Long-term Highway Code awareness campaign needed for “mindset shift”

After more than a decade of campaigning for changes to the Highway Code, Cycling UK welcomes the latest update but urges government to commit to a long-term awareness campaign

The updated Highway Code introduced at midnight tonight (Friday, 28 Jan) could create a “mindset shift” that will make the roads safer for everyone, says charity Cycling UK.

The charity warns this will only be possible if the changes are communicated by government as part of a long-term awareness campaign. To help ensure the messaging is clear, Cycling UK has created a suite of online assets including graphics, videos and cartoons, which is free for the public to download and share.

Chief among the updates to the Highway Code is a new “Hierarchy of Road Users”. This means those who present the most risk on Britain’s roads have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk they present to other road users, particularly the most vulnerable.

This means when driving, people have a greater responsibility to watch out for pedestrians, horse-riders and cyclists. The same applies for cyclists, who have a greater responsibility to look out for people walking.

Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, welcomes the changes and said:

“The latest changes to the Highway Code are a hugely important start towards a mindset shift that will make the roads safer for everyone – not just for people who choose to cycle or walk.”

An AA survey of more than 13,700 drivers carried out in January showed 33% were unaware of the changes, including 4% who had “no intention” of looking at the details.

“The changes in our driving behaviour however will only happen if government commits to communicating them with simple, accurate and memorable messaging in the long term,” said Mr Dollimore.

Currently government has committed £500,000 towards promoting awareness of the Highway Code changes in two phases beginning in mid-February and concluding in early summer. Cycling UK welcomes this initial move but urges government to look beyond summer and commit to a long-term awareness campaign.

Mr Dollimore continued, “We’ve seen the public’s attitude shift on seat belt use and drink driving. This shows entrenched driving behaviour can change. The new Highway Code requires a similar shift, and it can happen again but not overnight.

“To make our roads safer for everyone, government must be looking in terms of years, not months, to communicate and eventually enforce these changes.”

Other changes in the Highway Code include guidance on safer overtaking of people cycling or horse riding and a simplification of the code stating now that traffic should give way to pedestrians waiting or crossing a side road.

People exiting their vehicles into oncoming traffic are also advised to use the Dutch Reach – a simple method of opening a car door which will prevent collisions with people cycling or driving by.

Cycling UK has prepared freely available shareable online assets to help combat any potential confusion among road users about the changes.

Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the UK’s cycling charity, imagines a world where the streets are free of congestion and the air is clean to breathe, where parents encourage their children to cycle to school and everyone shares the exhilaration of being in the saddle. For more than 140 years, we’ve been making our streets safer, opening up new traffic free routes and inspiring more people to cycle more often. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. Cycling UK’s online toolkit for communicating the changes to the Highway Code are available at: https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/communicating-highway-code-changes
  3. For more information on Cycling UK’s Highway Code campaign, visit: www.cyclinguk.org/highwaycode
  4. Cycling UK has campaigned for more than a decade to secure 10 key changes in the Highway Code, a breakdown is available at: https://www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/document/2020/07/highway_code_10_key_changes.pdf

Press contact information

For more information, please contact the national Cycling UK press office. Due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, currently the main press office number (01483 238 315) is not being monitored. If you would like to speak to a member of the press office during working hours (0900 - 1700) please email publicity@cyclinguk.org or call 07786 320 713.

Your support matters

After years of campaigning by Cycling UK, new Highway Code rules for England, Scotland and Wales are being introduced on 29 January 2022.

We've been closely involved in developing the changes, which should make our roads significantly safer for people cycling and walking, provided these are properly communicated and backed up with visible road traffic enforcement by the police.

Please support our ongoing work as a charity to make the UK a better place for cycling and join today.

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