The Highway Code is introducing some major changes from Saturday (January 29).
All motorists are being urged to become familiar with the new changes, which are aimed at improving road safety for people walking, cycling and riding horses.
It follows a public consultation on a review of The Highway Code, which was carried out between July and October 2020 to look at improving road safety.
Under the new rules, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders will have priority over larger vehicles.
HGVs, buses, vans, taxis and cars are all going to be subject to a new road hierarchy that gives the highest priority to those considered most at risk.
Cyclists are also affected by some changes, which have been designed to improve their safety.
One of the changes will require cyclists to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slow-moving traffic and on the approach to junctions.
Meanwhile, motorists are being encouraged to adopt the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique of opening their car door.
It means that they should open the door next to them with the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder, meaning they’re less likely to injure passing cyclists and pedestrians.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: “I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone.
“These updates to The Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road-users know the rules of the road.”
We’ve broken down eight of the major changes that everyone should become familiar with before they’re introduced on Saturday, January 29:
Hierarchy of road users
The introduction section of The Highway Code will be updated to include three rules about the new ‘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.
It’s important that all road users:
- are aware of The Highway Code
- are considerate to other road users
- understand their responsibility for the safety of others
The three new rules are numbered H1, H2, and H3.
People crossing the road at junctions
The updated code will clarify that:
- 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
A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing but includes a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes.
Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces
There will be new guidance in the code about routes and spaces which are shared by people walking, cycling and riding horses.
People cycling, 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 them.
People cycling are asked to:
- not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind
- slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell)
- remember that people walking may be deaf, blind or partially sighted
- not pass a horse on the horse’s left
Positioning in the road when cycling
There will be updated guidance for people cycling about positioning which includes:
- riding in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings
- keeping 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
People cycling in groups
The updated code will explain that people cycling in groups:
- should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups
- can ride two abreast – and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders
People cycling are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into a single file or stopping) when it’s safe to do so.
People cycling 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 one metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened
- watch out for people walking into their path
Overtaking when driving or cycling
There will be updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds for people driving or riding a motorcycle when overtaking vulnerable road users, including:
- leaving at least 1.5 metres (five feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
- passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allowing at least two metres (6.5 feet) of space
- allowing at least two 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)
Wait behind them and do not overtake if it’s unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
People cycling passing slower-moving or stationary traffic
The updated code will confirm that people cycling may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left.
They should proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them. This is particularly important:
- on the approach to junctions
- when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles
People cycling at junctions
The code will be updated to clarify that when turning into or out of a side road, people cycling should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.
There will be new advice about new special cycle facilities at some junctions.
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.
There will also be new guidance for people cycling at junctions with no separate facilities.
The code will recommend that people cycling should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle where there are no separate cyclist facilities. This includes positioning 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
- avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous
People cycling turning right
The code will include advice for people cycling using junctions where signs and markings tell them to turn right in two 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
- Stage 2 – when the traffic lights on the far side of the junction (now facing the people cycling) turn green, complete the manoeuvre
People cycling have priority when going straight ahead at junctions
The code will clarify that when people cycling are going 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 indicate otherwise.
People cycling 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.
People cycling, riding a horse or driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts
The code will be updated to clarify that people driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts. The new guidance will say people driving and or riding a motorcycle should:
- not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane
- allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout
The code already explains that people cycling, riding a horse or 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.
Guidance will be added to explain that people driving should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across people cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.
Parking, charging and leaving vehicles
The code will recommend a new technique when leaving vehicles. It’s sometimes called the ‘Dutch Reach’.
Where people driving or passengers in a vehicle are able to do so, they should 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:
- people cycling or riding a motorcycle passing on the road
- people on the pavement
Using an electric vehicle charge point
For the first time, the code will include guidance about using electric vehicle charging points.
When using one, people should:
- park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for people walking from trailing cables
- display a warning sign if you can
- return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users