The new rules for the Highway Code

All drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to be aware that the Highway Code is changing this weekend, with eight new rules being introduced as well as 49 revisions to existing rules.

28 January 2022 - Catherine Britton

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to be aware that The Highway Code is set to change at the end of January, with eight new rules being introduced as well as 49 revisions to existing rules.

Among the changes is a new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ that prioritises vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians, over larger motorised vehicles. The Highway Code’s new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’, states that greater responsibility must be taken by road users when sharing the road with the most vulnerable road users.

Another major amendment states drivers should stop and give way to pedestrians waiting to cross the road before turning into or out of junctions, and also give way to cyclists going straight ahead.

There is updated guidance for where cyclists need to position themselves on the road, and also clarifications for drivers on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists or horse riders.

Finally, there is a recommendation to the best way to open a car door to exit, in order to avoid people on the pavement or vehicles on the road.

Giving way to pedestrians

The updated Highway Code clarifies that:

  • when people are waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way
  • if people have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way
  • 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

(A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing but includes a cycle route alongside the black and white stripes.)

Cyclists positioning themselves in the road

There is new and updated guidance for cyclists about positioning themselves which includes:

  • riding in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or where the road narrows
  • 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 with vehicles moving faster than them

Drivers passing a cyclist

Drivers may cross a double-white line if necessary (provided the road is clear) to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse if they are travelling at 10 mph or less.

There is updated guidance on safe passing distances and speeds for people driving or riding a motorcycle when overtaking vulnerable road users, including:

  • leaving at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
  • passing people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space
  • allowing at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keeping to a low speed when passing people walking in the road, for example, where there’s no pavement

If it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearance distances, then wait behind them and do not overtake.

Exiting a vehicle

One of the new Highway Code recommendations for drivers is to use a new technique when leaving vehicles, which is known as the ‘Dutch Reach’.

Where people driving or passengers in a vehicle are able to do so, they should open the door using their hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. For example, using their left hand to open a door on their right-hand side. This will make them turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them. This should mean they are then less likely to cause injury to people cycling or riding a motorcycle passing on the road, or people on the pavement.

Scrutton Bland provides insurance broking services for private and commercial motor insurance including classic and rare cars, fleet and HGVs. For more information please call 0330 058 6559.

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