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Pedestrians have priority under Britain’s revised Highway Code

Many of us will be familiar with the memorable Spiderman line: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

This is the spirit behind the “hierarchy of responsibility,” the Highway Code revision that Great Britain plans to implement this autumn, pending parliamentary approval. Under the “hierarchy of responsibility,” road users with the greatest potential to inflict harm have the greatest responsibility to minimize the threat they pose to others as much as possible.

This puts pedestrians at the top of a new road user hierarchy, giving them priority over cars at junctions and crossings.

As interim CEO of the charity Living Streets Stephen Edwards says, “the Highway Code currently treats children walking to school and lorry drivers as if they are equally responsible for their own or other people’s safety. These changes will redress that balance.”

In addition to pedestrians, the “hierarchy of responsibility” also benefits cyclists, giving them priority over motor vehicles when moving straight through intersections.

During the pandemic, walking and cycling have increased, which benefits the health of the traveler and lowers the carbon emissions released by motorized vehicles. The Department of Transport hopes that the adjustments to the Highway Code and an extra 338-million-euro investment towards building hundreds of miles of cycle lanes will sustain this increase and encourage more people to ditch driving and opt for a more active method of getting to their destinations.

The revised code will apply in England, Wales, and Scotland, while Northern Ireland implements its own version of the code.

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