Cheshire East Council has welcomed major changes to the Highway Code which came into force on 29th January.
Councillor Craig Browne, chair of Cheshire East Council's highways and transport committee, said: "The changes are long overdue and warmly welcomed. We are seeing record numbers of people taking up cycling and the Highway Code needs to keep pace with how people are using the roads.
"This council is working hard to encourage more people to take up more active ways of travelling. These changes to the Highway Code aim to improve safety for people walking, cycling and horse riding and make active travel an attractive alternative to using a car.
"I would encourage all road users to familiarise themselves with the changes and show consideration for our more vulnerable road users. If you disobey the rules and drive recklessly, it is not only unsafe for yourself and other road users – you could be committing an offence that could lead to prison or a very hefty fine."
The key changes to the Highway Code include:
● A new hierarchy of road users – This will follow a principle where the larger the vehicle, the greater responsibility the driver will have to protect those more vulnerable on the road. This will apply to all road users from HGVs through to cyclists and horse riders to reduce the danger to pedestrians;
● Cyclist road position – Cyclists are now advised to ride in the centre of their lane to increase visibility on quiet roads, in slow moving traffic or on the approach to junctions;
● Priority for pedestrians at junction – Currently a driver should give way to a pedestrian already on a crossing or who has stepped off the kerb at a junction. The new changes will mean that a driver, motorcyclist, cyclist or horse rider should now give way to a pedestrian who is waiting to cross a road into which, or from which, you are turning;
● Priority for cyclists when cars are turning – Drivers should not turn at a junction if it causes the vulnerable road user going straight ahead to stop or swerve. This applies whether the driver is turning on or out of a junction or changing direction and lane.
Other important changes include:
● A requirement to leave a minimum gap of at least 1.5m when overtaking a cyclist at speeds of under 30mph. This increases to 2m when travelling at speeds over 30mph;
● A requirement to leave a minimum gap of at least 2m when overtaking a horse rider at no more than 10mph;
● Allow 2m distance when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road; and
● Wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse-drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
Council leader Councillor Sam Corcoran, who is a keen cyclist, said: "I really welcome these changes to the highway code. For too long, cyclists have been made to feel vulnerable and almost apologetic for being on the road due to the attitudes and driving practices of all too many motorists.
"That should now change with the placing of road users most at risk from a collision – such as cyclists and pedestrians – at the top of the priority hierarchy. If we can encourage more people to use bikes or walk for recreation, exercise and short journeys, that is not only good for our health but also the health of our environment – helping tackle the climate emergency and protecting air quality across our towns and villages."
Councillor Suzie Akers-Smith, the council's cycling and walking champion, said: "Regrettably, some drivers have previously shown little or no consideration for pedestrians and cyclists. Now, the new hierarchy, which prioritises more vulnerable road users, will give them more protection and confidence to go out walking or out on their bikes.
"Changing attitudes and travel habits will take time but these changes to the Highway Code will support this council's firm commitment to encourage people to take up more-active travel and play their part in tackling climate change and improving air quality."