What do the new Highway Code changes mean for you?

The Department for Transport has implemented significant changes to the Highway Code that'll affect how you cycle on the roads and in shared spaces. Here's what you need to know...

Woman cycling on road in London

The Department of Transport (DfT) and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has implemented key changes to the Highway Code in order to improve road safety for pedestrians, horse-riders and cyclists, .

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These changes are in response to a public survey in the latter half of 2020, which saw many in favour of the proposed measures. Namely, a ‘hierarchy of road users’ has been consolidated and alterations have been made that’ll affect who has priority on roads, pavements and crossings. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Priority on the road

New rules state that you should wait for a pedestrian to cross a juntion before turning (Credit: gov.uk)
New rules state that you should wait for a pedestrian to cross a junction before turning (Credit: gov.uk)

One of the new rules (rule H2) says: ‘At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.’

This means that if there’s any indication that a pedestrian would like to cross the road that you’re turning onto, or about to turn off from, it is your responsibility to stop and wait for them to safely pass.

Cyclists should also give way to pedestrians on cycle tracks, since this rule states that pedestrians have the right to use any part of the road, pavement and cycle track, should they wish to.

However, some areas have ‘small cycle traffic lights’ at eye-level height, which allow cyclists to move before or at a separate time to other traffic.

Also, when cyclists are wishing to go straight ahead at junctions, they have priority over other vehicles wishing to turn into, or out of, a side road.

2. Safety on the road

Drivers should wait for a cyclist to cross a junction before turning, and give ample space (credit: gov.uk)
Drivers should wait for a cyclist to cross a junction before turning (credit: gov.uk)

Another new rule (rule H3, referring to vehicles) states you ‘should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane‘.

It may seem a bit self-explanatory, but all those cyclists who’re used to cycling on the road with other motor vehicles will agree that not all drivers treat bikes with the same amount of respect as they would for other vehicles.

When sharing the road with cyclists, car users must stop and wait for a safe moment in the following instances:

  • Approaching, passing or moving off from a junction
  • Moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
  • Travelling around a roundabout

Also, cyclists are given priority over drivers when travelling around roundabouts, this means that cars in the same lane should not attempt to overtake and should let cyclists move across their own path.

This rule highlights the importance of giving cyclists ample room to cycle safely on the road and being patient at roundabouts and junctions.

3. Cycling in shared spaces

(Credit: Getty Images)
Credit: Getty Images

In shared spaces such as parks or cyclist/pedestrian paths, cyclists should respect the safety of those around them and pedestrians should, in turn, not do anything to endanger those on bikes.

In shared spaces, cyclists should not close-pass others at high speeds. Instead, they should slow down and make their presence known to those walking.

Cyclists should be aware that pedestrians may have a disability that affects their ability to be aware of those around them, such as those with impaired hearing and vision.

The code also states that horses should only be passed on their right-side.

4. Position when cycling on the road

Cyclist commuting in London
Credit: LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

The updated guidance states that cyclists should now cycle in the middle of the road when on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions.

The minimum distances cyclists should keep from a curb is half a metre, especially on busy roads with fast-moving traffic.

It’s also recommended that parked cars should be passed with one meter (or one car door) clearance to avoid being hit if a car door’s opened.

5. Cycling in groups

Cycling in a group on the road
Credit: Duncan_Andison/Getty Images

Those cycling in groups or chain-gangs should ‘be considerate of the needs of road users’, meaning that they can cycle two-abreast if it’s safe to do so, like when in larger groups. Those on bikes should also allow cars to overtake when safe to do so.

6. Overtaking

Cyclist overtaking traffic
Credit: LeoPatrizi/Getty Images

Cars have new guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists on shared roads.

Drivers should leave at least 1.5m space when overtaking cyclists travelling up to 30mph, with more space required for higher speeds.

Those cycling who wish to overtake slow-moving or stationary traffic may do so on the right or left hand-side, though this must be done with caution.

Gov.uk states that it’s important that all road users educate themselves on the rules of the Highway Code, are considerate of each other, and understand the shared responsibility for the safety of others. Check out the website for full lists of guidelines and rules. 

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Top image credit: Getty Images