Highway Code Amendments Laid Before Parliament

2nd December 2021

Highway Code
Highway Code

Amendments to the Highway Code were laid before Parliament yesterday; they should come into effect in February, says Cycling UK.

These are some of the key changes.

Hierarchy of Road Users

The new wording explains that the road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, and motor cyclists. Children, older adults, and disabled people are also more at risk.

Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm bear the greatest responsibility (Rule H1).

Pedestrian Priority at Side Roads

Also part of the Hierarchy of Road Users, when turning into or out of a side road, drivers have to give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the mouth of the side road (H2).

Cutting Across a Cyclist's Path

Further, drivers turning into or out of side roads should not cut across cyclists who are going straight ahead (H3).

Rules for Cyclists

Helmets

A new sentence about helmets states that they can reduce the risk of head injuries in certain circumstances (Rule 59).

Cycle Lanes and Cycle Tracks

Cyclists can exercise their own judgement, and are not obliged to use cycle lanes (Rule 61). The same applies at roundabouts with dedicated cycle facilities (Rule 79).

Where a cycle track runs alongside a footpath, cyclists have to stick to the side intended for them (Rule 62).

Shared Use Paths

On shared use paths, you can let people know you're there by ringing a bell or by calling out politely (Rule 63).

Riding Next to Another Cyclist

Rule 66 makes it clear that you're allowed to ride next to someone else. This is the wording.

'You should....be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups. You can ride two abreast and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders. Be aware of drivers behind you and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so'
New Rule 66, Highway Code

This provision is sensible but I would remove the word "abreast" altogether, as it seems to be a trigger for angry motorists and keyboard warriors.

Parked Cars

You should ride 'a door's width or 1 metre' away from parked cars (Rule 67). Drivers are told to expect cyclists to do this in Rule 213.

Rule 72 Road Positioning

A new Rule 72 sets out situations where cyclists should ride in the centre of their lane (take primary position). The circumstances include:

A similar principle applies at traffic light-controlled junctions (Rule 73).

These principles are reinforced by Rule 213, which tells drivers to allow cyclists to ride in the centre of the lane.

Rules for Drivers

There are some new rules for drivers.

Cycle Lanes and Cycle Tracks

When turning into a side street, drivers should give way to cyclists in cycle lanes or on cycle tracks, including when a cyclist is approaching from behind the driver (Rule 140).

Overtaking (Rule 163)

There are some positive changes to Rule 163:

The parting shot in the new Rule 163 provisions is this.

'You should wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.'
New Rule 163, Highway Code

Drivers shouldn't overtake on the approach to crossings, according to the new Rule 167.

Give Priority to Cyclists on Roundabouts

Drivers should give cyclists plenty of room on roundabouts, and should not attempt to overtake them in their lane (Rule 186).

Don't Block Crossings in Slow-Moving Traffic

Drivers shouldn't enter a crossing unless they can completely clear it (Rule 192).

Parallel Crossings

Rule 195 updates the Highway Code to cover parallel crossings. The rules are the same as for zebras - drivers should give way to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross, and must give way when they are crossing.

Dutch Reach

The Dutch Reach appears in Rule 239. It suggests using the 'wrong' hand to open a car door, as this makes the person opening it turn their head and look over their shoulder. It can prevent cyclists being 'doored'.

Will the Changes Have Any Effect?

These amendments to the Highway Code are welcome, but will they have any effect? Traffic policing in towns is non-existent, so the provisions won't be enforced.

The only other way the changes could have an effect is if they are absorbed and adopted by a majority of road-users. A sustained and effective publicity campaign would be necessary to achieve this.

Most likely, the amendments to the Highway Code will make no difference to the behaviour of road users.

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