NEW rules to protect 'vulnerable road users' have been welcomed by campaigners at an independent travel group.

The major changes to the Highway Code, aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians come into force this week.

It is due to become updated on January 29 pending parliamentary approval to introduce a risk-based hierarchy of road users.

Someone driving will have more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse, and cyclists will have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians.

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Other key amendments include clearer guidance for drivers to leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and instructing drivers turning into a road to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross.

There will also be a recommendation for car users to reduce the risk of opening a door into the path of a cyclist by using the hand on the opposite side to the door, as that will often lead to them looking over their shoulder.

Specifically, the three new rules aiming 'to improve road safety for vulnerable road users' include:

  • Rule H1 will ensure that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.
  • Rule H2 will create clearer and stronger priorities for pedestrians, particularly at junctions, and clarify where pedestrians have right of way.
  • Rule H3 will place a requirement on drivers to give priority to cyclists when they are turning into or out of a junction, or changing direction or lane.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: "You should not cut across cyclists going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle.

"This applies whether cyclists are using a cycle lane, a cycle track, or riding ahead on the road and you should give way to them.

"Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve, just as you would do with a motor vehicle.

"You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary. This includes when cyclists are: approaching, passing or moving off from a junction, moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic or travelling around a roundabout.”

Speaking about the new rules, a spokesperson for BH Active Travel said: "These new rules are great and follow along with the new hierarchy or responsibility also to be introduced - giving weight to the mode of transport based on the danger it poses.

"These new regulations, even with the wording being a little ‘light’ - not having the same emphasis as other things like stop signs, which say 'you must/must not' - stand to minimise one of the most common severe collisions between cars and bikes, especially if it being taught to new drivers.

"Of course all this is also dependent on the new infrastructure change, but should make the roads more balanced for all. Changes are afoot."