The focus of the changes is the introduction of The Hierarchy of Road Users in UK, aimed at protecting the vulnerable and those most at risk on the roads. It may seem obvious, but by highlighting this guidance, it is hoped that there will be more awareness of other road users. At the top of the hierarchy, sit the pedestrians – highly vulnerable, when faced with road vehicles. They are followed by cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists, passenger and car drivers before reaching HGV drivers at the bottom of the hierarchy. The new rules stress that lorry drivers are least vulnerable and have the ability to cause most harm in an incident. Therefore, they have the greatest responsibility towards other road users.
The 2022 changes to the Highway Code in UK mandates that drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, horse-drawn vehicles, and horse riders must now give way to pedestrians who are waiting at a crossing or have started to cross a road at a junction into which they are turning. The existing rules gave cyclists and vehicles priority at junctions, so this is a fundamental change to the rules affecting everyone.
Improved cycle safety is a key part of the new Highway Code rules, and the hierarchy restructure. The changes state that drivers must not cut across cyclists that are going straight ahead, when turning their vehicle into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This rule applies regardless of whether the cyclists are using the cycle track, cycle lane or on the road. In addition to this, under Rule 186, the updated guidelines mean that drivers must also give priority to cyclists at roundabouts. The guidance states that drivers should “give them plenty of room and do not attempt to overtake them within their lane. Allow them to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout.” This shift in attitude towards cyclists and the required change in behaviour by drivers is a major step forward in protecting cyclists and recognising them as important road users.
In the old Highway Code rules, there was no mention of cyclist Road positioning. It was left to cyclists to make a judgement. The 2022 rules state that cyclists may now cycle in the centre of the lane to make themselves more visible to other road users. There are exceptions to this rule. If a cyclist is on a quiet road and a vehicle approaches faster than the speed they are travelling, if they’re in slow moving traffic that speeds up or if a cyclist is in a junction where it will be unsafe for drivers to overtake, they are required to move to the left of the lane.
One of the challenges faced by road vehicles is the visibility of cyclists when turning left. Rule 74 of the new Highway Code advises cyclists to avoid riding on the inside of vehicles, which are slowing down or indicating to turn left. The introduction of visibility aids and warning systems has helped drivers with this in recent years, but the guidance given to cyclists in this rule change will undoubtedly be welcomed by drivers.