The Highway Code has been updated
29 January 2022
The Highway Code applies to road users in the UK and provides rules and guidance which keep our roads safe for everyone.
After consultations held in 2020, the UK Government’s Department for Transport has made some changes to improve safety for people walking, cycling, wheeling and horse riding.
These came into effect on 29 January 2022. Four key changes concern cycling:
1 - Hierarchy of road users
The Code explains the hierarchy of road users is “a concept that places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly. The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists, with children, older adults and disabled people being more at risk.”
People driving cars have a responsibility to reduce danger to people on motorbikes, horse riders, people on bikes and pedestrians. People riding bikes have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.
2 - Giving space when passing people cycling
The Highway Code includes updated guidance on safe passing distances:
“Leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.”
This update makes the guidance more specific. Previously, motorists were advised to give “at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.
3 - Road positioning
Guidance on road positioning for people cycling has been clarified:
“On narrow sections of road, on quiet roads or streets, at road junctions and in slower-moving traffic, cyclists may sometimes ride in the centre of the lane, rather than towards the side of the road. It can be safer for groups of cyclists to ride two abreast in these situations. Allow them to do so for their own safety, to ensure they can see and be seen. Cyclists are also advised to ride at least a door’s width or 1 metre from parked cars for their own safety.”
Previously, the guidance stated that you should never ride “more than two abreast”. It has now been clarified that riding two abreast “can be safer” on narrow roads, quiet roads, at junctions or in slow moving traffic.
4 - Cycling at junctions
The updated Code clarifies several different aspects of cycling at junctions.
“If you are going straight ahead at a junction, you have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of the side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.”
This means at a junction, people driving must give priority to people cycling straight ahead.
“Cyclists may pass slower moving or stationary traffic on their right or left and should proceed with caution.”
“When turning into or out of a side road, you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross.”
The guidance on passing slower moving or stationary traffic on their left or right confirms guidance that was already part of the Highway Code. Giving way to people waiting to cross is a change to previous guidance that stated pedestrians had priority “if they have started to cross”.
The ‘Dutch Reach’
The Code recommends a new technique when leaving vehicles known as the ‘Dutch Reach’.
“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 technique will make people turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them, meaning they’re more likely to see people cycling, riding a motorbike or walking past.
People cycling are advised to take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving a door’s width (or one metre).
“Those who can cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk”
Christopher Johnson, Head of Education and Training at Cycling Scotland said: “The new hierarchy of road users underpins the changes - those who can cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk to others: people driving will be responsible for ensuring people cycling, walking and wheeling are safe, while people cycling will be responsible for looking out for those walking and wheeling.
“Many of the changes to the Highway Code are not new but are clarifying or explaining existing rules. We encourage everyone to read the new guidance and follow it, whether you’re walking or wheeling, riding a bike or horse or driving a vehicle.
“While good progress has been on road safety overall in the last decade, sadly still too many people are killed or seriously injured while walking or cycling.”
The changes can be viewed in full by visiting: www.gov.uk/dft/highway-code-changes.