The Covid-19 pandemic saw a rise in the population choosing to walk and cycle. With restrictions in place during the initial lockdown period, traffic on the roads fell and people avoided public transportation, meaning cities and towns across the globe caught a glimpse of what their streets and public spaces might look like if pedestrians and cyclists were given priority. Walking and cycling is now a vital part of the fight against Covid-19. Increasing exercise is likely to increase the resilience of the population to the risk of infections.
What are the proposed changes to the Highway Code to safeguard pedestrians and cyclists?
Earlier this year the Prime Minister vowed to bring about a “golden age of cycling”, as the government hoped to reinvent the nation’s attitude to transport in the wake of the pandemic. Proposals have been put forward to amend the Highway Code in a consultation which concluded in October 2020. The main alterations to the Code being proposed include:
- Introducing a hierarchy of road users which ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm for example, HGV drivers, have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others. Priority is given in particular to children, older adults and disabled people.
- Clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements to advise that drivers and motorcyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road.
- Providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions to advise drivers to give priority to cyclists at junctions when travelling straight ahead.
- Establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists.
Road safety for pedestrians and cyclists
As more individuals are taking to walking and cycling, now more than ever, it is important to take precautions to reduce the number of accidents on our roads. One of the UK’s car insurers recently announced that the proportion of car insurance claims received for personal injury involving cyclists and pedestrians has doubled in recent months. This may well be as a result of the increase in the number of individuals who are out walking and riding bicycles. More than half of all road traffic deaths are among pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Children are also particularly vulnerable and are often the victims of serious injury.
As winter months draw in and the nation heads into a second lockdown let’s all play a part in keeping safe on our roads. For pedestrians and cyclists here are a few tips to stay safe:
- If possible, cross the road at a pedestrian crossing or traffic lights. Do not assume that a driver has seen you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to ensure that they have seen you before you cross.
- Many people use mobile devices when they are walking, keep the volume down, remain alert and try to avoid distracting phone conversations while running or walking.
- Children are particularly vulnerable. Remind your children to stop, look and listen. Provide children with bright coloured clothing or back packs so that they can be easily seen.
- Wear a helmet which conforms to regulations.
- Try to give other road users an indication of what you are going to do before manoeuvring and use designated cycle paths wherever possible.
- Wear bright colours during the day and reflective clothing at night. Stay on well light paths at night if possible.
Serious injury claims for pedestrians and cyclists
Even if the changes to the Highway Code are approved, pedestrians and cyclists are not afforded the same protection as drivers if an accident happens, so there is a higher chance of sustaining injury. If injury is serious and results in loss of earnings or the cost of medical treatment and other related losses, then it is important to seek professional help in recovering those losses, particularly if rehabilitation and future treatment is required. As solicitors who specialise in serious injury claims, we know how road traffic accidents can have a catastrophic effect on individuals, their families and the community. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a road traffic accident where you were the pedestrian or cyclist, our expert team of personal injury solicitors are here to help.