The Highway Code has been updated to help improve road safety and offer greater protection for vulnerable road users in Britain, making it safer for people to make journeys by foot and cycle.
The revised Highway code mainly seeks to clarify existing rules. Most notably this includes 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. Pedestrians are placed at the top of the pyramid as they pose the least risk to other road users, whereas those towards the bottom pose the most risk.
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. This rule does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.
“It is important that ALL road users are aware of the Highway Code, are considerate to other road users, and understand their responsibility for the safety of others.”
Put in simple terms, if someone walking or riding a bike makes a mistake, the chances are they are likely to only hurt themselves. On the other hand, if someone driving an SUV makes a mistake they have the potential to seriously injure or even kill another road user.
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 advised. They are also being taught and encouraged to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique to reduce the likelihood of ‘dooring’ a 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 to/from a main road they should give way to pedestrians and cyclists going straight across the junction. Previously, drivers were only advised to give way when someone steps onto a road, while pedestrians were told they shouldn’t start to cross until vehicles have stopped. The clarified rule strengthens the rights of pedestrians and cyclists on pavements or cycle paths when crossing or waiting to cross a road. The 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 new rules of the road.
Here’s a little summary video from Cycling UK to help explain some of them: