Alistair McCulloch | Personal Injury Team Manager

8 Changes to the Highway Code

Following a public consultation which ran from 30 June to 30 October 2020, new changes have been implemented to the Highway Code to provide more safety to vulnerable road users including cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians. These new changes came in to effect on 29 January 2022.

This article will discuss in turn 8 of the main changes to the Highway Code you need to know about.

New Rule 1: The hierarchy of road users

The hierarchy places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. It does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly. The revised hierarchy of road users is as follows:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/taxis
  6. Vans/minibuses
  7. Larger passenger vehicles/HGVs 

New Rule 2: People crossing the road at junctions

The rules have now also been changed in respect of who has priority at junctions. The rules now say:

  • when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way
  • if people have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way
  • people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing

New Rule 3: Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

New guidance has been introduced in the revised code regarding routes and spaces which are shared by people walking, cycling and those who are riding horses.

Cyclists, those who are riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in these spaces, but people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger themselves and other road users.

Cyclists are now being asked to:

  • not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind; and
  • slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell); and
  • remember that people walking may be deaf, blind or partially sighted; and
  • not pass a horse on the horse’s left-hand side.

New Rule 4: Positioning on the road when cycling

The guidance has been updated on how cyclists should position themselves on the road. The new guidance states that cyclists should:

  • ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings; and
  • keep at least 0.5 metres (just over 1.5 feet) away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when riding on busy roads with vehicles moving faster than them.

Groups of cyclists

The updated code states that people cycling in groups:

  • should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups; and
  • can ride 2 abreast – and it can be safer to do so, particularly when cycling in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders.

Also, cyclists are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) only when it’s safe to do so.

Cyclists passing parked vehicles

The updated code will explain that people cycling should:

  • take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room (a door’s width or 1 metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened
  • watch out for people walking into their path

New Rule 5: Overtaking other road users when driving or cycling

The rules say you may cross a double-white line if necessary (provided the road is clear) to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse if they are travelling at 10 mph or less (Rule 129).

The updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds for people driving or riding a motorcycle when overtaking vulnerable road users includes:

  • leaving at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds; and
  • passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space; and
  • allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keeping to a low speed when passing people walking in the road (for example, where there’s no pavement); and
  • Wait behind them and do not overtake if it’s unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.

Cyclists passing slower-moving or stationary traffic

The updated code confirms that people cycling may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left.

Cyclists should proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them. This is particularly important when:

  • they are on the approach to junctions; and
  • when they are deciding whether it is safe to pass large vehicles e.g. lorries.

New Rule 6: Cyclists at junctions

The code has been revised to clarify that when turning into or out of a side road, cyclists should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross a road.

Furthermore, some junctions now include small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height, which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic. People cycling are encouraged to use these facilities where they make their journey safer and easier.

The guidance has also been updated for cyclists at junctions with no separate facilities.

The new guidance recommends that cyclists should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle where there are no separate cyclist facilities. This also states they must position themselves in the centre of their chosen lane, where they feel able to do this safely. This is to:

  • make them as visible as possible; and
  • avoid being overtaken where this could potentially be dangerous.

Guidance for cyclists when turning right

The code will include advice for cyclists using junctions where signs and markings tell them to turn right in 2 stages. These are:

  • Stage 1 – when the traffic lights turn green, go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol and turn arrow on the road, and then stop and wait; and
  • Stage 2 – when the traffic lights on the far side of the junction (now facing the people cycling) turn green, complete the manoeuvre.

Cyclists now have priority when going straight ahead at junctions

The new rules say that when cyclists are proceeding straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings direct otherwise.

Furthermore, cyclists are asked to watch out for people driving intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.

New Rule 7: People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

The code has now been updated to clarify that those driving a motor vehicle or riding a motorcycle should give priority to cyclists on roundabouts. The new guidance states people driving and or riding a motorcycle should:

  • not attempt to overtake cyclists within that person’s lane; and
  • allow cyclists to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout.

The code already explains that cyclists, those riding a horse and also those driving a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.

New Rule 8: Parking, charging and leaving vehicles 

The code has now introduced  a new technique when leaving vehicles. It’s sometimes referred to as a ‘Dutch Reach’.

Furthermore, where people driving or passengers in a vehicle are able to do so, it is recommended they open the door using their hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. For example, using their left-hand to open a door on their right-hand side.

This will make them turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them. They’re then less likely to cause injury to:

  • cyclists or people riding a motorcycle passing them on the road; and
  • people walking on the pavement

Using an electric vehicle charge point 

With more and more electric vehicles appearing on the road, it is only natural the rules would be updated to include guidance on these vehicles. The new Highway Code has now been updated to include guidance on using electric vehicle charging points.

When using electrical charging points, users should:

  • park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for people walking from trailing cables; and
  • display a warning sign if you can; and
  • return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users.

The aims of these new rules are to provide more safety to vulnerable road users including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Therefore, it is extremely important all road users read and understand the new guidance.

  • You can read The Highway Code for free now on GOV.UK now

What do you think of these new rules? Do you think these pose as a safety risk to road users or do you think these rules will provide vulnerable road users with more confidence when they are on the roads?

Alistair McCulloch

Alistair McCulloch

Personal Injury Team

"My main motivation at work is helping people who find themselves in an unfortunate position having been involved in an accident. There is a satisfaction in guiding our client’s through the claim process from start to finish and negotiating compensation on their behalf."

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