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This month, changes to the Highway Code in UK are being introduced that will affect drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. There have been concerns surrounding the public awareness of the changes and the real-world impact of the new rules, which some argue are tinged with ambiguity. So, here is a summary of the key changes to the Highway Code rules, coming into force from 29th January 2022.

Rule H1

Hierarchy of Road Users

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.

New Highway Rules Inforgraphic H1 Road Hierarchy
New Highway Rules Inforgraphic H2 Pedestrian Priority
Rule H2

Pedestrian Priority

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.

Rule H3

Cyclists Safety

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.

New Highway Rules Inforgraphic H3 Cyclists Safety
New Highway Rules Inforgraphic Cyclists Road Positioning
Cyclists

Road Positioning

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.

Safety

Turning left

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.

New Highway Rules Inforgraphic Turning Left

Overtaking other road users

The new guidance states that drivers must leave “at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph”. If travelling faster than that, additional space is recommended. In the case of overtaking horse-drawn vehicles and horse riders, the new rules state that drivers must not exceed 10mph and at least 2 metres of space should be observed. This 2-metre distance is also required when passing a pedestrian, who using the road.

The “Dutch Reach”

After years of lobbying from road safety campaigners, the door opening method, known as the “Dutch Reach” is being introduced into the latest revision of the Highway Code. Used widely across Europe, the method encourages drivers and passengers to open vehicle doors with the opposite hand to avoid injuries to passing cyclists.

Commenting on the forthcoming changes,  CameraMatics' UK Sales & Commercial Director, Elliot Goff says that “the new rules will require a shift in behaviour from all roads users, but most importantly, will promote greater awareness of the vulnerable. Vehicle safety technology has advanced and evolved significantly in recent years, which is a huge step towards improved road safety, but pairing this with improved driver behaviour will be a positive move forward.”