The end of January is set to bring major changes to the Highway Code, with new rules on who has right of way in certain circumstances, the responsibilities of different groups of road users and new guidance on using roundabouts and other junctions.
In total there are eight completely new rules and 49 rules are being amended as part of the 2022 update.
The biggest changes relate to rules around a hierarchy of road users and who has priority at junctions, crossings and roundabouts but below we’ve rounded up all the new rules and some of the key updates to existing ones.
Hierarchy of Road Users
According to the Department for Transport, 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.
Children, older adults and disabled people are at the top of the hierarchy, followed by other pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists.
Rule H1 is completely new and states: “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. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, vans/minibuses, cars/taxis and motorcycles.
“Cyclists, horse riders and drivers of horse drawn vehicles likewise have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.
“None of this detracts from the responsibility of ALL road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, to have regard for their own and other road users’ safety.”
Rule H2 changes the rules around behaviour at junctions and other shared road spaces.
It emphasises that drivers, motorcyclists, horse drawn vehicles, horse riders and cyclists “should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.
“You MUST give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing.”
It also highlights that horse riders should give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing, while cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared routes.
Rule H3 applies to drivers and motorcyclists and states that “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, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle.”
The rule advises to stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary. This includes when cyclists are:
• approaching, passing or moving off from a junction
• moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
• travelling around a roundabout
Updates to rule 186 also emphasise: “You should give priority to cyclists on the roundabout. They will be travelling more slowly than motorised traffic. Give them plenty of room and do not attempt to overtake them within their lane. Allow them to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout. Drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to ensure that they do not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles in the left-hand lane, who are continuing around the roundabout.”
A change to rule 163 also introduces official guidance on how much space drivers should give when overtaking cyclists and horses. You should give at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car, with the guidance recommending at least 1.5 metres space at speeds of up to 30mph and more space at higher speeds.
Several new rules apply specifically to cyclists, replacing or significantly altering existing rules.
Updates to existing rules include advice on high-visibility clothing and the use of helmets as well as detailing the different types of cycle routes, lanes and tracks. They also include new wording regarding controlling a bicycle, passing parked cars and advising against overtaking large vehicles on the left unless they are stationary or moving very slowly.
Rule 63 is an entirely new rule that emphasises that cyclists should take care and slow down when passing pedestrians, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles on shared routes. They should also let other users know they are there, for example, by ringing their bell.
It also states: “Do not pass pedestrians, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles closely or at high speed, particularly from behind. You should not pass a horse on their left.”
Rule 72 is also new and sets out two basic road positions cyclists should adopt, depending on the situation. These are:
1. Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations:
• on quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely
• in slower-moving traffic - when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake
• at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you
2. When riding on busy roads, with vehicles moving faster than you, allow them to overtake where it is safe to do so whilst keeping at least 0.5 metres away, and further where it is safer, from the kerb edge.
New Rule 73 covers how cyclists use junctions. It recommends using special cycle facilities such as advanced stop lines at any junction that has them, adding: “At junctions with no separate cyclist facilities, it is recommended that you proceed as if you were driving a motor vehicle. Position yourself in the centre of your chosen lane, where you feel able to do this safely, to make yourself as visible as possible and to avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous.
Rule 75 is also completely new and relates to two-stage turns.
It states: At some signal-controlled junctions there may be signs and markings informing cyclists to turn right in two stages:
Stage 1: When the traffic lights turn green, cyclists wishing to make the turn should go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol and turn arrow on the carriageway; then stop and wait there
Stage 2: When the traffic lights on the far side of the junction, now facing the cyclists, turn green, they should then complete the manoeuvre
New Rule 76 highlights that cyclists travelling straight ahead at a junction now have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of the side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise. However, it advises that cyclists check that they can proceed safely, particularly when approaching junctions on the left alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic and to watch out for drivers intending to turn across their path.
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