Changes to the Highway Code

The Highway Code has changed for 2022

What does this mean for us all?

In big news for biking, an updated and revised edition of the Highway Code came into force at the end of January. It is aimed at improving safety for cyclists and pedestrians. For the government, the changes are about clarifying and developing the rules and growing a collective sense of responsibility about the safety of other road users. 

At the heart is a ‘hierarchy of responsibility. This is the idea that we all have a duty to look after those on the road who would be more vulnerable in the event of a mishap or accident. At the top of the pyramid are pedestrians who require the most care, followed by cyclists and horse riders, then motorbikes, cars, vans, lorries all the way down to HGVs.

These revisions make rules clearer for cyclists and drivers and should make roads safer. Linking road users’ responsibilities with their ability to do harm should help grow a culture of responsible road sharing. Our road use should be first and foremost about keeping more vulnerable road users safe.   

The code changes have been broadly welcomed by cycling bodies but concerns have been raised about how people will find out about them in the absence of any public awareness campaigns. 

At Red Kite Cycles, we think this is an important step in the journey of road sharing – if you’ll pardon the pun! As our transport habits change and more electric vehicles are using the roads, we hope to see the Highway Code evolve to keep people safe and aware of their responsibilities. 

For now, it’s up us to know our priorities and to safely stick to them and to treat pedestrians with the same respect we want for ourselves when on two wheels. 

Here are the key changes: 

  • Introducing the concept of a ‘hierarchy of responsibility’ meaning road users who could do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility for the safety others on the roads. At the top of the pyramid are pedestrians, followed by cyclists and horse riders, then motorbikes, cars, vans, lorries and finally HGVs. 
  • Simplifying priority rules at junctions without traffic signal to avoid “left hook” collisions.  Whoever is going straight ahead at a junction has right of way. This means drivers should treat pedestrians and cyclists as they would other cars and not cut across them, including when pedestrians and cyclists are waiting to cross. Cyclists too have a responsibility to give way to pedestrians at junctions too. A person on the pavement is now entitled to step out at a side junction and cyclists and motorists have to allow them their right of way.
  • Minimum safe passing distances to avoid dangerous ‘close passes’– the new rule is that drivers should pass cyclists at a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when driving at 30 mph or slower, or a distance of 2 metres when driving above 30 mph. 
  • Clearer guidance for drivers on looking before opening car doors, to prevent ‘car dooring’ of cyclists. People should use the Dutch reach technique of opening the car door with the opposite hand so that they naturally turn their head to see if a cyclist or other road user is approaching.
  • New rules on safe road positioning – cyclists should adopt one of the two safe road positions depending on circumstances. The first, to be used in slow moving traffic, on quiet roads or when approaching junctions, is to ride in the middle of your lane. The second position in faster moving traffic is to allow motorists to overtake, cycling a minimum of 0.5 metres out from the kerb or 1 metre (a car door’s width) away from parked cars.

Importantly drivers are now required to allow cyclists to cycle in the middle of their lane for their safety as well as allowing cyclists (in small and large groups) to cycle two abreast. 

  • New rules for cyclists in groups say that cyclists can ride two abreast, acknowledging that it is often safer to do so. It also says that they should consider allowing drivers to overtake by moving into single file or even stopping if they think it appropriate. 
  • Slow moving traffic rules – in the updated code, drivers should allow cyclists in slow moving traffic to cross in front of them.
  • Priorities at roundabouts / islands – drivers must give priority to cyclists at roundabouts and not overtake them within their own lane. So take up your legitimate road space and enjoy visibility – motorists are to respect that.

This brief summary is just a taster – there is a benefit for all of us in looking at the new highway code. It is what our friends and family will be tested on when they take their theory test. It’s the new direction of travel. You can check it out here.

At Red Kite Cycles we are keen advocates of road safety and in everyone sharing and respecting another. We want to see responsible cyclists who obey the rules and equally make life on the highway fairer and safer for all. But it is important to remember that we should also be making every effort to be visible and protected. That means putting on a helmet, using lights, buying hi-vis gear, and wearing eye protection so that you will always be able to see where you are going.