New Highway Code rules for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians explained

Revised rulebook creates hierarchy with people on foot or bicycle at top

Liam James
Tuesday 01 February 2022 17:10 GMT
New Highway Code rules change who has priority at roundabouts

A major overhaul of the Highway Code has come into force, with new rules to better protect cyclists and pedestrians on the road.

The changes took effect on Saturday and followed a public consultation on the code that heard more than 20,000 responses from the public, businesses and other organisations.

The government said most respondents supported all of the changes and the rules have been praised by cycling and road safety charities.

The new code was devised after a huge rise in cyclist deaths during lockdown.

Although the changes came in on Saturday, a publicity campaign by Think! – the Department for Transport's road safety communications agency – will not begin until 14 February.

Motoring organisations found that many drivers were not aware of the changes. The RAC said there would be a risk of unnecessary collisions if drivers did not know some of the new rules giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists.

Here The Independent takes a look at all the major changes:

The road user hierarchy

A “hierarchy of road users” has been established on the principle that those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility to avoid it. Those most at risk are at the top of the hierarchy. It goes:

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

Give way to pedestrians at junctions

When people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, traffic should give way. If someone has begun crossing and a driver wants to turn into the road, they must wait for the pedestrian.

Cyclists take centre of lanes at times

Cyclists should make themselves as visible as possible by riding in the centre of lanes on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions. They should also keep at least 0.5m from the kerb side on busy roads and should leave 1m when passing a parked car.

Rules for cycling in groups have also been updated to explain that cyclists can ride two abreast.

Cars overtaking cyclists

Drivers travelling at speeds of up to 30mph should leave at least 1.5m, or 5ft, when overtaking cyclists. They should leave more space at higher speeds.

When cyclists 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.

Drivers should take extra care when entering roundabouts to make sure they do not cut across cyclists.

When passing horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles they should leave 2m. And when passing pedestrians they should keep to a low speed and leave 2m.

Open car doors with Dutch Reach

People exiting a car should open doors using their hand on the opposite side to the door, making them turn their head to look over their shoulder. This technique, known as the Dutch Reach, reduces the chances of doors being opened into the path of cyclists and motorcyclists.

Cyclists passing slow-moving traffic

Cyclists may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on the outside or inbetween lanes. They should proceed with caution and bear in mind that drivers may not be able to see them. Particular care should be paid when approaching junctions and when passing lorries and large vehicles.

Walking, cycling or riding in shared spaces

On designated paths and other shared spaces, cyclists should take great care when overtaking people walking or riding a horse. They should not overtake closely or at high speed. Pedestrians should take care not to obstruct paths.

Electric vehicle charging

Electric car owners using a public chargepoint should park near the device and avoid creating a trip hazard from trailing cables. They should return cable and connectors neatly for the same reason.

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