Highway code changes - everything you need to know explained

26 January 2022, 17:36

Major changes to the Highway Code are set to go ahead from Saturday
Major changes to the Highway Code are set to go ahead from Saturday. Picture: Alamy

The Highway Code is set to change significantly in the coming days. Find out everything you need to know here.

What are the eight key changes road users need to be aware of?

1. New safety hierarchy

The introduction section of The Highway Code will be updated to include new rules about the new ‘hierarchy of road users’.

2. Changes at junctions

  • When pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way
  • If a pedestrian has started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, the people crossing have priority and the traffic should give way
  • people driving, riding a motorcycle or cycling must give way to people on a zebra crossing and people walking and cycling on a parallel crossing

3. Walking, cycling or riding

People cycling, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle should respect the safety pedestrians, but people walking should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.

Cyclists should

  • not pass people walking, riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle closely or at high speed, particularly from behind
  • slow down when necessary and let people walking know they are there (for example, by ringing their bell)
  • remember that people walking may be deaf, blind or partially sighted
  • not pass a horse on the horse’s left

4. Cyclists' position on roads

  • Cyclists should ride in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings
  • Cyclists should keep at least 0.5 metres (just over 1.5 feet) away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when riding on busy roads with vehicles moving faster than them

Cycling in groups

  • Cyclists should be considerate of the needs of other road users when riding in groups
  • Cyclists can ride 2 abreast - and it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders
  • People cycling are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when it’s safe to do so.

Cyclists passing parked vehicles

  • Cyclists should take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room (a door’s width or 1 metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened
  • Cyclists should watch out for people walking into their path

5. Overtaking when driving or cycling

Drivers can cross a double-white line if necessary (provided the road is clear) to overtake someone cycling or riding a horse if they are travelling at 10 mph or less.

When overtaking vulnerable road users, drivers and bikers should:

  • Leave at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) when overtaking people cycling at speeds of up to 30mph, and giving them more space when overtaking at higher speeds
  • Leave people riding horses or driving horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space when overtaking
  • Allow at least 2 metres (6.5 feet) of space and keep to a low speed when passing people walking in the road (for example, where there’s no pavement)

Cyclists passing slower-moving or stationary traffic

People cycling can pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on their right or left.They should proceed with caution as people driving may not be able to see them. This is particularly important:

  • on the approach to junctions
  • when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles

6. Cyclists at junctions

Cyclists should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.

Some junctions now include small traffic lights for cyclists at eye-level height, which may allow cyclists to move separately from or before other traffic.

Cyclists are encouraged to use these facilities where they make their journey safer and easier.

At other junctions, cyclists should proceed as if they were driving a vehicle where there are no separate cyclist facilities. This includes positioning themselves in the centre of their chosen lane, where they feel able to do this safely.

This is to:

  • make them as visible as possible
  • avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous

Cyclists turning right

Some junctions will have signs and markings telling them to turn right in 2 stages. These are:

  • Stage 1 - when the traffic lights turn green, go straight ahead to the location marked by a cycle symbol and turn arrow on the road, and then stop and wait
  • Stage 2 - when the traffic lights on the far side of the junction (now facing the people cycling) turn green, complete the manoeuvre

Cyclists have priority when going straight ahead at junctions

The code will clarify that when cyclists are going straight ahead at a junction, they have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.

Cyclists are asked to watch out for drivers intending to turn across their path, as people driving ahead may not be able to see them.

7. People cycling, riding a horse and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

Drivers and bikers should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts.

The new guidance will say people driving and or riding a motorcycle should:

  • not attempt to overtake people cycling within that person’s lane
  • allow people cycling to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout

The code already explains that people cycling, riding a horse and driving a horse-drawn vehicle may stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout.

Guidance will be added to explain that drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to make sure they do not cut across cyclists, horse-riders or people driving a horse-drawn vehicle who are continuing around the roundabout in the left-hand lane.

8. Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

Drivers leaving vehicles will be asked to do a move called the 'Dutch reach' - reaching with their hand furthest from the door to make their torso and head turn so they can look out for cyclists.

Using an electric vehicle charge point

When charging an electric vehicle, drivers should:

  • park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard from trailing cables
  • display a warning sign if possible
  • return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise danger and avoid creating an obstacle

What is the new 'hierarchy' of road users

  • Pedestrians 
  • Cyclists 
  • Horse riders 
  • Motorcyclists 
  • Cars/taxis 
  • Vans/minibuses 
  • Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles

When will the changes come into effect?

The changes will come into effect from Saturday 29th January 2022 if approved by parliament.