Recently we’ve seen a lot of stories shared online about new changes to The Highway Code. The majority of the changes seem like common sense that most road users will already abide by but, it’s always good to make sure you are up to date with the latest changes.
These changes will come into effect from Saturday the 29th of January so let’s take a look at what to expect.
The Hierarchy of Road Users
The hierarchy has had a shakeup and now road users are ranked by how at risk they are in the event of a collision, with the most at risk placed at the top. With this being said, this doesn’t dissolve any road users of the need to drive/ride responsibly.
All road users should be:
- Aware of these rules and any changes to the rules
- Considerate to everyone else on the road
- Have an understanding of their responsibility for other road users’ safety.
People Crossing the Road at Junctions
The updated code clarifies that:
- If people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way
- People driving, cycling or riding a motorbike must give way to people already on a zebra crossing and people cycling or walking on a parallel crossing*
- If someone is crossing the road and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way
* A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing but has a cycle route alongside the stripes
Walking, Riding or Cycling in Shared Spaces
Guidance for routes that are shared between people walking, riding horses or cycling has also been updated.
Cyclists, horse riders or those driving a horse-drawn vehicle should be conscious of the safety of people walking, as well as the walkers taking care not to obstruct their path or endanger them.
Cyclists are asked to:
- Not pass horse riders, horse-drawn vehicles or walkers closely or at high speed, especially when coming from behind
- Not pass a horse on the left-hand side
- Remember that people walking may be blind, deaf or partially sighted
- Slow down when necessary and make your presence known eg. Ringing your bell
A Cyclist’s Position in The Road
The Highway Code guidance will be updated to make riding on the road safer for cyclists this includes:
- Staying at least 50cm (just above 1.5 feet) away from the kerb (and further when it is safer to do so) when riding on busy high-speed roads where vehicles are moving faster than them
- Riding in the centre of the lane on a quiet road with slower-moving traffic
- Riding in the centre of the lane when approaching junctions or when the road begins to narrow
People cycling in groups
More changes apply for cyclists when riding in groups:
- Riders can ride side by side. In most cases, it is safer to do this, especially when riding with less experienced cyclists or children
- Cyclists should be considerate of other road users when riding in this format
- Cyclists are requested to be aware of traffic behind them that may want to pass and cyclists should take action to allow this to happen safely when it is safe for them to do so eg. Move into a single file format or stop.
Cycling past parked vehicles
The new updates explain that cyclists should:
- Take care when passing parked vehicles and leave enough room (at least 1 metre or a car doors width) to prevent being hit by opening doors
- Watch out for pedestrians walking into their way
Overtaking when driving or cycling
There will be updates on how to keep a safe distance and speed for people driving or riding a motorbike when overtaking more vulnerable road users including:
- Leave at least 1.5 metres (approx. 5 feet) when overtaking cyclists going at speeds up to 30mph, and provide them with more space when overtaking at higher speeds
- When passing horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles, keep to a speed below 10mph and keep at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space
- Allow at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and stay at a low speed when passing pedestrians walking in the road for example, when there is no pavement
- Wait behind other roads users and do not overtake if it’s unsafe or not possible to meet these guidelines
Cyclists Passing Slower Moving or Stationary Traffic
The new updates allow cyclists to pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left. However, they must proceed with caution as drivers may not see them. This is even more important when:
- Approaching junctions
- When deciding if it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles
Cyclists at Junctions
There will be new guidance regarding cyclists at junctions. This is to clarify that when cyclists are turning into or out of a side road, they should give way to people walking who are already crossing or waiting to cross the road.
Some junctions include small eye-level traffic lights which allow cyclists to move separately from the rest of the traffic.
New guidance for cyclists at junctions without separate facilities states that cyclists should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle. This includes positioning themselves in the centre of the lane when it is safe to do so. This is so they are clearly visible to other road users and so they can avoid being overtaken in a dangerous spot
Cyclists Turning Right
New advice has been provided for cyclists using junctions where signs and markings tell them to turn right in 2 stages. These include:
Stage 1 – when the traffic lights turn green, move to the location marked with a turn arrow and cycle symbol on the road 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.
Cyclists Have Priority When Going Straight Ahead at Junctions
When cyclists are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over any traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings state otherwise.
Cyclists are advised to watch out for drivers intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.
Cyclists, Horse Riders and Those Driving Horse-Drawn Vehicles on Roundabouts
The Highway Code will be updated to clarify that people driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to cyclists on roundabouts. Drivers and motorbike riders should:
- Not attempt to overtake people cycling in that person’s lane
- Allow cyclists to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout
The current code already explains that people cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles 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 elaborate that people driving should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across cyclists, horse riders or those driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.
Parking, Charging and Leaving Vehicles
A new technique has been recommended by the Highway Code which is called the ‘Dutch Reach’. When drivers or passengers in a vehicle are able to do so, they should open the vehicle doors using their hand on the opposite side of the door. This means the body must twist around allowing them to look over their shoulder to check for oncoming traffic. This means they are less likely to cause injury to:
- Cyclists or motorbike riders
- People on the pavement
Using An Electric Vehicle Charge Point
For the first time ever, the Highway Code will now include guidance on electric vehicle charging points. When using an electric car charger, people should:
- Park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard from trailing or lose cables
- Display a warning sign if possible
- Return all cables and connectors neatly to reduce the risk to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users
You can see more details on the changes and what to expect here on the official government website.