There have been some recent changes made to The Highway Code in order to improve the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and those riding horses. These changes have been made following a public consultation on a review of The Highway Code. These rule changes came into effect from January 29th 2022 and affect all road users.
The Hierarchy of Road Users
Under the “introduction” section of The Highway Code, you will find that it has been updated to include new rules regarding the “hierarchy of road users”. The new hierarchy of road users explains that:
“Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.”
Whilst this may apply most strongly to drivers of heavy goods vehicles, buses, cars and motorbikes, all road users maintain a responsibility to reduce the danger to pedestrians and all users, including pedestrians, should have regard for their own and other road users’ safety. The hierarchy places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy. It does not remove the need for everyone on the roads to behave responsibly.
Pedestrians Crossing at Junctions
The updates made to the highway code state that when pedestrians are crossing the road or waiting to cross at a junction, then other road traffic should give way. If a driver is turning into a road and there are pedestrians crossing at the junction, then the pedestrians have priority and the driver should give way. People driving a car or riding a motorcycle will need to take this new requirement to give way to pedestrians crossing into account as they plan their approach at a junction.
Additionally, if a pedestrian is walking on a zebra crossing, traffic must give way, this also applies to pedestrians and cyclists on parallel crossings.
Positioning in Road When Cycling
There are changes to The Highway Code regarding the positioning of cyclists on the road. In quiet roads and lanes, cyclists may ride in the centre of their lane, or two abreast for their own safety when accompanying children or less experienced riders, whilst allowing others to overtake when it is safe for them to do so. Cyclists must keep 0.5 metres from the side of the road when riding on busier roads, allowing faster-moving vehicles to pass them.
Cyclists should watch out for people walking into their path and take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room to avoid being hit if a car door is opened and people cycling in groups should consider the needs of other road users.
Overtaking When Driving or Cycling
The updated Highway Code says that people cycling may pass slow-moving or stationary traffic on either their right or left and should always proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them.
Rule 129 of the highway code states that if the road is clear then you may cross a double-white line if necessary, to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse if they are travelling at 10 mph or less. Guidance on safe passing distances and speeds has also been updated for when overtaking vulnerable road users.
The Highway Code has been updated to include the information that those driving a vehicle at a roundabout should give priority to cyclists. Those driving a car or riding a motorcycle should not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane, should allow the cyclist to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout and that they may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout if they intend to continue forward or turn right at the roundabout. Drivers should take extra care when entering roundabouts that they do not cut across cyclists.
In the Highway Code updates, there is new guidance about shared spaces and the routes and spaces shared by pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Those riding a bicycle or horse should prioritise the safety of pedestrians walking in these types of spaces with pedestrians showing mutual respect and taking care not to obstruct them or endanger their safety.
Cyclists should not pass other users at high speed, slowing when necessary and should not pass a horse on the left. Always pass people riding a horse at speeds under 10 mph and allow at least 2 metres of space.
How the Practical Driving Test is Affected
Many of the changes made to The Highway Code are made to reinforce existing good driving behaviour and so do not affect how practical driving tests are assessed. However, some of the changes will result in a change. For example, the rule regarding giving way to pedestrians at junctions will need to be taken into account as driver’s plan their approach to the junction.
It will take time for everyone to adapt to the changes made and this will be taken into account as some drivers may not yet be aware of the changes. Over the coming months we anticipate some further changes to The Highway Code, stay up-to-date by following APaSS4U Driving School on Facebook.
YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CHECK THE HIGHWAY CODE REGULARLY, EVEN AFTER YOU HAVE PASSED YOUR DRIVING TEST!