Cycling prioritised in new Highway Code as government looks to start 'golden age' for two wheels

Cycling and walking have been pushed forward as the main focus in the new code

Cycling and walking have become even more popular over the lockdown
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Cycling and walking have been given priority in the UK government's new Highway Code, as part of Boris Johnson's 'golden age of cycling'.

The UK government has announced that pedestrians and cyclists will be given priority at junctions over traffic with cyclists being allowed right of way when travelling straight ahead at a junction.

The new changes sets a "hierarchy of road users" and will put more responsibility on transport that can be more dangerous.

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Ministers also announced £338 million has been committed to up active travel, which boomed during the pandemic, with the focus being on cycling and walking according to the Department of Transport (DfT).

The main reason behind this is a new focus on helping the environment by easing congestion, as well as keeping people fit, which Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is keen to make easier and safer for all.

Shapps said: "Millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit, ease congestion on the roads and do your bit for the environment. As we build back greener from the pandemic, we’re determined to keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone.

"This £338 million package marks the start of what promises to be a great summer of cycling and walking, enabling more people to make those sustainable travel choices that make our air cleaner and cities greener."

The DfT also said: "Road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others."

These changes are due to be put in place in autumn and will affect all of Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland which has its own Highway Code.

Ineos Grenadiers team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has welcomed the changes: "Cycling has had a real boost during the pandemic as people of all ages have recognised its many benefits and it is a real positive that the government are making cycling such a transport priority for the future. 

"Getting on your bike is great for your health and it’s also great for the environment so there has never been a better time to get pedalling."

In the new code, there will be new guidance on what the safe distances and speeds are for passing by cyclists, strengthened pedestrian priority for pedestrians crossing the road, and increased responsibility for drivers based on the danger their vehicles may pose to others. 

The funding is set to pay for what the DfT describes as hundreds of miles of high-quality cycle lanes and improvements to the National Cycle Network. This has come about as the DfT says that miles cycled in Britain went up by 45.7 per cent to a dizzying five billion miles- more than all the last 20 years put together.

The government is also aiming to make e-bikes more accessible. 

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Tim Bonville-Ginn

Hi, I'm one of Cycling Weekly's content writers for the web team responsible for writing stories on racing, tech, updating evergreen pages as well as the weekly email newsletter. Proud Yorkshireman from the UK's answer to Flanders, Calderdale, go check out the cobbled climbs!

I started watching cycling back in 2010, before all the hype around London 2012 and Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France. In fact, it was Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck's battle in the fog up the Tourmalet on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

It took me a few more years to get into the journalism side of things, but I had a good idea I wanted to get into cycling journalism by the end of year nine at school and started doing voluntary work soon after. This got me a chance to go to the London Six Days, Tour de Yorkshire and the Tour of Britain to name a few before eventually joining Eurosport's online team while I was at uni, where I studied journalism. Eurosport gave me the opportunity to work at the world championships in Harrogate back in the awful weather.

After various bar jobs, I managed to get my way into Cycling Weekly in late February of 2020 where I mostly write about racing and everything around that as it's what I specialise in but don't be surprised to see my name on other news stories.

When not writing stories for the site, I don't really switch off my cycling side as I watch every race that is televised as well as being a rider myself and a regular user of the game Pro Cycling Manager. Maybe too regular.

My bike is a well used Specialized Tarmac SL4 when out on my local roads back in West Yorkshire as well as in northern Hampshire with the hills and mountains being my preferred terrain.