Set to come into effect at the end of this month, the Department for Transport will be amending the Highway Code in the form of eight new rules.
Alongside 49 updates to the existing rules, the Code’s newest additions prioritise the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. More responsibility, meanwhile, will also be placed on drivers of larger vehicles in the event of collisions and accidents.
If the proposed changes are news to you, then we’ve got you covered. To keep you up to date, we’ll look at what to expect from the new changes as they come into effect at the end of January.
This is the big one. In creating a hierarchy of road users, this new Highway Code rule means that road users driving large vehicles like minibuses, vans, and large goods vehicles (which can cause the most damage and harm) have the biggest responsibility when it comes to reducing the dangers they pose to other road users.
The new rule also states that pedestrians (children, older adults and disabled people in particular) are identified as ‘the most likely to be injured in the event of a collision’. This means that cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles have a responsibility to take care when around pedestrians.
With that said, pedestrians aren’t exempt in their responsibility either. They still need to consider the safety of other road users too.
Speaking of pedestrians, the second new rule states that drivers, motorists, horse riders and cyclists should give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross a road that they’re turning into or from which they’re turning. Previously, it was vehicles that had this priority.
Drivers should also give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, as well as to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing (a combined pedestrian and cycle crossing).
Cyclists, meanwhile, will have to give way to pedestrians on shared-used cycle tracks. Only pedestrians (including wheelchair and mobility scooter users) can use the pavement.
The third rule will seek to ease some of the tensions between cyclists and motorists. It states that drivers and motorcyclists should not cut across cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane. This applies whether the cyclist ahead is using a cycle lane, a cycle track or simply riding on the road ahead.
Drivers should stop and wait for a safe gap when cyclists do any of the following:
As part of this new rule, cyclists are advised to slow down when overtaking pedestrians and horses, making sure to alert them using their bell. They should also take care not to pass pedestrians and horses closely or at high speed, especially from behind.
This is especially important with regards to horses; they should not be passed on their left and can be startled if passed without warning.
To make themselves as visible as possible, cyclists should ride in the centre of their lane in the following situations:
On quiet roads and streets. If it's possible (and safe) to do so, cyclists should move to the left so faster vehicles can overtake them
In slower-moving traffic. As traffic starts to move more freely, cyclists should move to the left so faster vehicles can overtake them, again, providing it's safe to do so
At the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake cyclists
When riding on busy roads, such as dual carriageways, cyclists should also allow faster traffic to overtake them while it is safe to do so, whilst keeping a distance of at least half a metre.
Certain junctions, especially those with traffic lights, have specially designed cycle facilities such as small cycle traffic lights at eye level to make cyclists' journeys safer and easier.
When a junction lacks these cyclist facilities, it's recommended that they proceed as if they were driving a motor vehicle (per rules 170 to 190 of the Highway Code).
Certain signal-controlled junctions featuring signs and markings will inform cyclists to turn right in two stages as follows:
When going straight ahead at a junction, cyclists have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of the side road - unless road signs or markings state otherwise.
Cyclists should also be mindful of drivers intending to turn across their path. In such instances, the driver may not be able to see them, so cyclists should keep their speed and position on the road in mind.
You might not think twice about the way you exit your vehicle, but another update to the Highway Code makes it clear how you should be doing it from now on.
Known as the "Dutch reach", this method involves using the opposite hand to the one closest to door. Doing so means you reach across the body and turn outwards. This puts you in the ideal position to see what's coming, greatly reducing the risk of you opening the door on a cyclist or another vehicle.