civic Engineers, we welcome the highway code changes as another small step towards changing the mindset of all road users so that our streets become safer places and spaces for everyone.

So, what are the main changes?

  • Pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders have priority at junctions: if you’re in a car turning into or out of a junction and a pedestrian is waiting to cross, you must wait for them
  • Drivers changing lane or turning should not cut across any cyclist or horse rider going straight ahead – this applies even when cyclists are in cycle lanes or tracks
  • Drivers must let pedestrians cross if they’re waiting at a zebra crossing (and cyclists at a parallel crossing). Previously pedestrians and cyclists only had right of way if they were already on the crossing
  • Drivers have a responsibility to overtake cyclists within safe clearance (at least 1.5m for speed < 30mph and 2m for speeds >30mph (pedestrians and horses should be given at least 2m clearance, passed at a maximum of 15mph)
  • Drivers are responsible for minimising the danger of pedestrians tripping over electric car charging cables
  • Parking with two wheels on the kerb is illegal (unless signage allows). This is to improve access for disabled pedestrians and those pushing buggies


Road Space for all – Highway code changes come into force