The Highway Code: what’s changing and what do you need to know?
New Highway Code changes are coming into force from the end of January 2022. Drivers could face fines and points on their licence if they fail to adhere to the revamped rules, which are being implemented across the UK.
The updated Code, enforced by the Department for Transport, will take effect from Saturday, January 29. Part of the change is the new “hierarchy of road users” that ensures pedestrians and cyclists face greater protection on roads and at crossings.
The new guidelines are split into three categories, all with a focus on making roads safer for non-drivers. Here’s everything you need to watch out for:
Rule H1: Hierarchy of Road Users
The main change is the Hierarchy of Road Users, which centres around protecting those most at risk if a road collision occurs.
Pedestrians are at the top in this new structure as they have been identified as the most vulnerable.
The Highway Code states that cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists are also part of this group – and children, older adults and disabled people are more at risk.
Therefore the new structure will lead to drivers having the “greatest responsibility” to keep other road users safe.
Rule H2: Pedestrian Priority
Another 2022 Highway Code update has outlined that drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, horse-drawn vehicles and horse riders must now give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross the road, at junctions that you are turning into or from.
Previously, vehicles and cyclists were given priority at junctions. According to the update, cyclists must also give way to pedestrians on shared cycle tracks.
Pedestrians continue to have priority at zebra crossings and vehicles must give way to cyclists and pedestrians at parallel crossings.
Rule H3: Cyclist safety
Drivers are now advised not to cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles when turning in or out of junctions, or changing lanes.
The 2022 amendments also mean drivers must now give cyclists priority at roundabouts.
The Highway Code states: “You should give priority to cyclists on the roundabout. They will be travelling more slowly than motorised traffic.”
Cyclists must stay in the left-hand lane and signal right to make drivers aware if they aren't leaving the roundabout at the next exit.
However, people cycling are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when it’s safe to do so.
Overtaking other road users
While previous guidance stated drivers needed to give cyclists “as much room as possible” when overtaking, this has now been updated.
The Highway Code now states that drivers must leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists up to a speed of 30mph – and more space if travelling at higher speeds.
In another update drivers must not exceed speeds of 10mph when passing horse riders and horse drawn vehicles, and there should be at least two metres of space. The same applies when overtaking a pedestrian who is walking on the road.
Cyclist road positioning
Cyclists may now drive in the middle of a lane in order to make themselves as visible as possible.
However, cyclists are to move to the left of the lane if it is safe and if:
- They are on a quiet road or street and a faster vehicle approaches;
- They are in slower-moving traffic that then speeds up, (enabling faster vehicles to overtake);
- They are in an area of a junction where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake.
Another update for cyclists outlines looking out for other cyclists or motorcyclists around them before signalling. They are encouraged to avoid riding on the inside of vehicles slowing down to turn left, or indicating to turn left.
Before turning right, cyclists should check the traffic to ensure it is safe, then signal and move to the centre of the road.
The guidance adds: “Wait until there is a safe gap in the oncoming traffic and give a final look before completing the turn. It may be safer to wait on the left until there is a safe gap or to dismount and push your cycle across the road.”
Opening vehicle doors
Road users are encouraged to open their car doors in a way that allows them to check for others.
The Highway Code now reads: “Where you are able to do so, you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening.
“For example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder.”
Passengers in cars are also instructed to look all around, using their mirrors, before opening the car door.