Highway Code Changes to Support Walking and Cycling

The Highway Code is being updated to help improve road safety and offer greater protection for vulnerable road users in Britain.

The new rules of the Highway Code are expected to come into place on January 29th and, providing parliament accepts them, they offer significant improvements to help make it safer for people to make journeys by foot and cycle.

Proposed changes include a Hierarchy of Road Users, where those who have potential to cause the most harm have the greatest responsibilities to protect the vulnerable on the road.

This hierarchy gives those that can do the most harm the ‘greatest responsibility’ to care and look out for others, meaning drivers must be more considerate of people cycling, and cyclists must take more care around pedestrians.

Pedestrians are placed at the top of the pyramid as they pose the least risk to other users of the road, whereas those towards the bottom pose the most risk.

Drivers will now also have to ensure that they pass those on bikes with more care, with a minimum 1.5-meter passing distance being brought in. They will also be taught and encouraged to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique to reduce the likelihood of ‘dooring’ cyclist when in a stationary vehicle. This technique involves opening the door with your far hand (i.e. your left hand, if you’re the driver) meaning that you are forced to look behind you as you open the door: this increases the likelihood of seeing someone approaching on a bike.

There are also new rules relating to crossing side roads, which brings the UK in line with many other European countries. If a vehicle is signalling to turn left or right from a main road to a minor road they must give way to pedestrians and cyclists going straight across the crossing. Currently, drivers are only required to give way when someone steps onto a crossing, while pedestrians are told they shouldn’t start to cross until vehicles on the road have stopped. The new rule will strengthen the right of pedestrians and cyclists on pavements or cycle paths when crossing or waiting to cross a road. The proposed changes to the Highway Code should make cycling and walking safer and help planners to design more direct and attractive routes. However, how often do you read the Highway Code? Let’s hope that a large-scale publicity campaign is in place to ensure that everyone is aware of the soon-to-be new rules of the road. Here’s a little summary video from Cycling UK to help explain some of them:

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