Motoring and cycling organisations have warned that many drivers are still unaware of the “fundamental” changes to the Highway Code which were introduced at the end of January.
The Highway Code updates were designed to create a new culture of sharing on our roads. However, a lack of awareness on the changes could cause rear end collisions, according to AA President Edmund King. The new guidance overhauls the rules at junctions with cars now expected to give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross.
Mr King suggests that drivers are “likely to get hit by another vehicle from behind” if they stop on dual carriageways or fast-flowing A roads to let someone cross.
“Drivers will have to make their own judgments on what they should do in the scenarios they find themselves in. However, if the judgments of the driver and the pedestrian are at odds on a very busy road, this could lead to problems.”
A spokesperson for Voters for Motors, a group of individuals from organisations such as FairFuelUK, the Motorcycle Action Group, and the Alliance of British Drivers, expressed concern that “encouraging cyclists to undertake and overtake vehicles intending to turn, will cause more crashes that drivers will be blamed for” under the new hierarchy of road users.
Overview of changes
Here’s a summary of what has changed since January 29th — and what it means for drivers.
The hierarchy places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) states that “it does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.”
Pedestrians crossing the road at junctions
The updated code clarifies that:
- when people are crossing or 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.
- people driving, riding a motorcycle, or cycling must give way to people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing. A parallel crossing is similar to a zebra crossing but includes a cycle route.
People cycling, riding a horse, or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety of people walking in shared spaces, but people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.
People cycling are asked to:
- not pass people walking, riding a horse, or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind
- slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell)
- remember that people walking may be deaf, blind, or partially sighted
- not pass a horse on the horse’s left
Position of cyclists in the road
This is the change which is being most widely reported in the media. Updated guidance is for cyclists to:
- ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or where the road narrows
- keep 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
Cycling in groups
People cycling in groups:
- should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups
- can ride 2 abreast - and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders
- 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.
Cyclists and parked vehicles:
People cycling should:
- take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room (a door’s width or 1 metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened
- watch out for people walking into their path
You 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 (Rule 129).
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)
Wait behind them and do not overtake if it’s unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
People cycling passing slower-moving or stationary traffic
People cycling may pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left.
They should proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them. This is particularly important:
- on the approach to junctions
- when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles
When turning into or out of a side road, people cycling should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.
There is new advice about new special cycle facilities at some junctions.
- Some junctions now include small cycle traffic lights at eye-level height, which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic. People cycling are encouraged to use these facilities where they make their journey safer and easier.
There is also new guidance for people cycling at junctions with no separate facilities.
This includes positioning themselves in the centre of their chosen lane, where they feel able to do this safely.
This is to:
- make them as visible as possible
- avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous
People cycling turning right
People cycling using junctions where signs and markings tell them to turn right:
- stage 1 - when the traffic lights turn green, go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol and turn arrow on the road, and then stop and wait
- stage 2 - when the traffic lights on the far side of the junction (now facing the people cycling) turn green, complete the manoeuvre
People cycling have priority when going straight ahead at junctions
When people cycling are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.
People cycling are asked to watch out for people driving intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.
People driving or riding a motorcycle should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts. People driving and or riding a motorcycle should:
- not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane
- allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout
The code already explained that people cycling, riding a horse, and driving a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.
Guidance has been added to explain that people driving should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across people cycling, riding a horse, or driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.
Charging, parking, and leaving vehicles
The code recommends a new technique when leaving vehicles. It’s sometimes called 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. They’re then less likely to cause injury to:
- people cycling or riding a motorcycle passing on the road
- people on the pavement
Using an electric vehicle charge point
For the first time, the code includes guidance about using electric vehicle charging points.
When using one, people should:
- park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for people walking from trailing cables
- display a warning sign if you can
- return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users
A full summary of the changes in The Highway Code can be found at GOV.UK