Changes to the Highway Code you need to know about

The Highway Code has changed to improve the safety of people walking, cycling and riding horses. The changes were implemented on 29 January 2022 following a public consultation which ran from July to October 2020. Most responses were in favour of the changes. Set out below are some of the key changes you need to be aware of.

1. Hierarchy of road users

Three new rules regarding the new ‘hierarchy of road users’ have been added to the introduction section of the Highway Code. At the top of the hierarchy are road users who are deemed most at risk in the event of a collision. The three new rules are headed H1H2, and H3. All road users should be aware of the Highway Code, considerate to other road users, and understand their responsibility for the safety of other road users.

2. Pedestrians crossing the road at junctions

The updated code explains:

  • Traffic should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross at a junction.
  • If there are pedestrians already crossing a road and traffic intends on turning into the road, the pedestrians crossing have priority and the traffic should give way.
  • Drivers, motorcyclist riders or cyclist must give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing and pedestrians walking and cycling on a parallel crossing (a parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing but also had a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes.)

3. Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

Cyclists, horse-riders or those driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in shared spaces, however people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.

Cyclists are asked to:

  • not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, especially from behind.
  • slow down when needed and allow people walking to know they are there (e.g. by ringing their bell).
  • remember that people walking could be deaf, blind or partially sighted.
  • not pass a horse on the horse’s left.

4. Road positioning of cyclists

Cyclists are advised to ride in the centre of their lane on quiet road, when traffic is slow and at the opening to junctions or narrowing roads. Cyclists are also advised to remain at least 0.5 metres away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when cycling on busy roads with vehicles travelling faster than them.

Those cycling in groups are advised to consider the needs of other road users and cycle 2 abreast (as it can be safer to do so). They are also asked to be conscious of vehicles travelling behind them and let them overtake when it is safe to do so. Cyclists passing parked vehicles are advised to leave enough room to prevent being hit by car doors being opened and be aware of people walking into their path.

5. Overtaking when driving or cycling

There is updated guidance on speeds and safe passing distances for drivers and motorcyclists to consider when overtaking vulnerable road users, such as:

  • Keeping at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking cyclists travelling at speeds up to 30mph and allowing them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.
  • Keeping at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space when overtaking people riding horses and driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10mph.
  • Keeping at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and travelling at a low speed when passing people walking in the road.

If the above clearances cannot be met drivers and motorcyclists are advised to not overtake and wait behind them. Cyclists passing slower-moving or stationary traffic are advised to proceed with caution as drivers may not be able to see them.

6. People cycling at junctions

The updated code refers to new special cycle facilities at some junctions which allow cyclists to travel separately from or before other traffic. There is also new guidance on cyclists at junctions where there are no special cycle facilities, and advice for cyclists using junctions where signs and markings direct them to turn right in 2 stages.

The updated code clarifies that when cyclists are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over other road users waiting to turn in or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings suggest otherwise.

7. People cycling, riding a horse and riving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

The updated code clarifies that drivers and motorcyclists should give priority to people cycling on roundabout. Guidance has been added which outlines that drivers should be extra careful when entering a roundabout to ensure they do not cut across cyclist, horse-riders or those driving horse-drawn vehicles who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.

8. Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

The updated code suggests a new technique to open doors when leaving vehicles, the ‘Dutch reach’. This is where a driver/passenger opens a car door using their hand on the opposite side of the door they are opening. This causes the passenger/driver to turn their head over their shoulder behind them, meaning they are less likely to cause injury to other road users.

The updated code also mentions electric vehicle charging points. When using such charging points people are advised to:

  • Park near the charge point to prevent creating a trip hazard
  • Display a warning sign (if possible)

When charging has finished, to place charging cables and connectors back as they should be (i.e. in a tidy manner) to prevent creating an obstacle for others and thus limit any danger to others.

Click here to view a summary of all the changes to The Highway Code.