Changes to the Highway Code

You might have already seen the news that there are some important changes to the Highway Code being introduced this January that all road users, including pedestrians, should be aware of. Our blog breaks down what’s changing, and how it might affect the way you use the roads. Read on to find out more!

The principal change to the legislation is the introduction of a ‘hierarchy of road users’, this essentially aims to protect more vulnerable road users, prioritising the safety of pedestrians, followed by cyclists and horse riders. With the most responsibility placed on HGV, LGV, car and motorcycle drivers.

The updated Code includes clarity on prioritising pedestrians at junctions. At a junction drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road. people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing.

For drivers and motorcyclists there is some updated guidance on passing distances and speeds when overtaking vulnerable road users. Drivers should never undertake and shouldn’t overtake until it is safe to do so. The rules for passing vulnerable road users are now:

  • Cyclists: leave at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and leave more space at increased speeds
  • Equestrians: when passing horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles drivers should slow to under 10mph and allow at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space
  • Pedestrians: when there are people walking in the road, for example in country roads with no pavements, allow at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keeping to a low speed when passing

New rules for cyclists also come into force in order to help keep them safe on the roads. This includes recommending riding in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or when the road becomes narrow, and keeping at least 0.5 metres (just over 1.5 feet) away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when riding on busy roads. The updated guidance also explains that groups of cyclists can cycle two abreast which can be safer, especially when accompanying children or less experienced riders; but that cyclists should be aware and considerate of other road users, for example pulling over to allow drivers to overtake.

Another change is that drivers will be encouraged to use the ‘Dutch reach’ when opening car doors. This means that when exiting a car you should open the door with the opposite hand whilst looking over their shoulder. This aims to minimise the change of opening your car door when a vehicle or cyclist is passing, it’s a practice used widely across Europe hence the name!

These changes aim to make the roads a little safer for vulnerable road users, however everyone on the roads has a duty to act in a safe and responsible way to keep each other safe. It’s important to stay up to date with changes to the Highway Code. The Code is updated regularly and many of the rules in it are enforceable by law. Although it’s handy to have one, you don’t need to buy the book, the full Highway Code can be found online here.​

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